Amazon Web Services to make free cloud offer

Amazon Web Services will allow first-time customers a year of free usage of a single low-powered elastic compute cloud instance, beginning in November
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

The cloud-computing subsidiary of Amazon, Amazon Web Services, announced on Thursday that it will offer first-time users a spread of its cloud products for free for one year from 1 November, to encourage new customers to take up its products.

"With the new free AWS [Amazon Web Services] usage tier, developers will be able to launch applications at no cost. If their new application spikes in popularity, it will seamlessly scale and run on AWS's inexpensive, pay-as-you-go, standard pricing," the company said in a statement.

The single instance that will be used to run the applications will be a Linux Micro Instance. This is a low-powered 32 or 64-bit virtual machine with 613MB of memory, up to two EC2 Compute Units (ECUs) — which function as virtual processors — and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) storage only. An ECU provides the equivalent processor capacity of a 1-1.2GHz Opteron or Xeon processor.

Amazon describes this type of instance as "well suited for lower throughput applications and websites that consume significant compute cycles periodically".

"600MB of RAM is not very much, granted, but it's more than enough to get off the ground and it's more than enough to get off the ground with a fine number of people to at least do a private beta," Paul Campbell, a web developer whose applications — such as Ketchup — are generally built around AWS services, told ZDNet UK on Friday. "You're not going to have Facebook on it, but it's fine," he said.

The instance gets 10GB of free Amazon EBS, and users also get 5GB of Amazon S3 Storage, AWS's dedicated scalable storage product.

"The key thing with Amazon that I think people forget is that in terms of raw compute power, it's not a whole lot, but in terms of network power, it's big. EC2 is sitting on a very fast pipe... maybe for high compute stuff this isn't revolutionary, but just for free access to a very fast delivery mechanism for your application or your site, I think it's awesome," Campbell said.

Amazon also rolled out three batches of free items that will be offered indefinitely and that are available to both existing and new AWS customers. These features include 25 hours and 1GB of storage for the Amazon SimpleDB datastore, and 100,000 requests to the Amazon Simple Queue Service, which is a hosted queue for messages as they move between instances. Other features include 100,000 requests, 100,000 HTTP notifications and 1,000 email notifications for the Amazon Simple Notification Service.

In August, a UBS Investment Research report predicted that AWS would generate revenues of £313m in 2010, rising to £470m in 2011, with growth driven primarily by growing use of Amazon Web Service's EC2 and S3 products.

Amazon Web Services launched EC2 in 2006. Since then, other companies have entered the market, with both Google and Rackspace selling products that compete with S3 storage. Meanwhile, schemes such as OpenStack and products like Microsoft Azure are competing with Amazon in the field of compute services.

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