The EC2 environment is built on some proven technologies, including Hadoop, an open-source framework for developing distributed applications that is written in Java (yes, Java really can handle heavy-duty tasks).
Earlier I mentioned that Amazon offers virtual machines. When setting up a virtual machine, users can choose what it should look like by specifying an AMI (Amazon Machine Image). For example, they can set up a virtual machine that is simply a standard Linux distribution based on a 2007 32-bit Xeon processor with 1.7GB of memory and 160GB of storage. From there they can then launch other virtual machines as needed. Right now the limit is 20, although a big customer can work with Amazon for more.
Take a look at the main EC2 page here.
This page is an overview of EC2 but also includes a list of what's available when configuring an AMI, as well as links at the bottom to many developer pages and documentation.
Programmers will want to take a look at something one of the Hadoop developers has done, a sample that runs on EC2. The tutorial, written by Tom White, one of the Hadoop developers who has also worked on the EC2 project, includes sample code as well as a rundown of the architecture and how to get the most of it.
Amazon also has a huge set of resources available for developers. Included are tutorials, official documentation and tools.
In addition to going to the main developer page, I recommend checking out this page. It includes a link to a Getting Started Guide as well as a Developer Guide.
Amazon has made several tools available to help programmers, including command-line tools that they can run for configuring their systems. For example, one set of tools can be found here. These are the tools for registering and launching Web services.
In addition, developers can find more tools here. These are the tools for setting up a virtual machine.
Amazon also has a huge discussion forum with a lot of great questions and answers.
Early on, I was just as skeptical as the next guy about AWS, and especially Amazon's break into the cloud world. Sure, it seemed cool, but I didn't totally understand the point in it. Now I do. Imagine creating Web software that can easily scale so that millions of people can access it without it crashing. This is powerful stuff. That's where something like EC2 comes in. I know I'm sold.
Senior Editor Jeff Cogswell can be reached at jeffrey.cogswell@ZiffDavisEnterprise.com.