Monthly Archives: September 2010

Fixed Instance Sizes Are Dumb

After my recent post on EC2 Micro instances, I received a great comment from Robert Jenkins over at CloudSigma regarding the “false construct” of fixed instance sizes.  There’s no reason why an EC2-small has to have 1.7GB RAM, 1 VPU and 160GB of local storage.  The underlying virtualization technology allows for fairly open configurability of instances.  What if I want 2.5GB of RAM, 2 VPUs and 50GB of local storage?  I can’t get that from Amazon – but the Xen hypervisor they doesn’t prohibit this.  You’re never going to use exactly 160GB of storage, and Amazon is counting that most won’t use more than 50 or 60 GB – showing you how much of a deal you get for something they never have to provide.

Same is true for most cloud providers.  Rackspace allows you to go down to 256mb RAM, 10GB disk and then a 10Mbps bandwidth limit.  You can use more bandwidth and disk, you just pay for it.

Perhaps customers like the “value meal” approach with pre-configured instance types and they sell better.  Perhaps Amazon likes being able to release a new instance type every quarter as a way to generate news and blog posts.  Perhaps their ecommerce billing systems can’t handle the combinatorial complexity of variable memory, storage, bandwidth and VPUs.  Whatever the reason, these fixed instance types limit user choice.

They’re dumb because they’re unnecessary.

CSC Throws off “N-I-H” – Partners with Skytap for Dev/Test Cloud

In a fairly uncharacteristic move, CSC rejected a traditionally strong “not invented here” syndrome and has joined forces with Skytap for their CloudLab service.  The Skytap-powered CloudLab has been in customer testing at CSC since mid-August and is now generally available to CSC customers.

Within the domain of enterprise IT, public cloud usage typically falls into one of three categories – dev/test, big data analytics, and new Web/e-commerce projects.  From a data center perspective, dev/test has the most impact on reducing costs and improving user satisfaction among cloud opportunities. At Unisys (my employer), our engineering IT support group implemented the “Engineering Resource Lab,” an internal dev/test private cloud, saving a lot of money and dramatically improving developer satisfaction due to reduced provisioning time for infrastructure (from weeks to minutes).  We’re working with many of our clients on similar projects to deploy internal private clouds for development and test environments, leveraging the knowledge and IP we developed for our own internal use.

Skytap has been at the dev/test cloud game for longer than most, and their solution is very well-regarded.  I’ve written about them before, most recently when they rolled out a sophisticated virtual network provisioning capability. I don’t have any good information about internal cloud technologies that CSC might have been working on, but their selection of Skytap to power their public test/dev cloud should enable them to compete better against IBM’s highly successful Smart Business Development & Test Cloud solution, at least in the short run.

Here’s some more information I received in an interview with Sundar Raghavan, Skytap’s chief product and marketing officer:

  • CSC CloudLab is feature/function identical to Skytap’s own service – only branding and perhaps customer SLA terms have changed.  Updates to Skytap get propagated to CloudLab after being certified by CSC – typically in 1-2 days.
  • Skytap gets paid a usage fee from CSC based on the users/usage of their customers.  How CSC charges for CloudLab is up to them.
  • Skytap provided the software and supports the operation of CloudLab, while CSC provided the hardware, data center and day-to-day operations team to run it.
  • This is non-exclusive on both sides.  Skytap is interested in similar partnerships with big outsourcers and systems integrators, and CSC is free to bring in other partners.
  • The main CloudLab service is multi-tenanted, but Skytap would be happy to support CSC if they want to operate a managed private (e.g. single-tenant) CloudLab instance for one or more of CSC’s larger customers.

With CSC’s experience in the data center, I would not doubt it if there were more than one internal effort under way to address this market.  It must have been an interesting discussion when the decision was made to “outsource” this to Skytap.  In the short run, at least, this relationship puts CSC into a strong position for dev/test cloud services.  It will be interesting, however, to see how long CSC will choose to rely on a third party for a capability that they should have been able to grow internally.  If I were a client, I would also wonder if CSC would be a good partner to help me build a competitive internal dev/test cloud.

For Skytap, this partnership is really fantastic.  CSC’s global footprint, deep client relationships, and broad coverage across commercial and government markets ought to result in a dramatic increase in business.  CSC’s stamp of approval will be a very marketable asset for Skytap when they are selling direct as well.  It’s a great endorsement and should allay most prospect’s fears about Skytap’s suitability for enterprise-level work.  Kudos to the Skytap team.

Micro Instances Do Not a Web Host Make

Amazon’s announcement of Micro Instances this week ist great news for web sites who need a lower-capacity intense type for simple operations or low-volume processes. Some people have equated Micro Instances with a VPS model, or specifically as competition to traditional mass market web hosts.

A small instances is not an offering that replaces a web host.

Is there pushbutton deployment of WordPress or Drupal? No.

Can you provision a FREE MySQL database as part of the service? No.

Is there an easy to use cpanel-like front end? No. Do they have reseller accounts? No.

Do they offer built-in POP, SMTP, mailboxes, FTP and other standard web host services? No.

You have to install all of that software manually, configure it, and make sure it stays running. Godaddy does this for you, for $4.95/month.

It’s nice they have a cheaper option, but this doesn’t change Amazon’s fundamental service one iota.

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