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AWS C3 shortage signals thirst for cloud computing performance

Cloud computing performance is in high demand among customers of Amazon Web Services, which has sold out of new C3 instances.

Amazon Web Services Inc. awaits new shipments of hardware for its recently launched C3 instances as the demand for cloud computing performance in its Elastic Compute Cloud exceeds supply.

The shortage was first noted in a blog post last week by Amazon Web Services' (AWS) chief evangelist, Jeff Barr, who wrote that it took just two weeks for C3 use in its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to exceed the level that the former fastest-growing instance type achieved in 22 weeks.

"The important takeaway here is the thirst for performance on AWS," said Carl Brooks, analyst with Boston-based 451 Research.

The new C3 instances were revealed at the AWS re:Invent conference this year. They provide faster processors based on Intel Corp.'s 2.8 GHz E5-2680 version 2 "Ivy Bridge" technology, double the memory per vCPU of the previous C1 and CC2 lines of instances, as well as solid-state-drive-based instance storage. A c3.large instance, the smallest in the line, offers 3.75 GB of RAM with two vCPUs and two 16 GB solid-state drives for an on-demand price of 15 cents per hour.

The important takeaway here is the thirst for performance on AWS.

Carl Brooks,
analyst, 451 Research

I/O performance has historically been an issue for IT pros using EC2, to which Amazon responded with the ability to purchase provisioned IOPS for EC2 instances connected to Elastic Block Store. Even with provisioned IOPS, however, AWS customers still perceive the EC2 cloud's performance as uneven and subject to "noisy neighbor" problems, which Amazon denies.

Cloud performance still lags behind bare-metal

Amazon's not alone in trying to ramp up its cloud's performance.

Raw computing power has been at the forefront of cloud computing competition lately, as indicated by recent data center overhauls by Verizon Terremark and Rackspace Hosting, said John Treadway, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners Inc., a Boston-based cloud consulting firm.

"Amazon's not going to sit still; they're responding [to competition] and probably seeing a good latent market demand for more performance that's just growing," Treadway said.

However, even the largest instance, the c3.8xlarge, which comes with 32 vCPUs and 60 MB of RAM, is still not really comparable to today's bare-metal server capacities, which often run larger than 128 GB of RAM per physical server. Thus, the demand for these instances on AWS also suggests that customers don't just want speeds and feeds -- they want the services Amazon EC2 offers as well as better cloud computing performance, Brooks said.

"[The shortage] also shows the relative value of the platform and the environment," Brooks said.

Amazon declined to comment.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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