Why does my cloud (computer) have to disappear when I turn it off?
April 15, 2009 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Calling any Cloud Computing experts! I'm trying to find a VPS (virtual private server) or Cloud computing provider that doesn't charge when the server instance is offline.

Specifically, I'm looking for a place where I can have my own virtual environment to try out new things and experiment a bit, but I don't need things running 24x7. I've tried Amazon's EC2, GoGrid, and Mosso, and I've liked all three in general, but they all seem to charge you when the server is offline (but still existing). Charges do stop if you destroy your instance, but that means any persistent data is gone as well. So the ideal provider should:
* allow me to build a base virtual server instance from several different OS options
* have root access and full control over my virtual server (for installing and developing apps)
* the ability to "turn off" my sever instance without losing my data
* not charge me for when my server instance is "turned off"
I'm ok with reasonable delays restarting the server again (up to 15 minutes or so).

Workarounds that I've thought about, but they didn't seem worth the trouble: Creating an AMI in EC2 for every time I change something on the server, configuring some other persistent storage to compensate for the lack of data persistence in the virtual instance, and just ditching the idea of pay-as-you go and pay for 24x7 even though I dont' need it.

Does such a provider exist? Or am I stuck trying to figure out some work around?
posted by forforf to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The way I do this with EC2 is to create Elastic Block Store volumes that I attach to and mount on my EC2 instance, then snapshot and destroy them when I turn my instance off. Snapshots aren't totally free (they live in S3) but they're cheap. Elasticfox makes this all pretty painless.
posted by flabdablet at 8:03 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand what you're asking. EC2 charges by the hour and they allow you to use S3, rename EBS, as a persistent store. You'll have to pay for the S3 storage but at the rate $0.10/Gb/month. Do you have massive amounts of data that you want to persist?

If you're asking about ways to experiment with cloud computing maybe you could take a look at Eucalyptus which claims to allow you to run EC2 images on your own machine. I have no idea how far along the are.
posted by rdr at 8:09 AM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: I was hoping for a solution where data persistence is not managed separately from the server instance. Thanks for pointing out EBS, but the way I understand it, is that I'll have to go through some initial work to figure out how to organize my server's file structure so that new program installs go to the EBS mount, not the local server instance. I'm sure this is possible, but I was hoping to avoid it altogether since I'd have to bone up on the inner workings of things that (up to now) worked fine in their default configuration. The whole promise of cloud computing to me (coupled with the state of package management) is that I could spend my time tinkering with the application environment and less with the OS/file system.

I'll check out Eucalyptus, but I was interested in is having a server in the cloud, that I could turn off (i.e. shutdown - h now), and not be billed when it's off.
posted by forforf at 8:43 AM on April 15, 2009

You're basically asking that someone store all your data/configuration in the cloud for an indeterminate amount of time, and make it readily available, without any cost?

Nothing is free :)
posted by jpeacock at 8:58 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Put a virtual machine on your own computer. Problem solved.
posted by COD at 9:08 AM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: @jpeacock - I'm ok if it's not free, but it should cost less than a running server, for example the EBS cost structure is fine, it's just more work than I care to devote to it. I'm also ok if there's a fixed time frame that the data is valid, after which it is destroyed.

@COD - It's a solution, but even more work and its kinda the opposite of going with a hosted service. I don't want to manage a VM server, I want to use one. I'm competent enough to set my own up and manage one, but it's just not where I want to focus my time.

I probably have should have set my question up a bit better. I know of several ways to do what I want to do, so I'm not looking for a solution per se. I'm looking for a solution that is simple and economical. It's kinda funny that I can have the environment I want setup in less than 30 minutes with any of these solutions. However, keeping that environment requires the same amount of money as if it was in active use (which defeats the pay-as-you-go model for me) or extra work is required to manage and/or configure the system to be persistent.

Thanks for the answers so far, I do appreciate them. It looks as if (per usual) I want more than is currently out there at the moment.
posted by forforf at 11:58 AM on April 15, 2009

It's a solution, but even more work and its kinda the opposite of going with a hosted service. I don't want to manage a VM server, I want to use one. I'm competent enough to set my own up and manage one, but it's just not where I want to focus my time.

Look at VirtualBox or the free version of VMWare. Setting up a VM server is fantastically easy these days, and free.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:26 PM on April 15, 2009

Best answer: I have just received an email from GoGrid - it seems that they are implementing something similar to your requirements:

In mid June, we plan to roll out GoGrid Server Images (MyGSI). This has been a feature that practically every customer has requested.

So, what exactly is a MyGSI and what does the feature do? A MyGSI allows you to:

* Store an image with your installed and configured application;
* The image is stored in cloud storage at a cost of $0.15-$3/month;
* You can launch the image on a newly deployed instance with any allotment of RAM, which is great for horizontal scaling, re-imaging servers, or increasing the RAM of an existing instance in just a couple of minutes;
* You can maintain a MyGSI library with unlimited images;
* MyGSIs will be available via the GUI and API.

Not affiliated in anyway, and I haven't really used the service it in anger yet - but it seems to do what you are looking for. They seem to be open to questions in regard to the new service, contact me if you want the email address. There is also an offer of $100 credit to play with - LINK
posted by kmara at 1:42 PM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all for the answers. I'll also give VMware a whirl, though I'm a bit dubious because my spare computer that I can put this on isn't known for its high performance..
posted by forforf at 6:57 AM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: I bit the bullet and spent half a day using Elastifox and working through the tutorials to create an image. I was able to (finally) get a custom image. I'll update the thread with more info once I try out my own VMware installation.
I'll also keep my eye on GoGrid for their parking feature.
posted by forforf at 5:47 AM on April 17, 2009

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