Cross-Region EC2 AMI Copy Comes to Amazon Web Services

Cloud GraphicThe recent shutdown of GoDaddy’s cloud product shows how hard it can be for even a well-funded cloud infrastructure start-up to compete against the behemoth that is Amazon Web Services (AWS). From the biggest names in tech (Netflix, Reddit) to some of the smallest, companies depend on AWS to power their cloud server infrastructure. However, even as Amazon dominates the market, they are not resting on their laurels, introducing new features and price drops nearly every week.

Amazon’s latest announcement is the ability to copy EC2 AMIs across different AWS regions, allowing server administrators to store these server images in different regions. Why is this important? Take the recent outage that took down Netflix and several other large websites. The outage affected Amazon’s US-East region, but many other regions exist across the world, and those regions were still online.

For the small guys that can’t afford a full sys ops team, keeping EC2 AMI images on standby in other regions can allow for a quick failover with minimal cost. You only pay for the size of your AMI images, and can bring servers online only if they are needed. (Databases are another story, and may require some multi-master replication strategies, but that’s another blog post.)

At Hollow Developers, our mission-critical applications are hosted on AWS with a hot backup waiting to go online at a separate hosting company in case of an AWS failure. As AWS offerings continue to increase as prices decrease, the choice of hosting the hot backup in a different AWS region is tempting.  For instance, it is much easier and cheaper to interact in one ecosystem rather than multiple. However, as rare as it may be, an entire ecosystem could get knocked offline/hacked/etc. As always, it will be interesting to watch the cloud infrastructure competitors duke it out over the next few years & hopefully provide even better solutions that can help websites experience the optimal 100% uptime.

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GoDaddy Instant DataCenter vs. Rackspace Cloud Servers Part 2

Last year, we posted about GoDaddy’s alternative to Rackspace’s cloud servers.  We delivered a mixed verdict on both products, siding with GoDaddy primarily for price and ease of use, while Rackspace won the reputation, documentation, and API control.

Starting today, however, we can definitely recommend Rackspace over GoDaddy.  Not only for their SOPA stance, or hours-long outage a while ago, but due to the fact that they are shutting down the product.  It was a great step for beginners into the world of cloud computing, but it seems that their low price and tarnished reputation drove them out of the market.  In a memo that we received late last week, the company announced that Cloud Servers would be discontinued, giving customers until mid-April 2013 to move away from the platform.

As a rule, Hollow Developers always maintains our primary servers on one web host in one city, as well as backup servers on a different web host in a different city.  Every provider is going to experience downtime, and we want to make sure that we are always online.  Look forward to another host vs. Rackspace article in the near future, as we move our servers away from GoDaddy and find a new home.

Here is the bulk of GoDaddy’s memo to existing customers:

Go Daddy appreciates your business with us – we know you have many choices when choosing a business partner online. We continually strive to deliver you the best products and the best support in the industry. After careful review, we have decided that the best way to bring cloud hosting to our customers is by integrating it with our Web Hosting and Virtual Private Server products. As such, we will be discontinuing Cloud Servers as a stand-alone product.

We know you have invested your time building your business on top of our Cloud Servers product, and we want to work with you to take the next step. We will be giving our Cloud Server customers until April 15, 2013 to migrate their data and processes to a new platform.

Our customer care representatives will be reaching out to you over the next week to help you make this transition. We have several alternative products to meet your hosting needs, including:

• VPS (Virtual Private Servers) offer flexible capacity with guaranteed RAM and storage availability.

• Dedicated Server plans that give you your own lightning-fast processor, up to core i7, with up to 20TB of bandwidth.

• Go Daddy Web hosting is an option for those who need reliable hosting in a clustered, multi-server environment.

If you are still interested in GoDaddy, they still offer some products – find out more about their Dedicated Servers at GoDaddy.com.

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GoDaddy Instant DataCenter vs. Rackspace Cloud Servers

10/09/2012 Update

We have written in the past about Rackspace Cloud servers, and the fact that our site is actually built on these servers.  As traffic increases and decreases, we can quickly scale up and down our servers to accommodate spikes, and remove cost during slow periods.

Recently, GoDaddy introduced their answer to Rackspace’s cloud servers – GoDaddy Instant DataCenter.

We haven’t had much time with GoDaddy’s product, but wanted to provide some initial thoughts on the two products since there doesn’t seem to be much discussion on the products yet.

First, the areas where GoDaddy wins out over Rackspace:

  • Price – as usual, GoDaddy undercuts the competition by a significant margin.  Three 1GB servers with 100GB outbound transfer will run you $120/month (cheaper if you signup for a longer term).  Comparable servers on Rackspace would cost $150/month.
  • Ease of setup – we called GoDaddy support and had a running server within 2 hours.  Setup time was comparable on Rackspace.  However, GoDaddy provided a stock LAMP Ubuntu server, something that saves just a little time, but is helpful nonetheless for quick proof-of-concepts.
  • Easy firewall – GoDaddy provides a firewall in front of your entire network, so you can use their interface to open ports and establish load balancers.  Rackspace doesn’t let you off quite this easy and requires modifications on each server.
  • Simple load balancer – in the control panel, you tell GoDaddy which port and IP should be load balanced, and also provide target machines – all in a web interface.  Nothing’s easier, and this layer is free.  I would like more details about the load balancer, however.  I am assuming that it is a high availability load balancer with many nodes at the entrance of the network.  You know what they say about assuming, though.

Rackspace has quite a few things going for them, however:

  • API Control – Scripts can easily control your cloud server settings – everything from creating a new server instance to increasing the RAM on a server.  This allows you unparalleled flexibility, and is not, as of yet, available on the GoDaddy Instant DataCenter product.
  • Reputation – A huge plus for Rackspace here.  I don’t know anyone who can say “I’m really embarrassed that I buy products from Rackspace.”  However, the same cannot be said for GoDaddy.  From their icky advertising to their CEO’s elephant killing video, the company is a little sketchy.  Every SuperBowl, I hang my head in shame when their commercial comes on.
  • Documentation – Rackspace wins by a mile with best practices for setting up the servers and step-by-step instructions for performing almost any task that you will need to do.  It’s still early in GoDaddy’s product, but even for their older products, GoDaddy lacks solid documentation and a strong community.
  • Easy CDN Integration – Content delivery network is provided in the control panel to allow quick offloading of resources.
The verdict: mixed.  If you’re just trying things out, you might want to give GoDaddy a try since they seem to be the cheapest option for 1GB servers.  However, Rackspace allows you to start at 256MB, so their cheapest option is also a good starting point.  If you require a more complex setup, I would definitely go with Rackspace due to their flexibility and API integration.

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