Amazon earlier this week unveiled a new "free usage tier," available Monday, that opens the door to a year's free use of its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service. New customers will be able to access a micro instance server, which includes 5 gigabytes (GB) of S3 storage, up to 30GB of data transfer per month and Elastic Load Balancing.
Amazon's offer also includes 25 hours' use of the SimpleDB database service per month. A monthly quota of 100,000 requests of the Amazon Simple Queue Service, 100,000 requests (and notifications) via HTTP network and 1,000 e-mail notifications round out the package. An important note is that existing EC2 customers are not eligible for this free offer. In addition, the free micro instance appears to be for the Linux platform only-there is no mention of Windows.
With the above details, it is not hard to deduce what Amazon hopes to achieve by giving away one year of cloud usage. For one, Amazon is keen to add programmers or hobbyist to its EC2 platform, where they will gain valuable experience in building services based on Amazon's cloud platform. In addition, businesses that create a viable service or who are satisfied with hosting their services on EC2 are likely to stay on as a customer after the free year is up.
A statement by Amazon Vice President of Web Services Adam Selipsky underscores this aspect of the company's cloud strategy. Selipsky told InformationWeek:
[This offering] will give software developers the chance to launch their applications at no cost, if they haven't tried cloud computing before. If a multitude of users want to make use of it, Amazon will gladly supply additional servers to meet the demand.
Developers will quickly notice that the processing capabilities under the free usage tier are unlikely to be adequate for applications that are heavily used. Still, I feel that it will be adequate for developers and is a great opportunity for SMBs that are open to experimenting with cloud services. It won't cost you a dime. Great if the project takes off; simply shelve it if it doesn't work out.
In fact, Amazon was keen to emphasize that there is no lock-in clause to its offer. Amazon.com spokesperson Kay Kinton told eWEEK:
Developers are free to stop using the service at any time. As with all of our services, there are no long-term commitments.
SMBs who are interested can obtain additional information at this Amazon site.