Marketplace pulls AWS hare ahead of OpenStack tortoise

Eating Amazon's dust

Today's opening of the Amazon Web Services Marketplace will give cloud customers a lot more convenience in cloud deployment, while sending up clouds of dust for the still-behind OpenStack to inhale.

The new AWS marketplace enables customers to quickly lease a variety of software applications, platforms, or whole stack on top of the AWS Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) infrastructure from a one-stop shopping portal.

This is not exactly new--after all, installing your own Linux platform or, say, Tomcat stack wasn't too hard to do before today's announcement. You would just visit third-party vendors like Turnkey Linux or Bitnami, pick your software combination, and install the software to any EC2 instances you had running.

What's changed with the Marketplace is that you can still get stacks and software from vendors such as Turnkey and Bitnami... only now it's all from one web site, and it's all divvied up on one bill.

It's not just free software stacks, either. According to AWS' announcement page, "you can select software from well-known vendors including CA, Canonical, Couchbase, Check Point, IBM, Microsoft, SUSE, Red Hat, SAP, and Zend as well as many widely used open source offerings, including Wordpress, Drupal, and MediaWiki."

Pricing for these tools varies, of course, just as it would in any shopping portal. If you wanted an instance of SAP BusinessObjects 5 Named Users (NUL), you would need to pay $150/month, plus an additional $.49 to $.79/hour for the software, on top of the usual EC2 costs.

Contrast that with a free software stack like popular big-data tool MongoDB, which goes for a whopping $0.00/hour price tag, and you can see there's a whole range of cost structures to be found in this new marketplace.

And there are variations even among Linux offerings in the AWS Marketplace.

AWS Marketplace includes pay-as-you-go products, free software (AWS infrastructure fees still apply), and hosted software with varied pricing models. Ubuntu 11.04 with Ubuntu CloudAdvantage is priced at $350/month plus $.05/hour; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 runs for $0.08 to $2.82/hr (including EC2 charges); and a plain Amazon Linux AMI will set you back $0.02 to $2.72 hour.

I was curious to see how this would add up for, say, a 500-hour month, so using that amount of time for a Standard Medium EC2 instance in the US East region (which is closest to me), I get these monthly costs:

Ubuntu 11.04 + Ubuntu Advantage Cloud Guest OnDemand (Silver, 32-bit)
Ubuntu 11.10 + Ubuntu Advantage Cloud Guest OnDemand (Gold, 64-bit)
Ubuntu 11.04 Cloud Guest (64-bit)
Amazon Linux AMI (64-bit)
RHEL 6 (64-bit)
Cost Per HourMonthly Cost (500 hours)$0.21/hour + $350/month$455$0.25/hour + $750/month$875$0.16/hour$80$0.16/hour$80$0.19/hour$95

It should be noted that the first two Ubuntu offerings listed above include additional support package pricing. The Ubuntu-only, RHEL 6, and Amazon Linux AMI instances have basic support options (access to repositories, forums, and online documentation). Additional support is available for AWS Premium customers.

As you can see, there's a wide range of pricing options you can use when dropping these instances into your public cloud.

This is not an unexpected move by Amazon, but it comes at a pretty bad time for its open source competitor OpenStack, which had just this week started offering signups to start getting access to the OpenStack service beginning on May 1. Rackspace, OpenStack's primary commercial vendor, has maintained a strict schedule on how it wants to roll out the OpenStack-based Cloud Servers and Cloud Control, and it is clear that AWS and its partner vendors (like Eucalyptus, which just yesterday picked up $30 million in another round of VC funding) are positioning themselves to take advantage of OpenStack's cautious journey to market.

Unlike the old story, it is less than clear if this slow-but-steady approach will win the race. While the market may welcome an alternative to AWS, one cannot help but note that while OpenStack-based services are only now just ramping up, AWS is already offering a mature services-rich marketplace portal.

Being first doesn't always mean being best, but the OpenStack tortoise will have a lot of catching up to do as the AWS hare continues to speed away into the distance.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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