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Amazon rains MySQL from the heavens

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Amazon has floated a new cloud based on MySQL, giving sky-high developers instant access to a database that's not its very own SimpleDB creation.

Dubbed the Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), the new offering is essentially MySQL running atop the company's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). The company has long offered SimpleDB for use in conjunction with EC2's floating server instances, but if you opt for the proprietary SimpleDB, you subject yourself to the dreaded vendor lock-in.

Of course, Amazon still says there's still a place for its simple database. "We believe that RDS will make a really nice complement to Amazon SimpleDB and that each of the services has a number of unique features and use cases," reads a blog post from Jeff Barr. "A number of our early adopters are planning to use both of the services in their AWS applications.

Sebastian Stadil - founder of the Silicon Valley Cloud Computing Group and the man behind an open-source meta-cloud service along the lines of RightScale - seconds that Jeff Barr pitch.

"I concur with Amazon's branding of the two. They are fit for different use cases," Stadil tells The Reg. "SimpleDB is good for high availability and simplicity. MySQL is good for familiarity and compatibility...Lock-in is significant, which is why I mention compatibility for MySQL. Compatibility includes portability."

Using Amazon's RDS APIs - or its command-line tools - you can tap a self-contained MySQL 5.1 database instance whenever you feel the need. The service handles common admin tasks such as setup and provisioning, patch management, and backup. And you can add additional compute and storage resources at any time - unless the sky-high service is hit by lightning.

Of course, you always had the option of setting up your own MySQL instances on EC2. But this makes life a tad easier. "[RDS] is merely MySQL on an EC2 instance," says Stadil. "[It's] completely equivalent in functionality as if you did it yourself - only you save yourself the trouble of doing so."

Well, it makes life a tad easier unless you're a third party who's offering EC2-ified MySQL to world+dog. "It's a killer for third party mysql vendors - [at least at] the low end," says Stadil.

Officially, Amazon RDS is a beta. And as usual, the company charges by the hour. In this case, the charge varies depending on the memory requirements of each server instance: it's 11 cents an hour for an instance that taps 1.7GB of RAM, 44 cents for 7.5GB, and so on.

Barr also says that in the coming months, Amazon will offers "reserved" RDS instances, letting you pay a lower one-time fee to reserve an instance ahead of time, and a "high-availability" option, letting you deploy the same RDS instances in two separate "availability zones." Amazon's EC2 serves up on-demand processing power from two separate geographic locations - the US and Europe - and each geographic region is split into multiple zones designed never to vanish at the same time.

Separately, Amazon said it will lower prices on all EC2 instances on November 1st. For instance, Linux-based instances will drop 15 per cent, from 10 cent an hour to 8.5 cents an hour. The company is also offering what it call "high-memory instances," designed for memory-intensive applications. That would includes caching, rendering, and, yes, databases. ®

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