Amazon Web Services Kicks Off New Year With New Cloud Features

Provider enhances government cloud, adds two-minute spot instance termination notices, makes other small tweaks

Jason Verge

January 7, 2015

3 Min Read
Amazon Web Services Kicks Off New Year With New Cloud Features
Amazon CTO Werner Vogels speaking at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas last November. (Screenshot: re:Invent live stream)

Amazon Web Services kicked off 2015 by announcing a number of new cloud features, namely cross-account access in the AWS management console, EC2 spot instance termination notices, and some enhancements to GovCloud. The company finished 2014 as one of the most reliable cloud providers, according to cloud service status tracker CloudSquare by CloudHarmony.

Despite increasing competition from Google and Microsoft, as well as smaller cloud players like DigitalOcean, AWS continues to maintain its position as a market leader, thanks to its reputation, variety of cloud features, infrastructure, and solid reliability record.

Early Warning for Spot Instance Termination

EC2 Spot Instances and the EC2 Spot Market enable users to place competitive bids on available EC2 instances, committing to pay what you are willing to pay to use an instance for an hour. It’s an economical brokerage-like option good for temporary big jobs. If a customer bid exceeds the current spot price, instances run. When the spot price rises above bid, spot instances are reclaimed and given to another customer.

AWS has improved the reclamation process with the addition of a two-minute warning before the instance shuts down, known as a Spot Instance Termination Notice.

"Your application can use this time to save its state, upload final log files, or remove itself from an Elastic Load Balancer," AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr wrote on the company blog. "This change will allow more types of applications to benefit from the scale and low price of Spot Instances."

GovCloud Updates

The GovCloud region of AWS, built specifically for government agencies, now has access to Amazon Glacier, AWS CloudTrail, and Virtual Machine Import.

Glacier is for data archiving, or cold storage, that can be used for records storage. CloudTrail records calls made to AWS APIs in log files, used for compliance. VM Import lets you import VM images, for example a VMware ESX image, into EC2.

Single Sign On for Multiple AWS Accounts

Cross-Account Access is a little tweak that enhances multi-account and multi-role usage on AWS. It makes it easier to switch roles within the AWS Management Console. Users can sign in as an IAM user or via Federated Single Sign-On, then switch the console to manage another account without having to enter another user name and password. No more remembering different IDs and passwords.

The Management Console now also supports Auto Scaling and Service Limits. Auto Scaling helps systems respond to changes in demand automatically, and Service Limits shows usage limits and enables quick requests for limit increases.

AWS Most Reliable Among Big Cloud Providers

Over the last 365 days, Amazon's EC2 (cloud compute) and S3 (cloud storage) services each saw about 2.5 hours of downtime. Providers CloudFront and Route 53 had 100 percent uptime, according to CloudHarmony.

Google Compute Engine (its Infrastructure-as-a-Service) had 4.5 hours of downtime. There was about 20 mins of downtime between Google's Platform-as-a-Service called AppEngine and its Cloud Storage service.

Microsoft Azure saw 11 hours of downtime for Object Storage during the year, and close to 40 hours of downtime for virtual machines. One of Microsoft's major cloud outages happened in August, and another big one came in November. Azure CDN had a perfect uptime record last year.

Rackspace had 7.5 hours of downtime for Cloud Servers and a perfect track record across CDN and DNS. DigitalOcean had about 16 hours of downtime.

Verizon started 2015 by notifying its customers of an update that will require downtime across its entire Verizon Cloud infrastructure. The company said customers should prepare for up to 48 hours of downtime, starting early this Saturday morning.

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