AWS Woos Corporates With Price Cuts, New Products

logo_aws2Amazon’s (s amzn) web services division (AWS), in a move clearly aimed at wooing enterprise customers, says it will launch a new relational database as a service called Amazon RDS. It will also cut prices of its EC2 on-demand compute service by 15 percent, starting Nov. 1st. Charges for Linux-based EC2 instances will now cost just 8.5 cents per hour, compared to the previous price of 10 cents per hour.

The price cuts may be significant as Amazon typically doesn’t lose money on its products (yes, even Amazon Prime Shipping breaks even), which could indicate the pressure from other vendors is forcing Amazon to accept smaller margins, or that it’s figured out a way to improve its back-end infrastructure and offer compute cycles for less. The relational database move, however, is big. Relational databases are hard to maintain, and doing so eats up a lot of corporations’ time. Nor do they scale easily, which means that Amazon may have built a compelling product for enterprise customers seeking to move to the cloud. From the company release announcing the move:

Amazon RDS provides a fully featured MySQL database, so the code, applications, and tools that developers use today with their existing MySQL databases work seamlessly with Amazon RDS. The service automatically handles common database administration tasks such as setup and provisioning, patch management, and backup – storing the backups for a user-defined retention period.

On his blog, Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO, writes:

Structured data management systems are traditionally served by relational databases but these sophisticated systems have their limitations, especially when it comes to scale and reliability. Often they also require tremendous expertise to operate efficiently and reliably especially when scaling up. Amazon RDS handles all the “muck” of relational database management freeing up its users to focus on their applications and business.

In addition, the company announced that it is launching a new family of high-memory instances for Amazon EC2. High-memory instances are designed to be used with memory-intensive workloads such as databases, caching, and rendering, and are optimized for low-latency, high-throughput performance. This will support the Amazon RDS launch.

On the AWS Blog, Amazon VP Jeff Barr offers up more details:

…we are introducing a new family of memory-heavy EC2 instances with the Double and Quadruple Extra Large High-Memory instance types. Here are the specs (note that an ECU is an EC2 compute unit, equivalent in CPU power to a 1.0-1.2 GHz 2007-era AMD Opteron or Intel Xeon processor):

  • Double Extra Large – 34.2 GB of RAM, and 13 ECU (4 virtual cores with 3.25 ECU each), 64-bit platform.
  • Quadruple Extra Large – 68.4 GB of RAM, and 26 ECU (8 virtual cores with 3.25 ECU each), 64-bit platform.

These new instance types are available now in multiple Availability Zones of both EC2 regions (US and Europe). Double Extra Large instances cost $1.20 per instance hour and the Quadruple Extra Large instances cost $2.40 per instance hour (these prices are for Linux instances in the US region). These new instances use the most recent generation of processor and platform architectures.

These three moves are Amazon’s way of wooing corporate customers with specialized needs, and may be an answer to Microsoft’s (s msft) upcoming Azure platform, which features its own relational database as a service.  The push for high-memory instances can open up Amazon to further business from genomics and drug discovery companies. Amazon’s cloud is continuing to grow up, and it’s doing so ahead of those offered by the rest of the traditional IT vendors.