The Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) is the central part of Amazon Web Services cloud-computing platform, which provides cost-effective virtual computer servers for rent and allows users to run their own computer applications. AWS provides resizable computing capacity to host applications of varied intensity in the Cloud. The Amazon’s cloud server can be used to maintain a large network of websites and ensure their smooth functioning.
Amazon EC2 is the base platform for the cloud computing environment provided by Amazon. EC2 allows for the creation, activation and the provision of virtual instances for personal or business needs. The virtual servers are run within the safe environment of Amazon’s own datacenters. EC2 allows to configure computing requirements and adjust capacity based on demand.
Reliable, Simple, Secure, Resilient and Low-Cost
The Elastic Compute Cloud is designed to easily provide instances and destroy them when are no longer needed. To make things simple, Amazon provides all the building blocks you need – you can combine them to match your application. All instances are executed within the secure Amazon datacenters, with the ability to restrict access using firewall rules. Resilience is achieved by placing the instances in different locales and using persistent storage volumes. The EC2 service is offered at very economical rates for all your server needs.
In January 2015, Amazon announced a drop in Amazon EC2 pricing for new instances (C4). The new C4 instances were introduced in November, 2014 – based around Intel Xeon E5-2666 v3 (Haswell) processors and customized specifically for EC2. The CPUs have a base frequency of 2.9 GHz, and can reach up to 3.5 GHz with Turbo Boost.
You can choose an instance from 2 virtual processors (1 core) with 3.75 GB RAM up to 36 virtual processors (18 cores) with 60 GB RAM. The price ranges from $0.116 USD per hour for the first instance mentioned (C4 Large), up to $1.856 USD per hour for the last one (C4 8 Xlarge). These prices are currently only available in some regions of the United States (Virginia, Oregon, California), as well as Ireland, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney. Prices vary on the region, Oregon being the cheapest. The AWS team promises that new rates will be soon available for other regions in the world.
Amazon EC2 Pricing Examples for T2, the Low-Cost, General Purpose Instance Type for Amazon EC2
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Another novelty is the improved AWS management console – now with tags for organizing your resources in the Cloud in groups of servers, databases, repositories… etc. Tag Editor will manage all of these tags between services and regions, facilitating the research and resource management.
Cross-Account access makes it easier to work in a multi-role environment. Administrators can now login as users, then go to manage another account without having to enter another username and password.
On the side of safety, Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service) now supports data encryption of database instances running MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle Database with AWS Key Management Service and AWS CloudHSM Service.
The 2015 was full of novelties for Amazon AWS customers, including the Amazon Glacier service (a secure storage service designed for data archiving and online backup), VMimport feature (import images from virtual machines for use on the Elastic Compute Cloud), AutoScaling (build systems that meet the changing demand by increasing or lowering the capacity as needed), and more. For complete list of updates, you can visit the official Amazon AWS blog.
Not only the prices have been reduced incredibly and this was a big blow to traditional hosting, but most importantly the t2.micro instance is now part of the Free Tier, meaning that the first year of hosting is now free.
Amazon EC2 Free Tier – AWS Free Tier for 1 Year of Free Cloud Hosting:
- 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Linux t2.micro instance usage (1 GiB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support) – monthly
- 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Microsoft Windows Server t2.micro instance usage (1 GiB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support) – monthly
- 750 hours of an Elastic Load Balancer plus 15 GB data processing — monthly
- 30 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage in any combination of General Purpose (SSD) or Magnetic, plus 2 million I/Os (with EBS Magnetic) and 1 GB of snapshot storage
- 5 GB of Amazon S3 standard storage, 20,000 Get Requests, and 2,000 Put Requests
- 750 hours of Amazon RDS Single-AZ Micro DB Instances, for running MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Oracle BYOL or SQL Server (running SQL Server Express Edition) – monthly
- and more
Virtual server with 1GB of memory is enough to accommodate the CentOS (including Apache, Nginx, PHP, MySQL or PostgreSQL) and a few websites, depending on their traffic.
The Amazon AWS marketplace has lots of free ready-made instances with all major operating systems and software, including for web servers. In addition, Amazon’s CloudFormer tool allows you to create CloudFormation templates to deploy the existing infrastructure with a single configuration file template. All in all, cloud hosting is becoming a direct competitor to the traditional hosting.
The main competitors of Amazon AWS are Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Which one should a user choose? The answer is complex. Choosing one a provider over another in this case is a bit like choosing where to buy the same printer model: small shop or a big department store, nearby or far, etc.
The pricing is probably not a very important aspect because there’s a price war going on, so even if your favored option is not cheapest today, it most likely will be tomorrow. One important difference between AWS and MS Azure is the huge experience that AWS have over MS in operating a very large scale cloud infrastructure. Google has a great platform but less services than the others, however there is big data on their platform – very few companies deal with data on the scale of Google.
The Free Tier of Amazon EC2 that every client gets for the first year of service, up to the specified threshold allows us to test the service without incurring costs.
How about you? Which cloud vendor do you use? What do you think of AWS and other Cloud platform services?