To The Cloud!

Or more precisely to the Two Rivers Correctional Institution where next door, as of 17 days ago, there are some shipping containers that form us-west-2.

There, you can have a 64-bit Windows VM with 7.5 GB of RAM, 100 MBit/s ethernet, and 2 cores each about the speed of a low end core from 2009. And it’ll cost you 14.4 cents/hour (not including the bandwidth, the storage cost or the I/O access cost for the root parition, and not including tax of course).

Things you discover after using these VMs for a week:

  1. The upload to the cloud is shockingly bad. We have a 20 MBit/s upload from the Cambridge office shared across 200-ish people. This means that uploading a 100 MB zip file takes a painfully long time.
  2. They are ridiculously cheap. Over the course of the week we spent about 10 USD in total on VMs, whereas on Friday I signed up to a training course that’ll cost work 1,000 USD.
  3. The cloud isn’t the cloud; it’s a datacentre. You can’t boot a clone of that VM in another datacentre, because the image is only available in Oregon. There are 3rd party solutions that’ll move the image, which involve booting two Linux VMs, one in the source and one in the target datacentre, mapping the source and target images as an extra drive on each, and dd-ing the image from one VM to the other.
  4. The cloud isn’t elastic. If I decide part way through the week that this machine is dramatically over-specced and instead I want the next step-down, a 6 cents/hour Windows VM with 1.7 GB of RAM and only 1 core about the speed of a low end core from 2007, I can’t. Because the lower spec VM is 32-bit, and I’ve just installed everything onto a 64-bit VM, so the image is incompatible.
  5. The cloud doesn’t scale quickly. You need to talk to the nice man at Amazon over the phone so he can raise the limit on the number of VMs you can start.
  6. The cloud doesn’t in fact scale at all. We booted 32 VMs. All good. We submitted the web service request to boot another 32 VMs. It sat there unanswered. We talked to the nice guy from Amazon on the phone again, and he told us that there wasn’t enough space available in Oregon and that we should try Virginia instead. Okay, it was Black Friday, and we were paying a discounted rate where you only get to use the spare capacity, and they didn’t have any.

Where is this mythical cloud that I’ve been promised by the marketing hype?

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