It is time to get more technical again. This time I want to write about cloud computing or more specifically about Amazon's EC2. Given the hype around the very hard to define term of cloud computing, it was for a long time on my todo list to check EC2 out. However, I wanted to have a use case. "Luckily" I had to fix a Hibernate Search bug which would only manifest itself against a certain set of databases, including SQLServer. Since I did not have a SQLServer running locally, I decided this might be the opportunity I was looking for. Surely, there must be a virtual machine in EC2 with SQLServer installed.
Turns out there are heaps and it is a piece of cake to get started. All you need is an amazon account. If you ever ordered a book from Amazon chances are you have one. It felt a little wrong to use it though. I still have to associate Amazon to more than just a bookstore. Anyways, logging in worked fine and after answering some initial setup questions, generating a certificate for authentication and watching a 3 minutes tutorial video, you are ready to proceed to the EC2 console. Just press the Launch Instance button, select a virtual machine configuration and off you go. It is all very intuitive and easy to understand (meaning no need for reading any more documentation:). The actual starting up time for the virtual machine was longer than I expected and I started to think something went wrong, but in the end the console reported the machine ready to use. Once running, you have a public DNS name for the machine which you can use to connect to it via ssh or remote desktop. Again very simple.
In my case I just used remote desktop to log onto the machine, create a new SQLServer database to use for running my tests and then I was back debugging my problem. Sweet.
I haven't tried yet any of the other EC2 services like volumes and snapshots, but I will be back. Well done, Amazon!