Amazon boosts cloud offerings with souped-up virtual servers

The new M4 family of virtual servers are based on Intel's Haswell processors

Amazon Web Services has launched new, more powerful general-purpose and data-warehouse virtual servers as it works to stay ahead of the competition by offering users a wider array of cloud-service options.

Amazon has had a busy week, expanding its portfolio on Tuesday and Thursday with new virtual servers, or "instances," for its public cloud.

The M4 family is Amazon's latest generation of EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) general purpose instances. There are five sizes to choose among, each with up to 40 virtual CPUs and 172GB of system memory, Amazon said on Thursday.

The top size costs users from US$2.52 per hour when they pay on an on-demand basis. The smallest size costs $0.126 per hour and has 2 virtual CPUs and 8.6GB of system memory.

Storage isn't included in either price tag. Integration with EBS (Elastic Block Store) promises 450Mbps to 4Gbps of dedicated throughput depending on the instance size and the network throughput.

The M4 instances are based on custom Intel Xeon E5-2676 v3 Haswell processors, which run at a base frequency of 2.4GHz and can deliver clock speeds as high as 3.0GHz with Turbo Boost.

At the same time, existing M3 and C4 instance prices have been reduced by 5 percent, Amazon said.

Earlier this week, the company also announced second-generation Dense Storage (DS2) instances to power clusters running its Redshift data warehouse service. The storage capacity is the same as on the previous generation, but Amazon has doubled the memory and compute power. Users can also take advantage of improved disk throughput.

The DS2 instances are designed to let enterprises build large and affordable data warehouses using hard disk drives. The company also offers Dense Compute instances, which allow enterprises to configure high-performance data and more expensive warehouses using fast CPUs, large amounts of RAM and SSD storage.

The company expects existing DS1 customers to quickly adopt the DS2 family. Since the price is the same, there's really no reason not to, the company said. To move between the two generations, users need to restore a DS2 cluster from a snapshot of a DS1 cluster of the same size.

There are two sizes to choose between: ds2.xlarge and ds2.8xlarge. They cost from $0.85 per hour and $6.80 per hour when paying for on-demand usage.

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