Amazon's cloud new offers dedicated hardware

Amazon is aiming to lower entry barriers for its cloud services, says an analyst

AWS (Amazon Web Services) customers can now run their cloud applications on hardware dedicated to them, the company said on Monday.

Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) uses virtualization, based on a customized version of the Xen hypervisor, to run multiple OSes and customers on a single physical machine. However, that way of running an IT infrastructure isn't a good fit for all users as some have regulatory or other restrictions that require physical isolation, according to an Amazon blog post. The company's introduction of Dedicated Instances addresses those issues, the blog said.

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Dedicated Instances will be part of Amazon's VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) service, which was recently upgraded with better network features. When configuring the VPC, administrators can either set up a private cloud that contains only dedicated instances or one that includes a mixture of traditional and dedicated instances, depending on application requirements, according to Amazon.

Users have no control over whether dedicated instances run on the same hardware or are spread across several machines, although Amazon said that it strives for the latter to minimize the effects of hardware failure.

The charge for Dedicated Instances includes two fees: an hourly "per instance usage fee" and a "dedicated per region fee". The region fee is US$10 per hour irrespective of how many instances an enterprise is running in one region.

The usage fee depends on the region where the instance is running, performance level and OS. For example, a large instance running Suse Enterprise Linux in North Carolina costs $0.54 per hour.

AWS users can also choose to pay a one-time payment for each instance -- signing either a one-year or a three-year contract -- and in return receive a discount on the hourly usage charge.

Companies that just want regular instances only pay the usage fee, which is slightly lower that the one paid by Dedicated Instance users. They also have more instances to pick between and regions where they can run them. Amazon has decided to add the region fee because it won't be able to use its hardware as effectively, the blog post said.

Allowing companies to run applications on dedicated hardware may go against the idea of cloud services and virtualization, according to Niklas Zandelin, CEO at marketing research company Exido. However, for Amazon it is a way to lower entry barriers for its services, he said. Moving to the cloud is still an evolutionary process for most companies and by allowing them to use dedicated hardware, Amazon could start attracting customers earlier in that process.

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