rPath Linux Packages Up Amazon's Grid Computing
Published: April 10, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Amazon may have started out as a dot-com bookseller, but it has grown to become one of the largest retailing giants in the world, with $10.7 billion in sales in 2006 and a current market capitalization of over $17 billion. These days, there is hardly anything that Amazon won't sell--including a slice of its own IT infrastructure under utility-style pricing.
Last year, Amazon added the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service to its network, which offers customers a slice of the Amazon server infrastructure for a fee for an incredible 10 cents per CPU per hour. That is about one-tenth of the price that Sun Microsystems charges for capacity on its Sun Grid of Opteron-based servers. The EC2 services is still in beta, as Amazon figures out how to organize and price it (you can sign up for the beta here) and how to integrate it with other utility-style Web services, such as its Simple Storage Service (for storing files, and nicknamed S3). Each unit of capacity on the EC2 is configured to give the equivalent of a 1.7 GHz Pentium or Xeon processor, 1.75 GB of main memory, 160 GB of disk capacity, and 250 Mbit/sec of network bandwidth. Customers using the EC2 service buy as many units as they want, and for as many hours as they need, and upload an application stack to the EC2 service. That last bit is, oddly enough, the hard part.
That's why Amazon has partnered with Linux distributor rPath, which has created a variant of Linux and an application assembly system with centralized patch control that creates virtual appliances that companies can deploy on X64 servers. Under a partnership between the two companies, EC2 customers can now use rPath's rBuilder tools and rPath Linux to create the software stacks that they want to push out to the EC2 clusters at Amazon. The rPath images are stored on the S3 service, and invoked by the EC2 front end to run on the Amazon machinery for the time allotted. By doing it this way, customers using the EC2 service do not have to manage and upload their software stacks to the Amazon systems--they were built there from the get-go, and the images are maintained and patched right there, too, using the rBuilder patch components.
I guess the IT department can all go home now, eh?
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