When Amazon Web Services launched in 2006, it sparked the cloud computing revolution. Fast forward a few years, and we now have the likes of Dropbox and Airbnb following the introduction of Amazon’s server by the hour model. Developers would no longer have to build and maintain their own servers at considerable cost. Instead, they could pay by the hour for access to supercomputers, as and when they need it. The latest changes are small, but could once again disrupt the way that software is made. Instead of billing users by the hour, they will now be billed by the second.
This isn’t the first time Amazon Web Services has trialled charging users by the second. In 2014, Amazon developed a tool called Lambda to help developers with short-term server needs. This brought to light the trend of serverless computing, as developers could use Amazon’s servers for exactly as long as they needed.
For example, if creating a translation app, the server used to process a request might not exist until required, and then would disappear once the request has been fulfilled. This allows developers to focus on the task of building great software rather than worrying about the deployment and footing the bill for unused server space. By charging users for exactly as much as they need, and operating a generous free tier policy, this opens the floor for developers to get creative. However, while Lambda might have billed by the second, the rest of Amazon Web Services was still billed by the hour, so the process wasn’t entirely seamless.
The latest development, named Amazon EC2 will allow developers to take a more flexible approach to capacity. As outlined on the Amazon Web Services website, developers will be able to increase or decrease their capacity within minutes, rather than hours or days. EC2 will also introduce the option of auto-scaling, which will allow members to maximise the performance of their applications by scaling up or down as required.
Not only will this present money-saving options for developers, but some have also noted that it might encourage developers to push the boundaries of their current offering. According to Amazon’s Jeff Barr: “many of our customers are dreaming up applications for EC2 that can make good use of a large number of instances for shorter amounts of time, sometimes just a few minutes.”
The new billing option will be available from 2nd October on Linux instances launched in On-demand, reserved and spot form.