Some notes on using Amazon EC2

Image representing MySQL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

We’re using Amazon EC2 for some development work with potentially largeish MySQL  databases.  It was relatively convenient to instantiate up a cloud machine instead of potentially messing up one of our more stable physical servers.  We named our new little cloud server veyron.

I notice that the “spot price” for machines like veyron in us-east run about $0.18/hour while the Oregon or Norcal ones are $0.22, which I find really odd.  Wholesale electricity back East is three to nine times as expensive as in Oregon.  Actually, there’s a divide-by-zero error in that factor.  Electricity prices in the “mid-columbia” region are frequently negative, which means the electric company is PAYING YOU (OK, not you the reader, you the wholesale electricity purchaser) to use electricity.

Surely the cloud owners could come up with something important but not urgent to compute — protein folding? — to suck up the power they’ll pay you to use.  (Or make ice to cool the datacenter later.  Or pressurize air into giant underground caverns and run air turbines later.)

That still leaves me curious why market rates for Norcal and Oregon computer time are higher.  Besides electricity, I’d expect real estate, cooling, and any other cost you can think of in rural high desert Oregon to be lower than comparable costs in Virgina.   Is it just that demand for servers in the West is a bunch higher than the demand in the East?

I also figured out the big difference in compute cores from what we were expecting.  The m2.4xlarge instances have 28 “EC2 Compute Units” on 8 cores.  An EC2 Compute Unit is basically one slow Xeon core.  (1.2 Ghz, or something).  So they’re saying that you get “3.25 EC2 Compute Units” per core, 8 cores (4 of them look to be hyperthreaded to me) which translates out to 28 Compute Units.  So maybe an EC2 Compute Unit is equivalent to an 800 Mhz core, since we’re getting eight 2.67 Ghz cores, and 2.67 Ghz / 3.25 is a little over 800 Mhz.  All-in-all, $130/month seems like a reasonable deal for a machine with 8 cores, 68 GB of RAM, and a decent net connection, even if it is across-the-country latency.

For other costs, disk storage seems to run $0.10/GB-month, which works out to $100/month for a terabyte.  I just accidentally bought a terabyte disk (from Amazon, ha!) for $84 shipped the other day.  Seems pretty steep, since they’re also charging you for network data transfer, reads and writes, etc., above a certain (fairly generous) threshold.

Finally, don’t use MacFUSE.  It’s been dead since 2009.  Use OSXFUSE instead.  (Yes, you have to install OSXFUSE then SSHFS, then reboot.)

English: IBM 1311 Disk Storage Drive at the De...

English: IBM 1311 Disk Storage Drive at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IBM 1311 Disk Storage Drive at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)