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Matching the Customer With the Right Cloud (Part 1)

By John | March 26, 2008

Previously, I created a “Cloud Vendors A to Z,” and I have received a little push back from some of my new Cloud friends (mostly vendors). I put a stake in the ground by categorizing cloud vendors as either level 1, level 2, or level 3. Although I am still refining my definitions, the bigger question is, “How do I answer the simple questions I get at user meetings and with customers?” Two weeks ago, after I gave my “Cloud Talk” presentation at a a local Atlanta Ruby on Rail meetup, a gentleman asked me what cloud solution should he use. Let me take my “wannabe” analyst hat off for a moment and try to explain what I told him. The answer is you might have more than one vendor.

Amazon EC2/S3

This is a great platform for proto-typing and/or on demand resources. I think the NYT story of converting 4TB in one evening is a great advertisement for EC2/S3 as a one-off solution platform. If you are a developer or a developer shop, you can use EC2/S3 to solve on-demand opportunities that were not really feasible in the past. EC2 is a great platform for any development company that wants to offer an SaaS solution. Other types of opportunities for EC2 are training labs. I do a lot of IBM training, and I used to offer my customers a mobile lab or use the customer’s dreaded in-house training lab. Now, I have a catalog of all my classes on EC2 images. I can now spin up around 4o systems daily for my labs, and the total cost from EC2 is $28 dollars per day. Before EC2, my average costs were anywhere from $500 to $1000 per day, not taking into account all the provisioning issues that I had related to physical lab machines. EC2 provides a great opportunity for resources that do not require 24/7 availability, and it gives you the ability to truly start to think out of the box for solutions. Currently, EC2 costs .10 cents per hour per instance, and you pay only for what you use. However, depending on your initial resource requirements, this price could be double or triple that right out of the gate. For example, had I been running my blog on EC2 for the last month, my resource requirements would have been at least double on EC2, most likely more (i.e., load balancing, clustering). If I had to guess, my costs on EC2 last month, not including development costs, would have been around $200, but I still use EC2 for training and proto-typing, and, in my opinion, everyone should have at least one EC2 account.

Summary24/7 entry price: Around $75 per month

Price increments: Doubles per instance

Elastic out of the box: No

Pay as you go: Yes

Bottom Line:

For about $75 per month you get a toy. An out-of-the-box EC2 account is not very useful for any serious business. You either have to invest the development resources to make it business ready or use another cloud provider that sits on top of EC2 to make it business ready (see RightScale/Elastra). The bottom line is that, for an individual business that requires a truly elastic EC2 offering, the costs are going to be around the $300 to $500 per month for EC2. Again, this does not include your development costs.

MossoAlthough the “E” in EC2 stands for elastic, EC2 is really not elastic out of the box. It can be elastic if you develop a solution based on EC2, but, if you don’t have the resources to develop your own elastic solutions, Mosso might be the next best choice. If you run a 24/7 EC2 image, it is going to cost you around $75 per month, and you have no isolation from the dreaded slashdot effect. In other words, you are not elastic. Mosso by design is elastic and costs around $100 per month. With a Mosso account, you get thrown into a cloud that is made up of different clusters, and you live and die by what I call the “trust me” cloud. You do not have shell access to your image because you theoretically don’t have an image anywhere. This blog site currently runs on Mosso. Mosso is great for blog sites, news aggregators, or content management systems that need elasticity at a low price. Last month, my blog site was all over the board in terms of resource requirements. Due to the Mosso pricing model of a flat rate with up to 3 million transactions (i.e., http gets/puts), my total cost stayed in the $100 flat rate last month even though I had over 200k new visitors in the last 30 days. I am not sure if that would have been the case for EC2 or Flexiscale. Mosso breaks down, however, if you need to provide your own specific services that require additional software tweaks or one-off infrastructure. The great thing about Mosso is that, as your resource requirements spike up and down, there are no moving parts, so, for a customer, this all happens seamlessly. I don’t know or care how much memory or how many servers I am running for my blog site at any given time. All I care is that my site runs without incident regardless of whether I am getting 30k page views per day versus 1k.

Summary24/7 entry price: Around $100 per month

Price increments: Stays the same until you get to 3 million transactions (puts/gets) per month. For $150 per month you can get a 10 million per month transactions.

Elastic out of the box: No

Pay as you go: No

Bottom line:

For around $100 per month, you can run a blog site that ranks within the top 100k web sites in the world and runs a technorati rating of around 200. For an extra $50, you can triple that. I am not sure you are going to find a better deal in town than that.

FlexiscaleNext up the elasticity food chain is Flexiscale. Flexiscale is a UK-based cloud provider that has a little bit of best-of-both EC2 and Mosso. They actually price on a per hour rate like EC2 for what they call Virtual Private Servers (VPS). VPS pricing is based on memory size of the image. The starter VPS is a .5 gig of memory for around .05 GBP per hour. Last time I checked, GBP to USD was about 2x, so a comparable VPS instance to an EC2 1-GB image is about twice the cost of running a 24/7 EC2. Flexiscale can be a very attractive option as a great platform for one-off solutions like EC2, but it also having built-in elasticity of solutions like Mosso. Flexiscale matches well with Mosso at the entry level, but pricing might exponentiate depending on resource requirements. I need to do a little research on this. All and all, Flexiscale is an excellent alternative to EC2 and Mosso; however, until they find a US-based partner, we Yanks will have to just admire them from afar.

Summary24/7 entry price: Around $75 per monthPrice increments: Double based on memory requirements.

Elastic out of the box: Yes

Pay as you go: Yes

Bottom line:

For around $150 per month, you can run a single site image similar to EC2 with elasticity built in. An individual business that requires a basic clustering of servers on Flexiscale is probably going to be around the $200 to $500 per month.

In the next article, I will be discussing higher end cloud offerings like Rigthscale and 3Tera.

Topics: SaaS, amazon, ams, cloud computing, flexiscale, mosso, rackspace, s3, utility cloud computing | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Matching the Customer With the Right Cloud (Part 1)”

  1. Mike Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I am not a mosso user so can you help me with this. How do you know mosso is a cloud and not just a shared site on a server? Is there something they should you that lets you know your on clustered machines?


  2. John Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I guess it all goes back to what is a cloud? It’s like saying what is WEB 2.0 or not. My guess is that minimally you are a cloud if:

    a. You say you are one.
    b. You can some what prove you are cloud like.
    c. You uses commodity-based hardware as a base and the hardware can be replaced anytime without affecting the cloud.
    d. You use a commodity-based software container system (XenSource,VMWare).

    Clouds that add a secret sauce of elasticity are bettter clouds.

    It’s true Mosso uses a different architecture than most but in my book they are no less a cloud.

    btw, Mosso that bimini top that came with my Grady White from 3Tera isn’t getting it done… can you guys do look into that?

  3. Mike Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 11:37 am

    hehe.. I think I got more confused. I have been on their site this morning and I can definitely see that criteria A is answered. Do you have a blog you have done earlier that shows b-d?

  4. John Says:
    March 26th, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    IMHO, Mosso is a cloud because they truly abstract the hardware from the user. In Mosso you are not one slice on a shared host, a dedicated server, or even just a single vmware image. You share amoung a cloud of utility computers that allow you to consume resources on an as needed basis. In Mosso you exist in a “Cloud” of utility servers and like EC2 you don’t really care where the server is. They also do elasticity very well.


  5. Michael Sheehan Says:
    March 27th, 2008 at 9:42 am


    I know that we have had some discussion before and perhaps this could be (or already is) a subject of another of your articles. Everyone is caught up in the cloud hype and perhaps ignoring other services that may be better matches for what people are looking for. I would love to see a discussion about cloud vs. other offerings. I’m (obviously) especially intrigued by your “level 3″ classification of “cloud disrupters” of which you only list one vendor (3Tera). There are definitely others that are “under the radar”.
    Cloud computing is not for everyone. There are definitely companies/developers who are interested in maintaining full control of their environments. I think that people need to know that by choosing a “cloud” solution, they give up certain flexibilities that come with dedicated servers, grid servers or even virtualized servers (like root access and full control of the underlying OS). I think one commonality is that of scalability. The “elasticity” of the cloud providers is a definite plus, meaning you scale automatically all using abstracted hardware and management software. Within traditional hosting, that can be done as well but can be slower and a bit more expensive. But what about that sweet spot in the center (scale quickly but still control your environment fully…even with hardware abstraction and “utility” pricing).
    I could go on. John, please feel free to contact me directly to discuss this. I’m just, as I said, concerned that some companies my be making these critical business decisions solely based on the hype and not on fully understanding their needs and other options.
    Love reading your stuff!

  6. Cloud Review | John M Willis ESM Blog Says:
    March 30th, 2008 at 6:54 am

    [...] Matching the Customer With the Right Cloud (Part 1) [...]