Earlier this week, Amazon announced that their Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) would support Microsoft Windows Server 2003. In addition, EC2 for Windows also supports SQL Server Standard and Express databases. This is terrific news for those of us in the non-LAMP camp. Amazon EC2 has been around for a few years, but only recently did EC2 support the Microsoft Windows platform.
EC2 for Windows offers seamless integration with several other Amazon EC2 features, including Elastic Block Store (EBS) and Elastic IPs. At this point, the only limitation is that customers can only launch Windows instances in one Availability Zone. Each availability zone runs on its own physically distinct, independent infrastructure, and is engineered to be highly reliable. Common points of failures like generators and cooling equipment are not shared across availability zones, and availability zones are designed to be independent with failure modes like fires and flooding. One of the other limitations is that Microsoft Windows Server licensing does not currently support using your existing Windows license in Amazon EC2 or any other cloud environment. Check the EC2 FAQ for further details.
Pricing for EC2 for Windows is pretty comparable to the Linux offering. As of today, October 28, 2008, pricing for a Standard Small (default) Windows instance is $0.125 per hour. This configuration provides a predictable amount of dedicated compute capacity equivalent to 1.7 GB of memory, 1 EC2 Compute Unit (1 virtual core with 1 EC2 Compute Unit), 160 GB of instance storage, on a 32-bit platform. You pay for what you use. There are other costs, such as data transfer in/out of EC2 (and data storage costs (Amazon Elastic Block Store). Check here for up-to-date information about pricing.
I’ve been working with Amazon EC2 for Windows for the past few days and have found it to be extremely easy to use. If you’re planning on trying out the service, you’ll definitely want to download ElasticFox, a FireFox plug-in which makes it very easy to manage your EC2 instances (Windows and Linux). To learn more about ElasticFox, please see the ElasticFox Getting Started Guide.
What’s great about EC2 (and cloud computing in general) is that it lowers both barriers and costs for individuals and small businesses who wish to offer services over the web. You don’t need a data center, you don’t need a dedicated server and you don’t even need a Virtual Private Server (VPS) anymore. While the monthly cost for EC2 is higher than most standard hosting and VPS plans, it offers the ability to scale up (or down) much more easily than traditional web site and web application hosting plans.