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New Servers – a non-virtual Cloud

NewServers.com [1] provides an interesting service. They have a cloud computing system that is roughly comparable to Amazon EC2, but for which all servers are physical machines (blade servers with real disks). This means that you get the option of changing between servers and starting more servers at will, but they are all physical systems so you know that your system is not going to go slow because someone else is running a batch job.

New Servers also has a bandwidth limit of 3GB per hour with $0.10 per GB if you transfer more than that. Most people should find that 3GB/hour is enough for a single server. This compares to EC2 where you pay $0.10 per GB to receive data and $0.17 to transmit it. If you actually need to transmit 2100GB per month then the data transfer fees from EC2 would be greater than the costs of renting a server from New Servers.

When running Linux the EC2 hourly charges are (where 1ECU is provides the equivalent CPU capacity of a 1.0-1.2 GHz 2007 Opteron or 2007 Xeon processor):

NAME Cost Desc
Small $0.10 1.7G, 160G, 32bit, 1ECU, 1core
Large $0.20 7.5G, 850G, 64bit, 4ECU, 2core
Extra Large $0.40 15G, 1690G, 64bit, 8ECU, 4core
High CPU Medium $0.20 1.7G, 350G, 32bit, 5ECU, 2core
High CPU Extra Large $0.80 7G, 1690G, 64bit, 20ECU, 5core

The New Servers charges are:

NAME Cost Desc
Small $0.11 1G, 36G, 32bit, Xeon 2.8GHz
Medium $0.17 2G, 2*73G, 32bit, 2*Xeon 3.2GHz
Large $0.25 4G, 250G, 64bit, E5405 Quad Core 2Ghz
Jumbo $0.38 8G, 2*500G, 64bit, 2 x E5405 Quad Core 2Ghz
Fast $0.53 4G, 2*300G, 64bit, E5450 Quad Core 3Ghz

The New Servers prices seem quite competitive with the Amazon prices. One down-side to New Servers is that you have to manage your own RAID, the cheaper servers have only a single disk (bad luck if it fails). The better ones have two disks and you could setup your own RAID. Of course the upside of this is that if you want a fast server from New Servers and you don’t need redundancy then you have the option of RAID-0 for better performance.

Also I don’t think that there is anything stopping you from running Xen on a New Servers system. So you could have a bunch of Xen images and a varying pool of Dom0s to run them on. If you were to choose the “Jumbo” option with 8G of RAM and share it among some friends with everyone getting a 512M or 1G DomU then the cost per user would be a little better than Slicehost or Linode while giving better management options. One problem I sometimes have with virtual servers for my clients is that the disk IO performance is poorer than I expect. When running the server that hosts my blog (which is shared with some friends) I know the performance requirements of all DomUs and can diagnose problems quickly. I can deal with a limit on the hardware capacity, I can deal with trading off my needs with the needs of my friends. But having a server just go slow, not knowing why, and having the hosting company say “I can move you to a different physical server” (which may be better or worse) doesn’t make me happy.

I first heard about New Servers from Tom Fifield’s LUV talk about using EC2 as a cluster for high energy physics [2]. According to the detailed analysis Tom presented using EC2 systems on demand can compete well with the costs of buying Dell servers and managing them yourself, EC2 wins if you have to pay Japanese prices for electricity but if you get cheap electricity then Dell may win. Of course a major factor is the amount of time that the servers are used, a cluster that is used for short periods of time with long breaks in between will have a higher cost per used CPU hour and thus make EC2 a better option.

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