Charlie Moad (developer at IMA) kicks off the session with a discussion of cloud computing, the advantages and disadvantages. One of his most compelling arguments in a non-technical sense is the incredible energy efficiency of these large data centers: their cooling system and power use are at levels we can’t approach in our co-located server rack. Google is approaching a 1.1:1 ratio of cooling to power consumption. They’ve recently documented their cooling and datacenter practices here.
Other advantages Charlie mentioned for using Cloud computing:
- Pay as you go. This is the big benefit. You use what you need when you need it, also helping the efficency.
- No hardware to administer. No downtime. This makes sysadmins very happy.
Some disadvantages are:
- Security. (Not sure on this… don’t recall amazon or google having any big issues with security. This is in the hands of us doing their jobs and setting proper permissions.)
- Portability. AWS and Google App Engine (GAE) are proprietary systems. GAE has more issues in this realm than AWS.
One other thing to note about Google App Engine that Charlie didn’t mention is that GAE is a spec, and from what I’ve heard from various python people, Google very much wants it to be implemented by others. There is already an open source implementation of AppEngine called AppScale. And Joyent has an implementation called ReasonablySmart.
IMA is using Amazon Web Services (AWS) for hosting ArtBabble. A simple breakdown of their usage thus:
- EC2 instances for transcoding video
- S3 and CloudFront for storing video and media files (images/js/etc)
- Wowza streaming server running on EC2 for streaming video
Charlie had a nice slide I don’t remember being in the paper: a diagram of where these services sit in the cloud (storage vs service) and what the end user’s browser is actually talking to at any time. It sounds like changing the number of wowza instances is still a manual process, but I imagine it could be automated.
The stats are impressive: 40,000 video views since launch 9 days ago, and 3,500 registered users. They’re cleverly using Google / Yahoo sign-ins to create OpenID accounts, without telling people it involves OpenId. Uptake is much higher by hiding the technology on this process… Also impressive is the cost, or lack thereof: they’re able to run ArtBabble for the same cost as their internal website.
Charlie closes by mentioning a few recent advances in Amazon’s hosting that allows essentially pre-paying for a year’s service at a much discounted rate.
I think I’m not the only webmaster in the audience who is thinking “we have to move our sites into the cloud,” but also concerned about finding the time to do so. This paper and presentation have gone a long way towards answering some questions I haven’t been able to research fully.
Jusitn Heideman also contributed to this post.