Archive for April, 2009

Amazon Web Services – Amazon Flexible Payments

April 22nd, 2009 Comments off

Amazon Flexible Payments

Amazon Flexible Payments Service (FPS) is a set of web services that allow businesses or developers to bill users using the Amazon payment infrastructure (like a PayPal or Google Checkout). As a seller or a buyer, you can set limits on usage either globally or for specific senders and/or receivers. A gatekeeper component enforces the rules.

As a sender you can limit the number of transactions, transaction dates, dollar amounts, recipients and daily, weekly or monthly spending limits. Recipients can specify all of those and can specify allowable payment methods (credit card, bank transfer and amazon payments) and who pays the transaction fee.

One of the goals of FPS is to make micropayments effective and financially cost effective. You can charge pennies for something and group those purchases together to lower transaction costs.


Signing up for FPS is free as is setting up the rules for your payment instructions. You can have an unlimited number of rules. You only pay for transactions that occur.

Costs are reasonable. Amazon payments and bank transfers are for US customers only. Anyone can take credit card payments.

Transaction Type

Over $10

Less Than $10

Less than $0.05

Credit Card

2.9% + $0.30

5.0% + $0.05

5.0% + $0.05

Back Transfer

2.0% + $0.05

2.0% + $0.05

2.0% + $0.05

Amazon Payments

1.5% + $0.01

1.5% + $0.01

20% ($0.0025 Min)

Table 8: Flexible Payments Costs

Volume discounts are available.

These prices are accurate as of the time of writing them. As always, verify before making a decision.

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Amazon Web Services – CloudFront Overview

April 22nd, 2009 2 comments


Amazon CloudFront is Amazon’s Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN puts very large servers with high throughput at the edge of the network. That means that a CDN provider put cached data in multiple locations through out the network (internet). Requests for data are routed to a local server cache instead of the main server at a host. This improves performance, customer experience and possibly even costs (via lower bandwidth requirements).

An example would be a company that serves many pages to many users. Rather than have all of the pages stored in a central location and be accessed by many people all at once, the pages are distributed throughout the network and sit on many different servers. Akamai does this for Yahoo and many other companies. Limelight is another very large competitor in this space.

CloudFront does the same thing and uses S3 storage as the central repository. Upload the files that you want served to S3 and sign up for CloudFront. Call and API and then use the domain name assigned by the API in your web pages. Amazon will automatically replicate your data (identified by you) to multiple edge locations world wide and re-route requests to the users nearest edge location.


Storage is cheaper in the US and Europe than in Asian locations. You pay normal S3 prices for the storage of your source files. You don’t pay for storage in the edge servers. Instead you pay for the data transfers out of the Amazon network.

Data Transfer

US per GB

Europe per GB

Hong Kong


First 10TB





Next 40TB





Next 100TB





Next 100TB





Next 250TB





Next 250TB





Next 250TB





Out over 1000TB





Table 6: CloudFront Data Transfer Costs

You also pay for data requests (each access). Edge servers only support GET requests.


US per 10000 Requests

Europe per 10000 Requests

Hong Kong per 10000 Requests

Japan per 10000 Requests






Table 7: CloudFront Request Costs

These prices are accurate as of the time of writing them. As always, verify before making a decision.


Amazon does not currently have an SLA for CloudFront. I would expect that to change at some point but you should keep it in mind when choosing you content delivery network.

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Amazon Web Services – Simple Queue Service (SQS) Overview

April 15th, 2009 Comments off

Simple Queue Service (SQS)

SQS is Amazon’s message queuing service. It works much like IBM’s MQ Series, JMS or Oracle AQ. Pop in a message and one or more recipients can pop it out. SQS is completely open so any internet connected computer can call a web service and add or remove a message.

Because SQS is API based, you can write an interface to it in the language of your choice. There are several free Java, Ruby and PHP interfaces available (that I know of) with more coming. If your application depends on queuing, you will be able to easily plug into SQS.

An application can create as many queues as is needed and each can create an unlimited number of messages. Messages can be up to 8k in size. Internal communication is free between EC2 instances so it is usually easier (in that situation) to just send message identifier information in the message and use a different mechanism to send actual data.


SQS costs $0.01 per 10000 SQS request. That will get you 1,000,000 requests for $1.00. You also pay for data transfer though (remembering the AMI to AMI data transfer is free). Data Transfer into Amazon from the outside world is $0.10 per GB. 10GB equals $1.00.

Transfer out of Amazon is tiered (per month rates): $0.17 for first 10TB, $0.13 for the next 40TB, $0.11 for the next 100TB and $0.10 for all data over 150TB.

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Hey You! Get On My Cloud (for $20/month)!

April 10th, 2009 Comments off

I am a huge fan of Amazon EC2. It’s simple to use and very cheap. You can pick an existing machine image, fire it up and be on your way. If you add up the amount though, the cheapest machine image will cost you about $80 per month. How would you like to get something comparable (a developer style machine) for $20 per month?

Add in Rails, PHP, Java and even host based javascript support with SSH and SFTP access, root access and one button application deployment? All of this for about $0.65 per day? Yes, it’s true. Aptana has lowered their already low prices, at least on the developer machine.

You even get to try the Aptana Cloud out for 7 days for free. Don’t like, don’t drop a nickel. If you do like it, you’ll get 256GB pf ram and 5GB of storage. If you need more than that you can select one of the higher level plans. All of the plans come with 10TB of data transfer built into the price.

Aptana offers deployment via the Aptana Studio IDE. The Eclipse based IDE also comes with database tools and source control. It even has a one button backup/restore.

Aptana’s offering is especially nice for the developer who just doesn’t want to deal with administration issues that come with EC2. Sign up, pick your programming language (PHP, Ruby, Java or Javascript – Python is on the way) and Aptana optimizes a configuration for you.

Aptana’s cloud is hosted by Joyent (which hosts some very, very large social networks and applications). It’s secure, scalable and robust.

This is a sweet deal for developers who want to give the cloud a try out. I plan to have a couple of walk throughs in the near future but don’t wait. If you want to give the cloud a try, I can’t think of any better way than this.


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Amazon Web Services EC2 – Part 6: Elastic Block Storage

April 8th, 2009 Comments off

Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Elastic Block Storage (EBS)

For most of its life in beta, EC2 offered only two kinds of storage, AMI based transient storage and S3. The transient storage was mounted as a filesystem and S3 was used for backup. To save data during downtime for instances, data had to first be saved off to S3 and the instance brought down. When the instance was brought back up, data was restored from S3. It was a painful process.

Enter EBS, the Elastic Block Store. EBS is a persistent storage mechanism, like a hard drive, that can be mounted by an instance and will retain its data even when the instance is brought down.

Amazon estimates that EBS storage is more reliable than commodity hard drives with an annual failure rate of 0.1 – 0.5%. EBS is replicated (mirrored) within an availability zone for redundancy. You would need to lose the entire availability zone to lose your data.

An EBS volume can only be attached to a single instance at a time but like a USB drive, you can attach it to one instance, copy data to it and then attach it to another instance. An easy way to move large volumes of data.

An EC2 instance can attach many EBS volumes. An EBS volume can be allocated from 1GB to 1TB. If you need 10TB, mount 10 1TB volumes or 20 500GB volumes. You are limited to the max number of volumes you can use (20) but you can always request that number be increased should you have a business reason to do so.

Performance of an EBS volume is engineered to be better than the internal AMI volumes. It’s sort of like attaching to a very fast, very expensive SAN. Because they are raw devices, you can attach multiple volumes and stripe across all of them. This will improve IO.

An added durability feature is volume snapshots. You can tale point in time snapshots of your entire EBS configuration and the data will backed up to S3. Snapshots are incremental so only data that has changed is backed up. This saves time and money (less in S3 charges). Snapshot storage in S3 is stored compressed to take even less space.

You can also create new instances from a snapshot. If we refer back to that catalog application I mentioned earlier, you could add new catalog instances by creating a new instance and attaching to a copy of your master instance. S3 supports lazy loading so you can start the instance before all of the data is copied. If any data is requested before its restored, S3 will immediately serve that data up so that it looks to the file system as if it was already available.


EBS storage costs $0.10 per GB per month of allocated disk space. 10GB for a month costs $1.00, 100GB would be $10.00 per month. Very, very cheap storage for such a high performing and reliable storage system.

IO is billed at $0.10 per million IOs per month. Amazon provides an example of a medium sized web site that does 100 transactions per second. Adding that to a month works out to about $26.00 per month. Not bad.

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