For a long time Amazon Web Services didn’t bother to focus on the light users. From the beginning, Rackspace offered plans catering to the low end VPS crowd with Linux Cloud Servers with 256 MB RAM available for 1.5 cents a hour (with an estimated monthly cost not including bandwidth consumption at $10.95). It was still expensive compared to some of the VPS providers but they were the only cloud vendor catering to light users. Not any more. Today, Amazon Web Services announced the availability of Micro Instances at a very competitive price.
Micro Instances are small instances with consistent CPU resources with allowance for CPU bursting when additional cycles are available. These are suitable for ow traffic/low throughput web applications, web hosting (instead of a traditional VPS), etc.. Micro Instance have 613 MB of memory and up to 2 ECUs for short periodic bursts. It has only EBS storage with no local ephemeral storage and requires boot from EBS. Like in the case of other instances they support both Linux and Windows on 32 and 64 bit platforms. They also come with CloudWatch which can be used with auto scaling to scale out when the usage goes to 100% CPU utilization. They are available as on demand, reserved instances and spot instances.
The surprising factor for me is their competitive pricing. Their on-demand instance is only 2 cents per hour for Linux and 3 cents per hour for Windows. A 24/7 usage of a Linux Micro Instance comes to less than $15 per month, less than the cost of a comparable traditional VPS. Their reserved instance is even more aggressively priced at $0.007 per hour for Linux. A 24/7 use of a Micro Instance costs only $5 per month (of course, with a one time fee (of $54 for 1 year and $82 for 3 years) associated with the reserved instances). In my opinion, this is a pretty aggressive pricing by any standards (traditional VPS or other cloud providers). This is another evidence that Amazon will use aggressive pricing to maintain their marketshare as the competition from other vendors increases. This pricing will also add considerable pressure on Rackspace and we can expect a pricing war to shape up.
Jeff Barr of AWS has listed out some of the use cases for the Micro Instances in his post.
- DNS servers, load balancers, proxies, and similar services that handle a relatively low volume of requests
- Lightweight cron-driven tasks such as monitoring, health checks, or data updates
- Hands-on training and other classroom use
Overall, an interesting move from Amazon and let us see how other players respond.
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