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Amazon EC2 cloud does Windows Server 2012

Cloudy OS-on-Elastic Beanstalk action

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Microsoft wants you to build your clouds out of the new Windows Server 2012 operating system, and it wants you to run applications on its Windows Azure cloud, too. But if it can't get you to go all-Redmond, then it will settle for you running Windows Server 2012 on Amazon's cloudy competition, the EC2 compute cloud and the Elastic Beanstalk autoscaling feature for it.

For its part, Amazon just wants you to run any and all operating systems and applications on its cloud, and it particularly likes Windows Server because it charges a hefty premium for EC2 images that run it. The premium is nearly a factor of two for most instance types.

Amazon was touting the fact that if you are new to this whole cloud computing thing, or to AWS in particular, that you could take Windows Server 2012 out for a spin on the EC2 "micro instances" that are free to use for a year – provided you are a new customer. These freebie cloudy server slices can run Windows or Linux.

But as the comments in this blog post by Tom Rizzo, general manager of the Windows team for AWS, point out, those freebie micro instances are capped at 615MB of virtual memory and the Windows Server 2012 boot can eat all but around 180MB of that.

Linux may not be such a memory hog, but Windows apparently is and Amazon should probably rethink the cap for Windows instances and raise it enough to be useful for proper testing. There's no way that Amazon is going to convince cheapskates who are running Windows apps to port them to Linux just so they can play around with them on freebie cloud slices.

As Amazon explained in its announcement, the new Windows Server 2012, which launched in September as Microsoft's "cloud OS," runs on any EC2 virtual machine instance and when it does, it is the AWS stack that is the cloud OS and Windows is relegated to being a runtime environment for applications.

Amazon has ginned up a slew of Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) based on Windows Server 2012 Standard Edition in nineteen different languages. Amazon has also created Windows Server 2012 AMI variants tweaked for supporting SQL Server 2008 in its R1 and R2 releases and SQL Server 2012 in their Express, Web, and Standard editions. All regions of the AWS cloud can run Windows Server 2012.

Amazon has also announced that its Elastic Beanstalk autoscaling function for the EC2 compute cloud can automagically scale up and down Windows Server 2012 images running the .NET framework and supporting .NET runtimes. Elastic Beanstalk supports the .NET framework embedded in Windows Server 2008 R2 already as well as runtimes for Java, PHP, Python, and Ruby.

With the combination of EC2 and Elastic Beanstalk, you can create applications in Microsoft's Visual Studio 2012 and .NET 4.5 framework and dispatch them to the AWS cloud from Visual Studio. You can also deploy those apps using the AWS Management Console.

Applications running inside of EC2 containers atop Windows Server 2012 can hook into Amazon's Elastic Block Services (EBS) block file system, and you can format EBS as either an NTFS file system (used for SQL Server and many Windows applications) or Resilient File System (ReFS), a new file system that is designed for streaming media and other kinds of content sharing and that is new with Windows Server 2012. ®

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