Don't Try This at Home

By Doug Bartholomew Print this article Print

With its Simple Storage Service and Elastic Compute Cloud, Amazon is blazing a trail to Web services and mixing it up with the likes of IBM and Sun — and maybe even Microsoft and Google. 

Don't Try This at Home

Gottfrid’s experience demonstrates a key aspect of cloud computing via Amazon Web Services: Don’t bet your entire business on it—at least not yet. “You have to be pretty knowledgeable to use the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud,” says Forrester’s Staton. “You have to set up your application. And it doesn’t automatically scale or provide backup—you have to do those things.”

After an outage on EC2 last fall, says Forrester’s Staton, customers who hadn’t backed up their applications by copying them to S3 lost them. Staton likens this experience to what happens when an Amazon.com retail customer loses connectivity while shopping online.

“You’ve put stuff in your shopping cart, but you've lost connectivity,” he says. “Afterward, you have to put everything back in again. It’s the same thing with EC2 unless you back it up.”

Customers sure noticed last fall’s outage. “We were affected,” says Animoto’s Jefferson. “We had several instances that went down. Luckily for us, it wasn’t a complete outage, because we had multiple instances of the servers.”

The bottom line for Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud? “At this stage,” Forrester’s Staton says, “it’s still very much a do-it-yourself service.”

As a result, there are a lot of companies trying it out, but not many are betting their businesses on it. “We see a lot of enterprises tipping their toes in and trying it out,” Staton adds, “but not a lot running things that they count on.”

Although Amazon claims it essentially can scale to the stars, even its most stalwart customers aren’t so sure. Says Animoto’s Jefferson, “I think it will be very interesting to see if we could ever outgrow them.”

This article was originally published on 2008-02-21
Doug Bartholomew is a career journalist who has covered information technology for more than 15 years. A former senior editor at IndustryWeek and InformationWeek, his freelance features have appeared in New York magazine and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. He has a B.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University.
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