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The thing I love about technology is the fact it keeps moving and you have to explore new things all the time.

With this in mind Amazon have released a couple of really big improvements to their services in the last 3 months, so I thought I'd catch up on them.

  • EBS Backed Images

All the images on Amazon were previously based on Simple Storage Services (S3) technology, the change to EBS is a massive step forward for customers and their AMI's.

Some of the new features include

1. Increased System volume size - your system partition can be up 1TB in size, making it easier to add new applications or providing richer and more customized AMI's

I am not entirely sure how you can have a larger system volume, it is something I will have to look into. At present the 10GB you get with the Windows 2008 server is just not enough for a decent page file.

2. Performance - the instances start much more quickly than the old S3 snapshots, and you can associate other snapshots with the AMI so they auto-mount at boot time

This one is excellent, it completely changes the way the system boots. Before when you started an AMI, the whole S3 image was copied to your allocated hardware. Now the Snapshot volume is simply attached to your allocated hardware and booted from there, much faster.

I think there might be a couple of performance queries with this architecture, especially if you are just using public AMI's.

3. Control - now you have the ability to 'Stop' an instance, and then restart it at a later date. This is the big one I've been waiting for because the implications for SAP systems is huge!!!

Currently we have been terminating instances when not required, this means the AMI is shutdown completely, the resources handed back to the hypervisor and the disks dismounted.

With the ability to 'Stop an instance' you can amend the Instance properties while it is stopped, for example you can change it from a large to an extra-large to gain additional resources.

If I read the documentation correctly, you also keep things like the MAC address of the instance. This is vital for SAP Licensing as if this changes you need a new SAP License, which is something that has plagued SAP on the Cloud instances since we started.

Some testing of this is required and will join the list of things to do, which is growing all the time.

4. Flexibility - It is now possible to associate snapshots with EBS backed images, so you can actually start up as many complete instances of something as you want.

No more do you have to start your instance, then attach your storage and then reboot your server to allow the application services to see your file systems, well not without some mad scripting in the background going on 🙂

Consider a training instance, you have the same 3 courses running in New York, London and Mumbai, how cool is it to simply start up 3 instances of the same AMI with the associated snapshots. The hypervisor takes care of creating the volumes from the snapshots, the instances boot faster and more cleanly and in 10/15 mins you have 3 training instances to service your classrooms - I love it.

  • Consolidated Billing

Amazon has now listened to it's customers and created the capability to have a company wide billing account that services mulitple project accounts.

This is important as it provides two massive benefits

1. Consolidated billing allows for a greater price reduction on things like data transfer, because all data transfer counts towards the same bill. Therefore if two accounts only transfer 10Gb each but another transfers over 100Gb, then all three acconts between them achieve the bulk data transfer costs.

2. A better account relationships with Amazon, like any company AWS wants to keep it's biggest customers/partners happy, through consolidated billing AWS is able to better see who is spending the most money with them. This enables them to target their efforts more effectively, whilst this is a primary benefit to them, it can be used to the advantage of the client.

  • Reserved Windows Instances

On the 22nd February, AWS released Reserved Instances on Windows servers, which will make a lot of people very happy.

A reserved instance is a reserved piece of virtual hardware which is then billed for at a lower rate, so for example a user can purchase a large windows instance

As you can see paying for a reserved instance, especially when working with the larger instance types can have significant cost savings. Although when looking at these landscapes for project based rapid startups, paying for a full year when the landscape might only be operational for 6 months might be a hard sell unless someone has a pool of reserved instances.

So that just about covers it for the new developments on AWS that are immediately applicable to SAP, I am sure there will be many more - hence why this is only Part 1.

I have lots more testing to do and results to publish, which will be coming over the next few weeks.