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Holiday Presents from the Cloud

Holiday parties, snow, and new features from cloud providers

Cloud Expo New York

As the year winds down, there are a few things I have come to expect: holiday parties, snow, and new features from cloud providers. 

This year exceeded all of my expectations, starting with a note in early December from our friends at Terremark letting us know that they have fixed their Windows pricing for cloud servers. 

Until this upgrade, if you started a Windows server in their cloud, you had to pay for a whole month of Windows licensing ($30-$100 depending on the version) no matter how much you used the server. This was rather un-cloudlike, where we want to only pay for what we use. 

With this new feature, running Windows in Terremark’s cloud only costs a few cents per hour (Linux cost + 20%).

Then came the snow—I live in New Hampshire, and on December 9th we received a foot of new snow to really get the season going. The very next day, Amazon made a big flurry of announcements—support for Windows 2008, the ability to boot from EBS, and the new US region US-West1.

Each of these features means big things for Amazon and for cloud users. First, support for Windows 2008 is a longstanding request from Amazon users. I think that Amazon was held back from supporting W2K8 because of the design of their boot volumes, which needed to be copied out of S3 into the local storage instance in order to boot the operating system. As the boot volume grows, the amount of resources consumed and the boot time of the servers grows significantly, withW2K8 requiring more than 10GB by default. In order to support W2K8, Amazon required another technology advance to make it possible—booting from EBS snapshots.

Perhaps the biggest problem enterprise users had with Amazon was the lack of persistent storage for boot volumes. Amazon has now created a way for users to build persistent boot volumes, coming up to parity with competitors on this feature. Sure, it’s a little different from how enterprises normally think about storage and configure boot volumes, but the ability to use EBS volumes for booting eliminates the window for data loss that most users had to contend with in the original boot methods. (This feature is not huge for CloudSwitch customers because we have always supported booting from EBS as part of our products; however, we can take advantage of this feature to improve boot times for servers in Amazon.)

Another major Amazon announcement is the new west coast region. Many of CloudSwitch’s early customers (not to mention our own development activities) are based on the east coast, so EC2’s primary location has been a good fit for us. Things only improved with the introduction of the Europe region since we have seen a lot of interest for European resources for both locality and compliance reasons. However, for west coast customers, having to hop across the whole country to access your cloud resources was less than ideal. Now these companies have local resources to target, but more important, this ongoing expansion shows that the public cloud is doing well. The addition of US-WEST1 and the soon-to-open Asia region reflect just how quickly the public cloud is growing and how hard Amazon is driving it.

The news from Amazon comes on top of what was already an outstanding year for cloud computing with major announcements from many key players, including: IBM software running in the cloud, new VMware-based public clouds, reduced pricing for servers and storage in the cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure gaining momentum. Each of the cloud providers is growing and maturing its cloud offerings, and we are reaching a tipping point where there are multiple clouds with sufficient features to support enterprise workloads. Get ready for 2010—it’s going to be an exciting year as large-scale enterprise cloud computing takes off.

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More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the Founder & VP Products at CloudSwitch. She's an experienced entrepreneur with a proven track record in founding innovative technology companies and leading strategy, market positioning and go-to-market. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was a member of the early management team at Netezza (NYSE: NZ), the pioneer and market leader in data warehouse appliances, where she helped grow the company to over $125M in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Prior to Netezza, she founded Manna, an Israeli and Boston-based developer of real-time personalization software. Rubin began her career as a marketing strategy consultant at Booz, Allen & Hamilton, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree from Harvard College. .

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