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Data Storage Hardware

Amazon and Hardware As a Service 53

sioux_chance writes to recommend an article up on ReadWriteWeb comparing Amazon's S3 and EC2 services with Google AdSense. (They are not the first to coin the term "HaaS" for hardware as a service.) The analogy is that Google increased the granularity of (the article invents the term "fragmentized") the revenue side of the Web business, whereas Amazon's HaaS does the same for the cost side. A comment to the blog posting points out that has been selling fine-grained hardware capacity for years, but Amazon does bring a greater scale to the business.
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Amazon and Hardware As a Service

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  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @01:27AM (#21167161) Homepage

    For many decades, IBM only rented machines; they didn't sell them. Not until they lost an antitrust case did they sell hardware. Rented machines came with IBM service, which was excellent. Now that was "hardware as a service".

    What Amazon is offering is called "time-sharing".

    Remember Sun's "grid computing" []? Big dud. The number of people who want to pay to run huge batch jobs but don't want to buy their own hardware just isn't that big.

    There are two players in this space who are known to make money: Akamai and ResPower Render Farm. []

    • by dacut ( 243842 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @02:06AM (#21167347)

      Akamai is a different beast altogether -- they're not a generic computing center, but a finely-tuned cache that gets your (mostly static) data as close to the user as possible. In fact, Amazon uses Akamai [] (PDF press release) to host some of their content.

      The difference between Sun's Grid Computing and EC2 is that EC2 is connected to the net. This doesn't mean you can't run huge batch jobs on EC2; however, there's a lot more you can put on there (read: hosting for the Web 2.0 company you've founded in your garage, mom's basement, ...). However, EC2 doesn't give you a load balancer (yet); getting the traffic from to the EC2 instances is still your problem.

      S3 is, IMHO, the more interesting of the technologies today. Buying storage capacity these days is cheap; maintaining it, however, is as expensive as ever (perhaps moreso as clients expect higher availability, geographic distribution to minimize risk, etc.). And, if I'm too small for Akamai yet need to host some static content over a fatter pipe than I have, I can even expose it to the rest of the world through the REST interface./p.

    • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @02:54AM (#21167529) Journal
      There are two players in this space who are known to make money: Akamai and ResPower Render Farm.

      Oh, come now. That's just silly.

      When you host a website, you pay for NNN Megabytes of website, and maybe YYY GB of network transfer. These are terms of hardware, not software, not service. Yet, it's sold as a service.

      Even the free Hotmail has, as one if it's key features, XX GB of space. It's a free service sold in terms of hardware consumption. Then there are backup providers, weblication providers, Yahoo stores, etc.

      There aren't two, there are something like 5 million [] of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @01:28AM (#21167163)
    the hardware isn't yours, the software isn't yours and if the censoring is any indication your data isn't yours either.
    • by Tuoqui ( 1091447 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @05:11AM (#21168043) Journal
      Parent is not flame bait possibly off topic a bit but still it is true in the point they are making. If you don't own the hardware or the software how can you honestly say the data is yours and is secure? I mean really, think about it... These are big companies, what if one of the competitors slips them a few thousand grand under the table for a peek at your customer database which is conveniently hosted on the website. Companies did this in the old days between each other to compile junk mailing lists and telemarketer calling numbers.

      Business is a dirty and underhanded as the underbelly of the spy scene. There are those who are willing to get ahead by any means necessary (look at recent complaints about Target and BestBuy). These are the exact same companies that you are typically entrusting your private information such as credit cards and mailing info to on a daily basis.
      • These are big companies, what if one of the competitors slips them a few thousand grand under the table for a peek at your customer database which is conveniently hosted on the website. Companies did this in the old days between each other to compile junk mailing lists and telemarketer calling numbers.

        I understand the point, but today most companies openly sell their data to each other.

        I had some people visiting from another country living in my house, and they did something wrong when they lived with me, b
  • []
    fragmentize (frgmn-tz)
    tr. & intr.v. fragmentized, fragmentizing, fragmentizes
    To break or become broken into fragments.
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000
  • s3 is primarily geared towards file storage, so probably a good choice for hosting static files, images and CSSs. but what about relational data - hosting real databases. There is no persistent storage in ec2, making any virtual server setup extremely unreliable.
    That said, s3 makes sense for dumping things like tier-3 data backups.
    • I've heard this before and didn't understand it.

      What does "no persistent storage in ec2" mean?
      • by Unknown Relic ( 544714 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @02:59AM (#21167547) Homepage
        It means that if the instance is shut down for whatever reason, any and all data stored on that instance is lost. While in theory it's possible to keep the instance running indefinitely, there have been cases where people's instances have been restarted resulting in data loss. []
      • by dacut ( 243842 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @03:13AM (#21167615)

        Basically, your server can go down at any time and any data on it will be unrecoverable. Precious data must be stored off the EC2 instance (e.g., on S3).

        The implication is that you need to architect your application with this in mind. It has to be deployable and bootstrappable from a master image (typically the EC2 machine image). It either has to be stateless (generally preferred) or be able to recreate its state upon startup and periodically checkpoint its state while running. This is generally true whenever you're working on a large, distributed application and are properly treating your application servers as substitutable commodity machines. However, many people take shortcuts and depend on the reliability of the running hardware; EC2 is can be very unforgiving if you do this.

      • The idea is that all of your ec2 instances (virtual hosts) should be stateless, or lack any business state (they will have the state of the applications running on them though). The E in ec2 is elastic and the primary motivation behind being elastic is quickly scaling up AND down as your business needs change (minute by minute, hourly, daily, etc...) and keeping your business state on each of those instances wouldn't work for most cases.

        So you need to keep it somewhere else, which is where S3 comes in, whi
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Now first of all big disclaimer, I am the Chief Systems Architect for Flexiscale.

      While EC2 might not offer you persistent storage or static IP addresses the product the company I work for sells does and it still has the same per hour billing model of Amazon EC2. Have a look at [] for more information.
      • I might be interested in kicking the tires on your service if it didn't require me to fill out a contact form to have someone get back to me later. I don't think I could put much trust in a company that wants to manage my infrastructure but hasn't gotten around to building an online order system.
        • Hello,

          I can understand your frustration at the lack of the on-line order (and I would suggest there should be provisioning as well) system however the reason for this is nothing more than we have more requests for capacity than we could deal with after our launch at the Future of Web Apps expo here in London. We have an on-line ordering system for all of our other products at [] and we will have a fully automated on-line ordering and provisioning system for Flexiscale as soon as we
          • Thanks for the info, I will be launching a webapp early next year and am looking for a service that I could scale quickly if demand takes off as I hope. I'll keep you on my list and look back when that time comes. Amazon EC2 is rather interesting but its "roll your own" approach to load balancing is not very reassuring!
    • The Amazon offerings are definitely not ready for applications where money is on the line. But they are a great way for a start-up to throw something out there and get through the initial growth period on the cheap.

      Once an app/business hits maturity a lot of critical things are missing (SSL, transactional scaling support, SLA's, high performance etc.).

      The big deal in my mind is that it doesn't really solve the underlying problems an application faces in scaling, performance or availability. It just
    • Amazon has other services to help keep state with EC2

      SDB -> Simple Data Base
      SQS -> Simple Queue Service
      • What's SDB? I can't find anything about it on the AWS website... Are you think of the Simple Storage Service (S3)?
  • Amazon S3 & EC2 are revolutionary, but at some point, it's a reasonable next step. The only big drawback of EC2 is the lack of persistence so it's hard to host a dataserver on there.

    But the truly revolutionary service is Mturk []. It's about packetizing tasks for humans! not for computers.
  • I looked at S3 with an eye towards using it as a backend for a hosted backup system (one of their recommended uses, in fact). The problem that I had with using it is that there is no transparency about their operations, no service level guarantees and really no information about just where things will work and where things will start to break down.

    For example, the talk about S3's scalability as being "unlimited". In reality, nothing is unlimited. They might have an architecture that theoretically scales
    • Amazon recently announced that S3 had more than 10 billion objects stored, and a transaction rate which suggests that S3 is doing many Gbps of traffic. Unless you have very deep pockets, odds are that S3 can handle more requests than you can pay for.
      • by putaro ( 235078 )
        Well, as I said, I was looking at it as a possible back-end for a hosted backup service. So, it's not my pockets that would need to be deep, it's how many customers I could scrounge up. Taking my laptop (a little unusual) as a baseline with 1.5M files, 10,000 customers would blow right past what S3 is storing right now.

        So, that was my point. For small uses (like a small-medium size business' data) it's probably just fine but if you are trying to build a business on top of it you might find it inadequate.
    • by emj ( 15659 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @07:46AM (#21168727) Journal

      no service level guarantees and really no information about just where things will work and where things will start to break down.

      Not much but there is a SLA []
  • I hope they set up some kind of system preventing the data used in the service from falling into the wrong hands, and by that I mean something above par. It will only take one successful hack of the system to make their business model come crashing down. Most of their potential business clients will only be willing to pay if they can assume that their data will remain secure with them as the only ones who can use it. Don't get me wrong I love the idea(although it is nothing new) but I hope they think this t
  • The word is SPLIT, it's much clearer and aesthetically pleasing then "Fragmentized"
  • Why we went inhouse (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 30, 2007 @06:49AM (#21168421)
    We looked at using Amazons storage thing for our start up. There are no technical reasons we didn't use it, we decided against purely because Amazon have been such assholes with patents. Why add to their profits if there's a chance you'll be sued for some obvious technique 5-10 years from now?

  • by daeg ( 828071 )
    Just have to put in my two cents (which would buy you 2 MB/month storage or 21 MB of outbound traffic) in professing my love for NFS. I don't think I've had a bill over 50 since I went with them.
    • It took me a while to try to figure out why you were paying for NFS [], which is free software. Might want to expand that acronym to be more clear. ;)
  • ...thin clients of fat cats :-)
  • The summary mentions which we use to host paid research/Q&A site []

    What we like about them is that we pay for what we use. No more, no less. Why is this concept so rare in the industry, which seems to be built around "pay for promises, get what the arbitrary fair usage policy gives you"?

    The downside of is that they don't offer https due to some ideological problem with IP Addresses. The upside is that, apart from that, they make money by enab
  • Google's Adsense makes something accessible to small players that is hard to do otherwise - soliciting and managing business relationships with advertisers and web sites, and integrating an apparently fair revenue model into it too. Amazon's HaaS isn't that radical/new. For one thing, fragmented computing/networking resources were already available as Virtual Private Server or Virtualized Environments. Perhaps not as fine-grained but cheaper than Amazon.

    Given Amazon's linear pricing, their granularizing eve
  • I'm getting an entire server (not virtual), with hardware RAID mirror and other reasonably decent low-end server hardware (2 GB RAM, Core 2 Duo). I can do whatever I want with it, and the provider supplies the hardware, the O/S and the bandwidth (4 MBytes / second, up and down) for $260 / month. If the hardware breaks, the provider fixes it within 4 hrs. For extra money, I can get more fetuares, like mirrored servers, etc... For an extra $300 / month, I can have 10 M Bytes / second symmetric. They set i
    • by Sancho ( 17056 )
      Amazon's service isn't really meant to replace servers. It's meant to replace number-crunching boxes.
  • of business puut and end to thaat name?

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker