AWS EC2 Price worksheet

It all started with a tweet Image

  • It so happens that I have been working on a similar worksheet for pricing & configuring our analytics infrastructure;
  • I modified the one I am working on (inspired by the original at ec2 pricing_and_capacity) & morphed into the one Otis wanted
  • The Excel worksheet is hosted it in github. Feel free to modify it to fit your needs. Let me know as well …
  • I have four sets of prices viz. on-demand, reserved-light,reserved-medium usage and reserved- heavy usage. The prices are calculated for one year (8640 hrs) off of the cell M1 – one has to prorate the upfront fees to get the effective $/hr rate
  • The worksheet has multiple uses – I use it to compute the price difference for different usage patterns-high memory for Spark, different sizes for HBase cluster et al. As it is a spreadsheet one could sort it on varying criteria; one could change the numbers (say 6 months) and see what model makes sense.
  • BTW, it is interesting to see that the Light -Reserved costs more in all cases except for the storage models.
  • Long time ago, I had a graphical representation, which has become very dated. I might resurrect it with the new prices …

The Spreadsheet :

The left columns have the attributes of the various EC2 models.



The 8640 (hrs/year) is in M1. All the calculations are based on this cell. The reserved light is interesting … it costs more !


The reserved medium does save $. Moreover, one can stop the instances when not needed.


I have calculated the yearly price prorating the upfront fees et al. But for Heavy Reserved, it is somewhat meaningless as they will charge for the whole year even if the instances are stopped. But changing the value in M1 gives a feel for the different tiers …


I would be happy to hear other inferences we can make and add columns to the worksheet …




All the President’s DevOps

In the heels of “All the President’s Data Scientists” another interesting article on the Obama campaign’s cloud infrastructure.

Update : A similar article The Atlantic’s “When the Nerds Go Marching In”

Update : Case Study from New Relic How the Obama For America team improved resilience


  • They realized the campaign needed a scalable system “2008 was the ‘Jaws’ moment,” said Obama for America’s Chief Technology Officer Harper Reed. “It was, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to need a bigger boat.”
  • They build a single shared data tier with APIs to build lots of interesting applications. “Being able to decouple all the apps from each other has such power; It allowed us to scale each app individually and to share a lot of data between the apps, and it really saved us a lot of time.”
  • They leveraged internet architecture “We aggressively stood on the shoulders of giants like Amazon, and used technology that was built by other people,”
  • Doesn’t look like they used esoteric technologies. The system is built around Python APIs over RDS, SQS and so forth. Excellent and the fact that the systems can built this way is a testament to the cloud capabilities – IaaS & PaaS
  • In short Reed says it all “”When you break it down to programming, we didn’t build a data store or a faster queue. All we did was put these pieces together and arrange them in the right order to give the field organization the tools they needed to do their job. And it worked out. It didn’t hurt that we had a really great candidate and the best ground game that the world has ever seen.”

The Agonies & Ecstasies of Cloud Storage

“To cloud or not to cloud … ”  That is the question many are asking in the wake of the news surrounding the seizure of MegaUpload last week. Aside from being a pun on Hamlet’s soliloquy, this is a very poignant question, because cloud storage is becoming an inseparable part of modern life (be it Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s SkyDrive, Amazon’s Cloud Drive, Egnyte or the ‘box’es …) for consumers as well as enterprises.

In many ways the question is not whether to use cloud storage, but how can one use cloud storage effectively and minimize the risk to business disruption.

I have a few pointers in that direction …

  • Don’t mix Consumer Cloud Services & Enterprise Class Services
  • Use hybrid storage cloud rather than a pure cloud-only service
  • Manage the data lifecycle effectively
  • Match the business requirements and the domain impedance
  • Pay attention to data interoperability

Please allow me to explain … The gory details at my Egnyte blog

Facebook Infrastructure @ New Years Eve – A study in Scalability

Another interesting article on how Facebook is preparing for the New Year’s Eve, this time from our own San Jose Mercury News By Mike Swift.

Interesting points:

  • New Year is one of the busiest times for social network sites as people post pictures & exchange best wishes

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long been focused on having the digital horsepower to support unbridled growth — are a key reason behind the .. network’s success

  • It received > 1 B photo uploads during Haloween 2010
  • Since then Facebook added 200 million more members and so New Year Eve 2012 can see more than 1.5 B uploads !
  • My favorite quote from the article:

The primary reason Friendster died was because it couldn’t handle the volume of usage it had. … They (Mark,Dustin and Sean) always talked about not wanting to be ‘Friendstered,’ and they meant not being overwhelmed by excess usage that they hadn’t anticipated

  • The engineers at Facebook just finished a preflight checklist and are geared up for the scale
  • In terms of scale “Facebook now reaches 55 percent of the global Internet audience, according to Internet metrics firm comScore and accounts for one in every seven minutes spent online around the world.”
  • From a Big Data perspective, Facebook data has all the essential proprieties viz. Connected & Contextual in addition to large scale – Volume & Velocity (see my earlier blog on big data)
  • Facebook has the “Emergency Parachutes” which let the site degrade gracefully  (for example display smaller photos when the site is heavily loaded)
  • Their infrastructure instrumentation is legendary (for example, the MySQL talk here)

To manage Facebook’s data infrastructure, you kind of need to have this sense of amnesia. Nothing you learned or read about earlier in your career applies here …

And finally, Our New Year Wishes to all readers & well wishers of this blog 

Big Data & NOSQL Nirvana : HPTS 2011 Day 1

This week I am attending the biennial High Performance Transaction Systems Workshop – HPTS 2011 (Agenda). I was expecting exciting discussions, insightful wisdom and overall a stimulating company – was not disappointed.

IMHO, the highlights till Day 1½ (Stardate -311188.01369863015) were the NOSQL & Big Data discussions by Netflix (Adrian), Facebook(Kannan), eBay(Tom Faster) & Microsoft(Ed Harris). There were other good presentations (James Hamilton/Amazon, Ike Nassi/SAP, Charles Lamb/Oracle,…) which I will discuss in another blog.


  • We heard about Netflix use of aws, FaceBook Messaging Infrastructure, eBay Analytics Platform & Microsoft OSD (On-line Services Division)
  • Facebook Message Infrastructure:
    • 6 B+ Messages/day
    • Average write 16 records across multiple column families
    • 2+PB LZO compressed (6+PB uncompressed) in HBase
    • Growing 250 TB/Month
  • eBy Analytics
    • >100 PB
    • >50TB new data/day
    • eBay sacrificed concurrency for capacity & speed with Teradata
    • They can do a full table scan across PB of data in 32s !
  • eBay has a private network across  the Vegas and Phoenix datacenter with 20-40GB bandwidth
    • Each datacenter has the full Teradata, Singularity, Hadoop stack
  • The NOSQL datastore, the deployment topology, DR and the HA practices reflect the  path chosen by the respective companies
    • Netflix wanted cross DC replication with Availability as the main criteria. So they are using Cassandra
    • Facebook has a cell architecture with users sharded to one cell; their goal was strong consistency, automatic failover, MapReduce and so forth. So they chose HBase
    • eBay has a very systemic was of looking at the continuum as Structured, Semi Structured and Unstructured.
      • Structured-Analyze & Report (6PB data, compressed to 1.6PB))
      • Unstructured – Discover & Explore (20 PB data)
      • Semi-structured – both in some mixture (40 PB data)
      • So they chose Teradata for structured & Hadoop for unstructured
    • Microsoft is using Dryad and a declarative layer called SCOPE on a virtual cluster architecture for their analytics platform called Cosmos
  • Netflix is ~100% cloud-based
  • eBay has the largest Teradata installation – 256 active nodes w/ a capacity of 84PB & the 3rd largest Hadoop Installation!
  • Most probably Netflix is among the top three largest Cassandra Installation
  • Largest Cassandra installation (known) is 400 nodes, 300TB (I have a strong doubt it is Netflix!)
  • Oracle NOSQL is CA (w.r.t CAP) because it is on top of BDB.
    • The consensus is that AP or CP is more interesting from a NOSQL prespective
  • The basic sources of behavioral analytics are (Microsoft):
    • Web Pages,
    • Search Log,
    • Browser Log &
    • Advertisement Log
    • Connected,Contextual Big Data as I had written before

Gory Details (a.k.a Guided tour through the slides):

  • This section is WIP. The presentations are not yet up. I will point to the presentations when they are available
  • No SQL Eco System <- Good slides with a couple of good observations
  • Storage Infrastructure for Facebook messages [Slides]
    • Slide #3 – Why they cose HBase is interesting
    • Slide #11 – Shadow Testing strategy is informative. Testing at scale is always a challenge
    • Slide #28 – Scares & Scars – a must read
  • Some slides to study (i will point them out in the set as the presentations are on-line)
    • The Netfllix Cloud backup & DR topology covering all failure scenarions – even aws account malfunction ! (Hint: There is a Read-Only copy in S3 with a different account!)
      • They have done what I call “Design a control plane for failure and tune the data for normal ops.” in one of my blogs
    • eBay’s table structure that has characteristics of SQL & NOSQL
    • examples of Path Analysis extension to Teradata by eBay
    • eBay’s Platform Metrics comparison of Teradata, Singularity and Hadoop
      • While Hadoop has some good qualities, it also consumes more resources than Teradata
  • Many more …
  • Facebook presentation notes from James Hamilton
  • Microsoft Cosmos notes from James Hamilton

And Finally Some interesting Remarks:

  • The number of options for (NOSQL) persistence doubles every 1.5 years
  • If it is not in memory, it is not data
  • Analytics – combine data in surprising ways (Microsoft)
  • Datacenter exothermic incident by running analytics applications which run at 85% CPU (Microsoft)
  • The One way or another we all are part of some experiments – A/B Testing or analytics based preference and all our actions end up in one of these platforms !
  • Believe it or not, even I ended up presenting on Precision Time Synchronization on Day 1! Last minute fill-in, Thanks to Pranta. In Hadoop terms “speculative execution” !
  • Book Review – In the Plex : How Google Thinks, works and shapes our lives


    I liked the book a lot, it reads like a thriller- at least to me. I couldn’t put it down and was reading the book late night, during work days – to the chagrin of the family !

    Stephen Levy has clearly chronicled Google’s ascend and the tribulations it encountered – internal and external, on the way. What is more interesting is the fact that he has written a set of very crisp & detailed explanation of the innovations that Google brought into the search & advertisement domains.

    I agree with Stephen that Google is a “clever internet-startup-named-after-a-100-digit-number turned into a corporate phenomenon”. It is very interesting to read it’s agony to IPO (and the ecstasy of the investors!) If Google had it’s way it would have added a requirement of min SAT score (and a Stanford PhD – at least an MMDS Certificate) for buying it’s shares ! Am forced to quote Scott Reeves (Forbes Aug 2004) on Google’s targeted price of $108/$135 “Only those who were dropped on their head at birth [will] plunk down that kind of cash for an IPO” – ouch ! (I myself was ready for around $50)

    Google – A sum of it’s Obsessions

    Search (Of course!)

    • PageRank, of course, refers to Larry Page’s Ranking Algorithm ! The PageRank estimates the importance of a page by the web pages that link to it. “We convert the entire web into a big equation with several hundred million variables”
    • The concept of signals – viz factors like terms, capitalization, font size, position et al – as traits added with PageRank is the secret sauce that made Google’s search very effective.
    • The search engines get major and minor rewrites “like changing the components of a flying plane – without the passengers knowing about it, but the ride becomes more comfortable and they get there faster “ not a perfect analogy but an effective simile!
    • The engineers fret about any queries that do not get answered in the first page – in many ways clicking next page in a search result is a failure of the brilliant engineers behind the search engine. You have to read about the query “Audrey Fino” that vexed Amit Singhal Google’s chief of search engine. The search showed lots of Audrey Hepburn and that bothered Amit – “There’s a person somewhere names Audrey Fino and we didn’t have the smarts in the system to know this” and the remedy was of course – to state Stephen,  a multi-year name detection and name classifier “algorithmic therapy” with a dash of “bigram breakage” added to taste !
    • Rokc is rock unless it has little in front of it (when it becomes the capital of a state) or if preceded by Noah becomes ark ! Another such query was “Eika Kerzen” which requires translation (to German in this case) to get to the right search result.

    Algorithmic purity & ubiquitous

    • Google is an algorithmic company driven by computer science ! We can see that everywhere – successes and failure. For example the number of shares at IPO (2,718,281,828) is the Napier’s constant e ! During the bidding of patents, Google was bidding numbers like pi for Nortel’s patents
    • Even the Google ad sales people consider themselves as mediators between madison avenue and algorithms – only Google can say with both the words in the same sentence, make it sensible and in the process create an industry where it makes billions of dollars – as one SEO chief puts it “It is not we want to put all our boxes in one basket,  but there is only one basket in the industry”
    • The great lengths the Google team would go to make search relevant is exemplified by the “running shoes gnome sculpture”. The engineers believed in algorithmic purity – and before the launch of the Froogle product search, “running shoes” would show a “garden gnome sculpture that happened to wear sneakers”. The team cannot ship a product that fails to differentiate between a lawn art and a footwear. It seems within a couple of days the offending link disappeared ! And the team learned that one of their teammates went ahead and bought the one-of-a-kind sculpture that taking it off the web site !   “The algorithm started showing the right results, … and we launched!”
    • Search algorithmics sometimes had very strange effects – like showing the now defunct main office of bell telephone for a query “ Philadelphia” – reason being the telephone company used to tell weather over the phone and this factoid was unearthed by the search algorithm !
    • It is interesting to read how Google re-invented the bidding system “Vickery second-bid action system” because the engineer (Eric Veach) wanted to avoid the “bid shading”. In the end, like anything else that Google touches, they created an innovative system that combined a few factors like bidding and ad-positioning, adding competition & customer satisfaction, in the end creating a rolling revenue stream in the order of billions of dollars for Google  – all in all a nifty feat!
    • The concept of compressing data to understand it was a brilliant stroke – the Google project called Phil (Probabilistic Hierarchical Inferential Learner) resulted in understanding the essence of web pages and …. Contextual matching ads with the web page’s content service called “Google content-targeted advertising” which later became AdSense (after acquiring the company Applied Semantics!)


    • Their success of algorithms (gave Eigen vector some credence) and  the change of scale that came with that was what made Google Google ! As Luiz Barrozzo observed “There are programs that do not run on anything smaller than a 1000 machines,  which means you are looking at a datacenter as a computer “
    • Google affects whatever it touches in unpredictable ways – for example, Google’s racks maxed out (power & cooling) at Exodus that Exodus drove an 18-wheeler upto the colo, punched 3 holes in the wall and pumped cold air into Google’s cage through PVC pipes!

    The movers

    •  As I was reading the book, there were a few people I knew who played prominent roles in Google – was wondering when Hal Varian would show up – he did in (P.116) and stayed relevant in a lot of pages with his team of “econometricians” cross between statisticians and economists !
    • Was wondering when Sundar Pichai would show up, he did (P.205) and remained relevant as Steven narrated eloquently the advent of Google Chrome and the JavScript engine V8 … leveraging Google’s insistence on speed …
    • Stephen has interviewed most of, if not all, the technology leaders and we get to meet them at the relevant topics.


    • I think building 40 is called Building 0 or Nullplex. It is interesting as I work nextdoor – the only non-google building among the sea of bicycle trotting Googlers !
    • Pages Law according to Brin – “Every 18 months, software becomes twice as slow” !
    • Danger, which Andy Rubin cofounded, moved into the Palo Alto office when Google moved out of it in 1999 ! Eventually he left Danger and started Android …
    • Google always was structured like a PhD program dorm in a university – as Andy Rubin puts it “There is an implied grading on a 4.0 scale of the questions during interview and anybody less than 3.0 is rejected; the GPS (Google Product Strategy) meetings are run like a PhD defenses”
    • As told by Alan Eustace to Andy Rubin “Google’s brain is like a baby’s – an omnivorous sponge that was always getting smarter from the information it soaked up”!
    •  “We want Google to be that third half of your brain – Sergey, P.386
    • “It’s quite amazing how the horizon of impossibility is drifting these days” Thurun
    • The locus and trajectory of Google –“put Google in the driver ‘s seat on many decisions – large and small – that people make the course of a day and their lives![P.68]


    • In this review I touched only a minimal set of interesting points (interesting to me!). The book has a lot of good read from Google’s China syndrome to how the Googlers shaped the last presidential election and later worked for the Obama administration to the controversies like Goggle view and the struggle with digitizing books.
    • One important development that Stephen couldn’t include, due to the timing of the release of the book, was Google+. But don’t despair – Stephen has written that part of the story as an article in wired ! Best to read it after finishing the book.
    • Readwriteweb has an article on the data scientist behind Google+
    • And Stephen’s blog on Motorolla Mobility purchase is another good read, again an important step by Google.
    • I just now saw a write up by infoworld on Google’s 5 biggest hits and misses.
    • Next book on my reading list “I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59” by Douglas Edward; it is on hold 3 of 7 from San Jose public library.