You know a technology is getting some traction when imitators jump into the game. That's the case these days with cloud computing. Just this week, Amazon added Red Hat's JBoss to its EC2 cloud computing platform, and an established hosting service -- ServePath -- jumped into the fray with a version of cloud computing called GoGrid.
There's been a spirited argument in IT circles about whether cloud computing is ready for the enterprise. That's still unclear.
But there's little doubt that there's room in smaller companies and departments of enterprises to save time and money by using someone else's infrastructure for some deployments. The New York Times, to cite a fairly well known example, used Amazon Web Services (EC2 and S3) to generate PDFs of 11 million articles in the paper's archives, a mammoth, but one-time only job.
More recently, ScribbleLive, a blogging platform, faced a different, but conceptually similar, problem. The site typically gets 181,000 page views a day. But during Apple's developer conference, usage spiked to 2.3 million page views. Scribble, a two-person operation, quickly scaled up using GoGrid, and was able to keep running with little or no loss of throughput. The price: $15 for a day of server time, plus bandwidth charges. Hmm. Maybe the folks at Mozilla, who tried to set a world's record for downloads of the new Firefox browser but wound up crashing their site, could have done something similar.
In theory, at least, setting up servers on GoGrid seems almost too easy. Once a client signs up for the service, an IT staffer can point a browser to GoGrid's site and choose a configuration from a variety of pull down menus. GoGrid supports Windows Server 2003, CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Windows 2008 support will be available in July. Server images -- of which there are at least a couple of dozen -- include preinstalled software such as Apache, MySQL, PHP and Ruby on Rails.
Another interesting feature on the GoGrid road map is the ability to scale up automatically when demand spikes. For now, IT admins will have to do it manually, an easy enough operation, but the trick is to anticipate that demand and plan accordingly.
ServePath has dedicated approximately 100 servers from its store of several thousand to the project, says co-founder Dave Hecht. As demand grows, the San Francisco-based company will add more servers to the project.
Pricing is flexible; ranging from "pay as you go" at 19 cents per hour for each of up to eight virtual servers, through $2,500 a month for up to 100 servers with an allotment of 30,000 server RAM hours. (That is, a server with say 1GB of memory, will consume one RAM hour while running.) GoGrid claims to be cheaper than Amazon, but I'm not going to touch that one because making a fair comparison is difficult.