AWS Start-up Tour: Cloud Computing with Amazon

Yesterday (6/16/2009) I attended the Amazon “AWS Start-up Tour 2009” in Sunnyvale at the PlugandPlay Tech Center (which reminded me of a larger version of the The Enterprise Network (TEN) Incubator we were in when we started iPrint)

Update: Slides are here

The event centered around cloud computing and how to utilize the various components of AWS. We’ve been running top3Clicks on AWS (EC2/S3) for almost a year and a half so I was pretty familiar with the basic offerings.

Things were kicked-off by Andy Jassy who runs the AWS business (and authored the initial business plan). He gave a good overview of all that AWS has to offer, including their new offerings around scaling, CDN and monitoring.

The best part of the event were the case studies of several companies utilizing AWS for some or all of their production infrastructure:

  • Paco Nathan, Principal Scientist, ShareThis
  • Ljubomir Buturovic, Ph.D., Sr. Director and Chief Scientist, Pathwork
  • Santosh Rau, Engineering Manager, Software Infrastructure, Netflix
  • Andrew Gibbons, Director of Operations, Smugmug

ShareThis and Smugmug are running significant portions of their infrastructure on AWS and both are looking at how to increase their utilization of the platform. Pathwork and ShareThis were interesting in that both had batch scenarios where they needed to provision a large number of machines (more than 1000) for a period of time. Once the batch jobs were complete, they would tear down the instances, thereby reducing both their costs and need for hardware.

At least one company was also using AWS to fire up Dev/Test instances on-demand, run scenarios and then tear down the environment. Given that we’ve spent a lot of effort on something quite similar (using Hyper-V for virtualization of test instances) on my current team, I found it extremely interesting how quick/easy this could be accomplished. There wasn’t any detail, but one scenario might go something like:

  1. Create daily/nightly RC build
  2. Fire up EC2 instance(s) that replicate enough of the production environment to verify the RC
  3. Install/deploy nightly RC to cloud
  4. Run automated functional suite of tests
  5. Generate reports
  6. Tear down environment

No need to have a farm of boxes sitting around that are used for a few hours a day, taking up space in a lab or datacenter. Nice!

The final presentation was done by Jinesh Varia, Technical Evangelist for AWS. He walked through how to take an existing classic three-tier infrastructure and port it to AWS. He pushed the Presentation (html, images, etc) to S3, the Application layer to EC2 and the Data tier to SQS. It was a slightly simplistic view of the world (he only had 45 minutes) but left us able to extrapolate more complex cloud-based architectures.

Overall, a great overview of one company’s view of cloud computing. I left wondering again when Amazon (AMZN) will be acquired, not for their retail operation, but as an infrastructure play. Guessing it will be IBM and it will happen in the next year or so, especially given that Sun (SUNW) is going to Oracle (ORCL).