Getting Started in the Cloud: Comparison of Trial Plans from AWS, Azure, and vCloud

Cloud Computing has my attention in a big way.  As an IT Consultant and a Small Business Owner, I can see the potential that Cloud Computing has to offer.  There are many cloud providers out there. More providers are entering the market every day.  I chose to create accounts with three of the most well known cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, VMware vCloud Air, and Microsoft Azure.

Each of these offerings are from well known companies.  I’ve been an Amazon customer for as long as I can remember.  As an IT professional, I’ve worked with VMware products for 10 years and Microsoft products for over 15 years.

Each company offers a free trial plan which I’ve summarized in the table below.

Amazon Web Services 1 year 750hrs/month t2.micro
VMware vCloud Air 90 days $300 Credit
Microsoft Azure 30 days $200 Credit

Amazon Web Services has the longest trial period at 1 year.  Their trial period includes the ability to run a t2.micro instance for 750 hours per month.  That basically allows you to run a small virtual server continuously throughout the trial period.  You can also run multiple instances at the same time but each one is using up your hours simultaneously.  They offer many other services as part of their free trial period.  There is too much to list here so I recommend checking out their current offerings.

VMware vCloud Air offers the second most generous trial period at 90 days.  They include a credit of $300 which you can use however you want during the trial period.

Microsoft Azure offers a 30 day trail period with a $200 credit.  While it’s not as generous as the other two providers it’s still useful for evaluating the service.  Because the trial period is only 30 days long, I recommend waiting until you have some time set aside to work on it before signing up.  It would be a waste to sign up for it only to get pulled away into other responsibilities.

Deploying instances

After creating accounts on each cloud provider I started my evaluation by deploying a simple VM running Ubuntu Linux.  Each provider has a deployment process that is pretty intuitive.  Both AWS and Azure offer the ability to create a public key pair during deployment.  This allows easy connection to the VM, after deployment, using ssh.  vCloud Air does not provide an option to create a public key pair during deployment.  I found this blog post which describes how to do it manually.  vCloud Air does offer the ability to open the VM console in a browser window.

The VMs that I deployed in Azure and AWS were both connected to the internet after deployment.  Azure offers the ‘endpoints’ option in the deployment wizard where you can configure the type of access you want to have from the internet.  Port 22 for SSH was enabled by default.  AWS goes a step further by warning you that by default your VM will be accessible to the entire internet.  You can then configure a security group with rules restricting access.  I configured a security rule allowing SSH connections from my client workstation’s IP Address only.

The VM that I deployed in vCloud Air was not connected to the internet by default.  Instead you have to go through several configuration steps to get the VM connected to the internet.

Initial Impressions

My initial impressions are that Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure offer easy configuration as well as a wide range of services beyond Virtual Machines.  Both of these providers are targeted at everyone from the first time developer to the growing internet startup. VMware vCloud Air is targeted at existing enterprises that already have a private cloud running on VMware vSphere.  The service is designed to be integrated with vSphere allowing easy migration from your private cloud to the public cloud.  The interface and menus are designed to be familiar to experienced vSphere Administrators.

Bret Miller – Owner and Principal Consultant, LMR Computer Services Inc

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