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Windows, SQL Server on the Amazon Cloud

Amazon.com's Amazon Web Services (AWS) entity has put its Elastic Compute Cloud, widely known as EC2, into full production, and is moving to make it more attractive to the enterprise.

EC2 lets users create, launch and add server instances as needed through a Web interface, and users pay only for the resources they consume.

With the release of EC2 into full production, Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) has introduced a service level agreement (SLA) and added support for Microsoft (NYSE: MSFT) Windows 2003 and Windows SQL Server, all of which should strengthen its appeal to the enterprise. It also plans to launch new capabilities next year that are expected to make EC2 even more attractive to corporations.

"Over the past year, quarter by quarter, we've had Fortune 500 companies working with us," Adam Selipsky, a vice president of product management and developer relations for Amazon Web Services (AWS), told InternetNews.com.

"Eli Lilly, (NYSE: LLY) the New York Times, (NYSE: NYT) SanDisk, (NASDAQ: SNDK) NASDAQ and ESPN are all customers of ours, and we anticipate enterprise usage continuing to accelerate sharply."

"With the SLA, Amazon has answered the question enterprises have of whether they can run mission critical applications in production in the cloud," Thorsten von Eicken, chief technology officer and co-founder of Web-based cloud computing management platform provider RightScale told InternetNews.com.

"What they have not answered are questions around security and regulatory compliance, and that would be the last big stumbling block to enterprise adoption of the cloud," von Eicken said, adding that AWS "absolutely will answer these questions."

Still, the SLA will go a long way to ease concerns around reliability and support that many see as major shortcomings of the cloud.

The customer is king

Support for Windows is critical to more widespread adoption in the enterprise, von Eicken said, because "Windows is a major enabling feature, and a solution that doesn't provide Windows support is not complete."

RightScale has "a long list of customers waiting for Windows support," von Eicken added. He has outlined the differences between Windows and Linux for cloud computing in his blog, here.

In addition to Windows, EC2 supports OpenSolaris, MySQL and "a bunch of Linux, including Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise," Selipsky said. "We're agnostic about operating systems and programming languages, we'll support whatever the customer wants," he added.

AWS is working on building load balancing, automatic scaling and cloud monitoring services, and will release these in 2009, Selipsky said.

Interest in cloud computing has grown even stronger recently, with VMware (NYSE: VMW) announcing infrastructure, application and cloud services for the datacenter at VMworld 2008 last month, and Microsoft planning to announce something similar at its professional developers' conference, to be held in Los Angeles next week.

San Francisco-based cloud computing player GoGrid beat EC2 to the punch in terms of offering an SLA and providing Microsoft SQL Server and Windows Server 2008 capabilities, but it's a relatively small, though growing and aggressive player.

Meanwhile, hosted services provider Rackspace (NYSE: RAX) is buying two cloud computing startups, Slicehost and Jungle Disk, to compete with EC2.

None of this worries EC2's Selipsky. "Any time you have a large and attractive market, you'll have more than one winner," he said. "What's been surprising is that there have been so few other companies in this space today."