Amazon’s dedicated instances
Back in December, I blogged about the notion of Just Enough Privacy — the idea that cloud IaaS customers could share a common pool of physical servers, yet have the security concerns of shared infrastructure addressed through provisioning rules that would ensure that once a “private” customer got a virtual machine provisioned on a physical server, no other customers would then be provisioned onto that server for the duration of that VM’s life. Customers are far more willing to share network and storage than they are compute, because they’re worried about hypervisor security, so this approach addresses a significant amount of customer paranoia with no real negative impact to the provider.
Amazon has just added EC2 Dedicated Instances, which are pretty much exactly what I wrote about previously. For $10 an hour per region with single-tenancy, plus a roughly 20% uplift to the normal Amazon instance costs, you can have single-tenant servers. There are some minor configuration complications, and dedicated reserved instances have their own pricing (and are therefore separate from regular reserved instances), but all in all, these combine with the recently-released VPC features for a reasonably elegant set of functionality.
The per-region charge carries a significant premium over any wasted capacity. An extra-large instance is a full physical server; it’s 8x larger than a small instance, and its normal pricing is exactly 8x, $0.68/hour vs. a small’s $0.085/hour (Linux pricing). Nothing costs more than a quadruple extra large high-memory instance ($2.48/hour), also a full physical server. Dedicated tenancy should never waste more than a full physical server’s worth of capacity, so the “wasted” capacity carries around a 15x premium on normal instances and a 4x premium on the expensive high-memory instances, compared to if that capacity had simply been sold as a multi-tenant server. It’s basically a nuisance charge for really small customers, and not even worth thinking about by larger customers (it’s a lot less than the cost of a cocktail at a nice bar in San Francisco). All in all, it’s pretty attractive financially for Amazon, since they’re getting a 20%-ish premium on the instance charges themselves, too. (And if retail is the business of pennies, those pennies still add up when you have enough customers.)
Amazon has been on a real roll since the start of the year — the extensive VPC enhancements, the expansion of the Identity and Access Management features, and the CloudFormation templates are among the key enhancements. And the significance of the Citrix/Amazon partnership announcement shouldn’t be overlooked, either.