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Amazon To Offer Free Cloud Services

A "micro" Linux server in the Elastic Compute Cloud will be free for a year as an inducement for prospects to try their first cloud experience.

Slideshow: Amazon's Case For Enterprise Cloud Computing
Slideshow: Amazon's Case For Enterprise Cloud Computing
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Like an apartment building offering a month of free rent, Amazon Web Services is looking for EC2 tenants by offering a year of free use to those just getting started in the cloud.

Beginning Nov. 1, new customers will be able to run one micro instance in the Elastic Compute Cloud for a year at no charge. The virtual server can be combined with free use of Amazon S3 permanent storage and EC2’s Elastic Block Store, which supplies disk space for running systems. Elastic Load Balancing and AWS data transfer will also be thrown in at no charge. AWS calls the package its “free usage tier.”

Existing EC2 customers need not apply.

“We’re excited to introduce a free usage tier for new AWS customers to help them get started on AWS,” said VP Adam Selipsky. “Everyone from entrepreneurial college students to developers at Fortune 500 companies can now launch new applications at zero expense and with the peace of mind that they can instantly scale to accommodate growth,” he added in the announcement.

Selipsky said the offering will give software developers the chance to launch their applications at no cost, if they haven’t tried cloud computing before. If a multitude of users want to make use of it, Amazon will gladly supply additional servers to meet the demand, he noted.

The micro instance offered is AWS’ minimal Linux server, normally priced at 2 cents an hour. A standard Linux instance is priced at 8.5 cents, while a large virtual server is priced at 34 cents and an extra large server is priced at 68 cents. A standard virtual server in EC2 is assigned CPU power equivalent to a 2007 Intel Xeon processor or roughly a single core of a multi-core processor so a micro instance would receive a fraction of that, perhaps in proportion to its one-fourth price.

Ten gigabytes of Elastic Block Storage comes with the micro instance, along with 5 gigabytes of S3 storage. There’s no charge for the transfer of data, up to 30 GB of data, say 15 GB in and 15 GB out, per month.

AWS is also throwing in 25 hours a month use of its SimpleDB database service; 100,000 requests per month for use of Amazon Simple Queue Service for message store and forwarding; and 100,000 requests and notifications per month over HTTP networks and 1,000 notifications via email for Amazon Simple Notification Service.

The free micro instance is the smallest unit of cloud computing that AWS offers and it’s safe to say not many Fortune 500 companies will be running a production application on one. But as a way to pull more window shoppers and tire kickers into EC2, the free usage tier is bound to add to EC2’s use. There was no mention of a free Windows micro instance in the tier. They’re available at 3 cents per hour, while standard Windows instances go for 12 cents an hour. The micro instance in the case of both Linux and Windows appears to be one-fourth of a standard instance.

At the same time, open source projects are proliferating in the cloud, most of them based on Linux servers, a Black Duck Software survey showed in August. Thus far, many of them were locating in Amazon's EC2, with Microsoft's Azure coming in second. Open source projects in the cloud grew 70% from 2008 to 2009. Black Duck collects data on 250,000 projects.

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