Amazon EC2 Drops Beta, Offers Windows Environment
An integral part of Amazon's cloud computing services is showing a sign of maturity, while adding a much anticipated element. The Elastic Compute Cloud (aka EC2), which facilitates a Linux server environment as a service for Web developers, has come out of beta. Additionally, as previously rumored, has added an on-demand Windows Server environment to accompany the already existing OpenSolaris and Solaris Express Community Edition offerings.

Looking Back at EC2

Amazon has offered developers a Linux-based on-demand server infrastructure for two years now and has integrated much of the feedback received from its users in that time. This time, Amazon Web Services has added capabilities such as Elastic Block Storage, Availability Zones, and support for OpenSolaris and now Windows operating systems.

Moving Out of Beta, Offering New Levels of Support

With all this feedback and support, EC2 is ready for production and has dropped the "beta" tag for the Linux environment offerings. Also, Amazon has implemented a new Service Level Agreement (SLA) that gives users of EC2 guidelines and promises of what to expect from service and support. With small variances by region, Amazon is pledging uptime of at least 99.95% of the time. Many enterprises and organizations have not evaluated EC2 and other Amazon Web Services offerings because of the lack of an SLA to go back against in the event of prolonged downtime or service interruptions. Prior to this announcement, the only AWS service that had an SLA was the online storage service titled Simple Storage Service.

Embracing Windows

Up until this point, Web programmers only looked at EC2 if their host platform was Linux or Solaris based. As of this morning, Amazon Web Services is enabling EC2 access to Microsoft Windows and SQL Server environments. After launching their Windows environment, EC2 users can access their new virtual Windows server via Windows Remote Desktop for their application hosting needs.

Drastic Implications

With today's announcement from Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing offering jumps into the fray of enterprise-level application support. Many IT managers, when evaluating a new service or offering, look the other way when they see anything with a "beta" tag attached to it. By putting the service into production, Amazon instills a sense of confidence in those looking at hosted options for Web-based applications. Also, by embracing the Windows environment, Amazon has new appeal to a new audience of application developers. To date, only open-source based Web application developers who write code relying on Linux or OpenSolaris would look AWS' way to host their web application. Now, with Windows support, .NET developers and SQL Server developers have AWS as an option. When looking at the Web application development market, .NET has a huge footprint, providing a good bit of hope for Amazon's Web Services adoption. These factors, combined with the Service Level Agreement, will bode well for Amazon's maturing cloud computing offering. Amazon already benefits from brand name recognition, and those looking to deploy services into the Cloud will have added confidence (especially, when compared to the service's competition like Google) in Amazon Web Services as a reliable platform to go to market with.