Windows 2008 Server on Amazon’s EC2 – a First Look

Within a couple hours of Amazon’s announcement of the availability of Windows 2008 machine images (AMI’s) on their EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) platform a few days ago I had to give it a try – see my previous post, “Amazon EC2 Now Offers Windows Server 2008 – Finally!”

I used RightScale to locate and launch a Windows 2008 instance.

Now that I know the AMI (ami-5a07e533) I can easily launch instances in the future from the command line using Amazon’s command line tools:

ec2-run-instances ami-5a07e533 -n 1 -g <group1> -g <group2> -g <group3> -k <My AWS Key> -t m1.small -z us-east-1a

Once it was up and running I got the administrator password in ElasticFox, launched RD & went to work checking it out and setting it up to suit my needs.

Here are a couple things I noticed:

  • I knew the 10GB “C” drive partition Windows 2003 instances have wouldn’t be big enough for Windows 2008 so I started there. I was pleasantly surprised to see a 30GB partition, however that’s all, it didn’t have a “D” drive like with other instances (both Linux and Windows 2003 have a 340GB partition, at least on m1.small instances, larger instances have larger data drives). Needless to say I was a little disappointed the Windows 2008 instance didn’t have an additional drive for data. Guess I’ll just have to use EBS (Elastic Block Storage) volume(s).
  • Looks like the Windows 2008 instances are priced the same as the Windows 2003 instances, albeit a with a little disk space – probably have to squeeze a little more $$$ out of us to pay the mighty Microsoft. When you break it down it could actually cost you quite a bit more for Windows 2008 than 2003.

Windows 2003 small instance: 720 hour/mo. * $.12 = $86.40 per month.
Windows 2008 small instance: 720 hour/mo. * $.12 = $86.40 per month + $36 (to make up for the lost disk space) = $122.40 per month, or 30% more.

Of course I had to check the Windows Update status & found it needed 14 “recommended” or critical updates, which I promptly installed. Probably 1/2 of these were release two days ago by Microsoft on Patch Tuesday. But even still I hoped the image would have been a little more up-to-date.

While the updates were downloading and installing I tweaked my desktop a little so it would be setup the way I like.

Another feature Amazon announced recently, “Booting From Amazon EBS,” is being used by the Windows 2008 instances. This is what enables the larger system partition, or “C” drive. This also enables the ability to “shutdown” the instance, then you can start it back up at a later time & it will pick up where it left off. While the machine is shutdown you won’t be charged for computing resources time, but you will still be charged for the EBS volume(s) on which the server is based.

Bundling an Instance Backed by Amazon EBS
One common use case is the desire to make a point‐in‐time copy of the contents of the root device so that another instance could boot off of that image. Images are typically created for backup purposes or to make clones of the existing instance. Previously, this process on Linux required you to create an image of your instance on the instance itself and no APIs were available to assist. On Windows, there was an API that you could call to create an image of the instance, but had to make another subsequent call to register the AMI. Now, there is one API for both Linux/UNIX and Windows that allows you to bundle your AMI backed by Amazon EBS and register it.

After setting up and playing with my new EC2 Windows 2008 server for a while I shut it down so I could start it up in the future when I’m ready to dive a little deeper into it. Right now it’s costing me $3 a month to sit there – not bad.

All in all I’m glad Amazon finally supports Windows 2008 & it seems to function just fine. My existing tools, from ElasticFox, to RightScale, to Amazon Command Line Tools, all work with Windows 2008 without any upgrade or modification, which is a definite plus. I was a little disappointed my small instance has 320GB less storage than a small Linux or Windows 2003 instance, which means I’ll have to pay $32/mo. more to get that back – the more I think about it I’m a lot disappointed about the hidden price increase.

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