Windows on EC2 = SMEs on EC2

The announcement that Win2003 is now an an option on EC2, is very significant, that and EC2’s exit from beta status with an SLA in tow, means that AWS is now very much more appealing to the great unwashed, the SMEs. i.e. the businesses who form the backbone of most of our economies.

Large companies and start-ups are comfortable in the world of Linux servers but most small companies are Windows to the core.  This may not be “right”, this may not be how it “should be”, but it is so.   Even within large companies, departmental computing is largely a Windows only enclave, with MS Office (and Excel in particular) as the backbone and MS SQL Server as the database of choice (or is that, no choice).

The other interesting thing is that my fear that EC2 SQL Server Standard instances would be licensed as per Oracle has not come to pass (Oracle while making a “big thing” of their recent EC2 cloud conversion, still insist on traditional licensing for EC2 database instances). SQL Server Standard is available on a pay-as-you-go model, brilliant!.

Even if running Win2003 as a server doesn’t catch your fancy and in fact you would much rather get rid of your existing Window’s laptop to be replaced by a cool new Apple Mac. Unfortunately you still need the ability to run Windows-only software, why not use EC2 as your on-demand pay-as-you-go Window’s desktop replacement?  Simply configure a Windows AMI with your required software (you may have to use something like this, if software is only available on CD); you could then use Jungle Disk to easily share data (via S3) between your new shiny Mac and the AMI.  Power up and down as required, easier than using VMWare or Parallels and @ 12.5c per hour, probably cheaper too.


6 responses to “Windows on EC2 = SMEs on EC2

  1. Windows on EC2 is a plus. I’ve just played around with Linux based EC2 (have not tried the ECB yet). The cost proposition is great mainly when one needs a lot of horse power.

    But from your perspective of an independent consultant, what type of jobs do you see from SME businesses? In other words, what will be a typical engagement for you from an SME that involves deploying Windows (or Linux) on EC2? Are you just coding/testing on EC2 to finally deploy your solution on the SME’s internal servers? Or do they actually like you to host the final code/software on EC2?

    Your posts are very informative! Keep it up as I learn some stuff I do not see elsewhere.


  2. @Sean,

    I must actually do a full post on the uses I see for EC2 for datasmiths.

    Initially my interest in EC2 was as a test/dev *nix platform (I was finally able to get rid of an old PC that acted as a my Linux “server”). But I’ve also used it as a short term “production” environment, so called “cloud bursting”, one-off data conversions and the like. I’ve not yet used EC2 as a “permanent” server solution however I have worked with a client on prototypes of such a scenario (a shared datawarehousing solution for SME customers).

    Likewise, my initial interest in Windows EC2 is as a test/dev platform, and this will help shutdown another “server”, this time my ageing XP desktop (pumped up with lots of memory,and a big disk) which currently hosts SQL Server Express, Oracle XE and various VMWare images. I will also most likely shutdown Windows networking; finally on my way to

    But again “cloud bursting”. this time SQL Server and Access datasets, will be another major use. This not only saves time by not having to download/upload such sets to/from my local machines, but it also is a much more secure method of handling client data, less danger of data being compromised (what’s the first thing a thief will lift if he breaks into your house/office, yep, your laptop). Although I use TrueCrypt to secure most datasets, I’d have to say hand on heart not everything is so secured at this moment in time.

    As I said in my LAN is the new WAN post, longterm I see many SMEs migrating to the cloud, and having Windows as an option on such services, hastens that day.


  3. Thanks for your reply.

    The Access/Excel/SQL Server and security are great reasons to use EC2 (and EC2 windows) though I am sure there will be some flaw that will get exploited at some point.

    For me at this time, I can see EC2 as a replacement for some of the VMWare images that I use as long as I do not need to share data with my local machine. I also see the usage where I need more horsepower than my local machine can provide. It is amazing how much power we can now get for pennies. That is really “cloud bursting”.

    To go from LAN to WAN here in the US is still few years away. I do have a 15 down/6 up connection but that is not the norm yet. Plus cellular is too expensive here unless Sprint can really get the Wimax going.

    I am looking forward to that detail post sometime in near future.


  4. @Sean

    The flaws undoubtedly are already there, but unlike a public facing web app the use of EC2 for cloud bursting (or is that busting, I never know?) entails a much smaller and controllable footprint. Much easier to manage the risk (not eliminate it, just manage it – another subject I regularly rant on about).

    Re: WAN v LAN
    I don’t see speed of connection as being the major obstacle to the WAN replacing the LAN, it’s the level of latency (which is usually a factor of the level of contention) in the connection. My fixed wireless provider standard is 1 up, 1 down, but I can operate successfully with half that speed as long as latency remains low. But even for those who by the nature of their connection suffer high latency as the norm (most mobile offerings and satellite) dumping one’s LAN is still an option as long as the client side apps they use are designed to effectively use local cache (for me it’s Excel backend’d by SQLite).

    One other good reason for becoming familiar with EC2 as a datasmithing platform is the potential network effect; as EC2 becomes more popular, and more and more datasets make EC2/S3 their home, then that data will be in need of EC2 based datasmithing services.


  5. Hi Tom
    Im a little off topic here. I picked up from your own comment, “I use TrueCrypt to secure most datasets”.
    How do you find it? Some of our client enquiries show they believe online backup encryption will add to their local data security. While it may in limited circumstances the only safe answer is that this is not the case. I tell them to seek third party encryption for local data but would like to be more helpful. I am running a few trials of various products at the moment. TrueCrypt is not one of them. Should it be?


  6. @John

    TrueCrypt is free, powerful, easy to use and most importantly, open-source (closed source encryption products are not the best idea from a pure security point of view IMHO). When I say easy to use, some commercial products are easier on the eye and of course now Vista (or at least the more expensive versions) comes with in-built disk encryption so perhaps not for everybody.

    But if your clients are serious about protecting their data (particularly laptop based datasets) then they should at least check it out. Like I always say about cloud computing, it may not be suitable for your project but you need to at least understand its potential before dismissing it.