27 July 2010

A Fish in the Clouds

How long does it take to find a hosting company and get an enterprise web application up and running from scratch? Could be weeks if there are enough lawyers and pointy-haired bosses involved. And even if you can directly talk to the providers, it usually takes a couple of days to request quotes and compare them.

That's the way we started for our current project, but now we've decided to have a go at cloud computing. (So at last this adds another buzzword to my CV...)

I vaguely remembered Arun Gupta's blog about Glassfish on Amazon EC2, and using that together with the Ubuntu EC2 Starter's Guide, it just took me about half an hour to set up a virtual machine in the Amazon Cloud with Ubuntu Server 10.04, JDK 1.6.0_20 and Glassfish 3.0.1, start the Glassfish domain and access the admin console from my local web browser.

And downloading the 78 M Glassfish zip file on the EC2 instance from Oracle's server took less than 2 seconds...

Not bad for a start. I would have expected to spend about a day to get as far as that.

I was also using Ubuntu 10.04 on my local machine, working with the command line interface from the
ec2-api-tools Ubuntu package most of the time.

Of course it will take some more time to set up the database server, deploy our web app and to secure the system. And it's too early to tell if we really require all the elasticity of EC2, which is likely to be more expensive in the long run than a conventional dedicated server cluster.

At any rate, installing a site in virtually no time and running it for less than 10 cents per hour is rather impressive. Thumbs up for Amazon Web Services!

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