Cloud copes with capacity

This article was originally published in VSJ, which is now part of Developer Fusion.
Amazon has launched a beta of a new web service for developers. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) provides a resizable computing capacity in a “cloud”. It claims to provide true virtual computing. To use it you create an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) containing your application, which you then upload to Amazon S3, a web distributed storage facility introduced by Amazon last year. S3 acts as a repository for all of the images. To use the image you call on the EC2 web service to create as many running instances of the application as you need using the RunInstances call. This returns a set of DNS names that you can use to communicate with a running instance as if it was a local machine.

Each instance provides the equivalent of a 1.7Ghz Xeon with 1.75GB of RAM, 160GB disk space and 250Mbps network bandwidth. The key advantages of this distributed architecture is that you can vary capacity without having to invest in hardware (hence the “elastic” in the name), and you can take advantage of the reliability and security of Amazon’s computing centre. Tools, developer forums and documentation can be found at

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