For mid-sized and larger companies that in the past bought servers to host their websites, their accounting, their email, etc, etc, are quickly finding out that their servers they bough in 2008, at the beginning of the recession, are now running out of warrantee. Thank goodness that the Dell and HP servers word a lot better and last a lot longer than they did 10 years ago, but in last 7 years things have changed. For many companies, gone are the good old days when they had CapEx dollars to buy lots of hardware, and gone are the days when you can just spend $25-$250k for servers without thinking twice. ... but the need is still there, what do we do? Go to the cloud? What does that even mean. Facebook won't host my website will they?
The main players today are MS Azure, and Google Compute, who specialize on the Microsoft and Linux worlds respectively, and the Amazon Cloud which offers both platforms.
Traditionally as IT director my tasks were pretty strait forward when it was time to replace a server. A two month project would be a pretty could guess. First you spend convince your CFO you really need the server, then spend some time figuring out which server to get, then you place your order, double and triple checking making sure you got it right. Now you sit and wait for it to get built and arrive (ohh nooo it's coming from China again?). Finally 10 days to two weeks later your server arrives. Then you install all your initial software, patches and get it connected to the network so you can take it to the server room. From that point you can head back to your desk and do the rest of the work. In short after two months you are ready to start your work of replacing the server that was in need of your attention.
On Saturday I woke up wondering how long it would take me to set up a website, so I decided to set up a brand new Amazon account, and see how long it would take me to create web server a site from scratch. The simplest was to create something Amazon calls an S3 Bucket, normally nothing more than a file storage device, or a really cheap place to keep backups, but it can also be used to run a simple static website. Thirty minutes later I had my first website up and running, and I never even installed Windows or Linux.
Well that was easy, so I thought I would spin that same website up again. This time on an Amazon EC2 running Linux. For the sake of keeping this easy, I would just launch the same site again. I launched a new server, I picked the cheapest one a t2-micro that only cost 0.019 cents an hour, twenty minutes the server was running. since I am on a windows box, downloaded and logged in with putty, then downloaded WinSCP so I could FTP the files, within 45 minutes I had my second site running. This time on Amazon EC2 - Linux
By this time, I had already accomplished what used to take me 2-3 months in less than two hours, so thought what else could I try. I thought, why not set up a copy of Wordpress on the same EC2 Linux box. All I needed to do was finish the LAMP stack by installing MySQL and PHP, and it should be just as easy. Well .... nothing in life is perfect, and somewhere along the line I had a typo so this took a little longer tan it should have, but two hours later I had my Wordpress running on the Amazon EC2 Linux cloud instance. Yea!!
OK, no one ever really thinks this will work, but I know from experience you can run Wordpress on windows too, and since I was on a roll, and it was only shortly past lunch. I thought, why not. I will just launch another server, this time Windows 2012. I picked out the server I wanted, clicked launch, and twenty minutes later, my server was up and ready to go. Started the wordpress installation, and it went flawlessly, and in less than an hour had my Windows Wordpress site up and running. Since now it was not even 2pm in the afternoon, I went ahead and customer both wordpress sites, added a little bit of content, added a few pretty pictures, and prepared them as a little demo to explain what I had done.... I was pretty impressed that I had completed months and months of work in only a few hours.
Now, since it was only 2pm, and feeling very accomplished, I decided I would try Google Compute. I set up a new account, launched my first test server, an went about to install another Linux Wordpress site. I had no idea what I was doing, I had only managed a team that had done this before, and had no real hands on experience like I had with Amazon, but sometimes when you are on a roll, you get a little over confident so, thought how hard could it be?... A quick google search, and an hour later I had my Google Compute Linux Wordpress running.
I guess at this point I could have tried for a trifecta and setup yet another copy of Wordpress on MS AZure's cloud, but figured it was time to get outside, do a little yard work before dinner (and rest my brain), so I left that project for another day. Things I learned: 1.. You can host a static website on an Amazon S3 Bucket, 2... You can set up a Linux server and simple website on Amazon EC2 in about an hour. 3.. Including fat finger typos you can set up Wordpress on that same server in about two hours. 4.. Windows really can run Wordpress (though a bit slower) and can be set up in about an hour, and 5.. Google Compute Cloud Linux server setup of Wordpress was the simplest of them all.
In conclusion I guess I do not have a favorite between Google or Amazon for ease of setup or functionality, but I probably would lean toward Amazon because it allows you to work on either Windows or Linux platforms. Options are always good, always best to have one throat to choke and you never know what server you are going to be supporting next. The wordpress exercise was a good example. Being on Amazon made it pretty easy to tell that Wordpress runs quicker on Linux than it does Windows. Neither Google (linux) or Azure (windows) gave me this option. If you messed all the links above, I have integrated all 5 of these sites in one simpledemo
Not bad for 6 hours on a Saturday.