I am a little worried that this blog is becoming a constant affirmation of Amazon and their Cloud services However it doesn’t seem that any other people are innovating like Amazon is. I am probably referring to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vendors rather than the platform guys. With the announcement a couple of days ago of the ability to boot from EBS Amazon made another leap ahead.
This ability to boot from storage gives EC2 instances faster start up and also something that anyone who has used Amazon EC2 wanted - persistence. Now if you want to put a server on ice (elastically contract) you can without losing configuration related data and installed software. This is not much of an issue for open source guys as they have Chef, Capistrano and other ways to automate and maintain configurations. However when it comes to Windows servers on EC2 this is a godsend.
I have used Amazon EC2 for hosting production applications and one of the other requirements you get quite regularly is the requirement to vertically scale. Booting from EBS ensures that you can upgrade a server instance from a Small to Large (or other variations) without the requirement to rebuild from scratch. Again not a big deal for people with a great toolset (Linux/Rails) but again a point of pain for people using Windows.
The ability to boot from snapshots is also welcomed. This aids in configuration management by allowing a snap to be taken of the entire machine, a patch applied and then if not successful the machine can be rebooted from the snap.
Over at the Rightscale blog there were a couple of additional takes on what boot from EBS provides. For example the ability to mount an existing EBS volume on a configuration server and update software etc. In addition they spoke about powering off dev/test environments to pocket some additional cash when they weren’t required.
Either way it is a killer feature and much needed for customers running production systems on Amazon EC2.