Jan Kubr

How does Amazon S3 make you free

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2007 at 18:53

I was telling a friend that Flempo is going to use Amazon S3 to store attachment files. He said, well discs are pretty cheap now and this and this friend can help you set up a RAID cluster from them etc etc.

Sounds great, right? You’d have YOUR OWN hard-discs and have a total control over them. Well you might have a control over the discs, but not so much over the data. And that is what matters. Having my own cluster would be one big pain for me:

1. The setup cost would be much higher than with AS3. Mainly because there is no setup cost with AS3.. But it’d take several weeks to set everything up by myself (with or without whichever friend). But setup is not really the issue.

2. Would the monthly cost be higher? I’m actually not sure about this one. How much maintenance would an own cluster need? Two hours a week in average? Less? More? How much would that cost? You can kind of calculate how much AS3 would cost. Except you have only a very rough idea (at least I have at the moment) how much data your users will transfer in and out and how many requests will you need. But even putting a lot in results in pretty low costs.

Now imagine I had a contractor taking care of my own discs. I’d need him/her to be available 24/7 because should something go wrong, I’d want it to be fixed immediately. That would be super expensive. But what more, it’d be a pain. You’d need to monitor the whole thing much better than you do your connection to AS3, do all the backups etc. I.e. this won’t make me free, really.

Until I have a dedicated system administrator (if ever) and need a very very large cluster, AS3 is the way to go. But probably not even then; many startups requiring large infrastructure use Amazon web services now.

The beauty is someone else does the hard work for you, you pay only for what you use, and can focus on what your core business is (which is not really building a highly reliable distributed storage). You can automate things rather than hiring someone just because you can (which I cannot, anyway..) and then be dependent on his/her knowledge.

The whole thing about Flempo (and I will need to stress it more) is that it allows you to be flexible and organized and on top of things at the same time. And the motivation is really very selfish – I want to be like that at the first place. Using AS3 is one more step to my own freedom without affecting the users’ experience.

  1. plus you are using amazon’s bandwidth, not your’s.

  2. True. This is especially beneficial for “private” files that can’t be (easily) served by a web server faster than Mongrel.
    And it is incredibly easy to set up, at least in Rails. Today I got it working in one afternoon (with SSL, authenticated URLs, buckets in Europe..) and 90% of it was migrating file_column to attachment_fu..
    Now I need to move all the existing attachments though..:)

  3. […] It’s come to me again. A while ago I wrote a few posts about Amazon S3 including how it gives you more freedom. Recently I’ve seen Jeff Bezos’ talk from Startup School 2008 where he shows how 300 […]

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