The Amazon.com EC2 service is considered the 42nd fastest supercomputer on Earth. What’s interesting is that the EC2 service is virtual and is built on top of the company’s Elastic Computer Cloud. EC2 is a web service that is able to set up virtual servers on an on-demand basis. Best of all, anyone can use it.
Amazon.com’s worldwide network of data centers are able to provide access to anyone for computing resources. The infrastructure of these computing sources are so large that it can run thousands of other virtual servers for developers and businesses.
?I?ve been doing this kind of stuff for awhile,? stated Cycle Computing CEO Jason Stowe in an interview with Wired, ?and I think that five or 10 years from now, researchers won?t be worrying about administering their own clusters. They?ll be spinning up the infrastructure they need [from services like EC2] to answer the question they have. The days of having your own internal cluster are numbered.? Stowe helped set up a virtual supercomputer for an unnamed pharmacy company that spans about 30,000 processor cores and costing about $1,279 per hour.
By setting up a similar environment in a warehouse, it would cost about $5-$10 million and a large amount of time. You would have to pick a vendor, buy the hardware, wait for the hardware to arrive, rack it, stack it, cable it, etc. Amazon.com’s EC2 service may not make sense for everybody, but they do have one hell of a client list including Airbnb, 99designs, Autodesk, AdaptiveBlue, Conduit, Ericsson, Flipboard, The Guardian UK, Hootsuite, IBM, Newsweek, Tapjoy, TweetDeck, Urbanspoon, 37signals, Linden Lab, Yelp, Foursquare, Hitachi, PBS, Smugmug, SEGA, and Virgin.