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AWS Spot Instances get two-minute warning

The new two-minute warning is a positive move for IT pros using Spot Instances, but some would like to see more changes to the bidding system.

AWS has added new features to some of its cloud services this week, including a two-minute warning for Spot In...


Amazon Web Services (AWS) Spot Instances will now send notifications when machines are about to be terminated but users say they'd rather see updates to the bidding process for these instances.

This update requires that applications be adjusted to poll every five seconds for termination notices sent by the AWS DescribeSpotInstanceRequests API (there is also open source integration between the AWS Spot Instance termination notifications and Amazon's Simple Notification Service available on GitHub). Once an instance is marked for termination, the application will have two minutes to perform certain tasks, such as saving state or removing the Spot Instance from an Elastic Load Balancer.

Analysts were uncertain how broadly the new notifications will appeal to Spot Instance users.

"Spot users are well aware of the limitations and the inevitable termination, so usually they will script in ways around that if really necessary," said Carl Brooks, analyst with the 451 Group based in Boston. "Spot Instances are usually used as a completely fungible source of compute in a clustered application anyway, so it doesn't matter if it fizzles out."

However, this also opens up Spot Instances to more casual users who want to experiment with instance types or test beds, Brooks said.

Even with this new addition, which is welcome, IT pros who use spot instances say this kind of fault-tolerant coding will have to continue.

"It's really a 'nice to have,'" said Eddie Abrams, director of engineering for Kyruus, a Boston-based healthcare software company. While the feature is something he's wanted, and it will be useful, it hasn't been highest on the priority list.

"You may not be able to respond to a notice, in which case your machine might still terminate," Abrams said. "So you still have to write your code in such a way that it wouldn't necessarily be destroyed by failing to notice a notification."

A higher priority for Abrams would be the ability to change the AWS Spot Instance bid on the fly.

"Currently you can only set a Spot Instance bid when you launch a Spot Instance bid request," he said. "If you have a bunch of machines that have been running fine on a bid for weeks and you're on the last hour, and the price is getting close to the price you bid, you can't just say, 'I'm going to bid for the last hour so the job finishes.'"

That way, users could register their interest in paying more as the environment requires, Abrams said.

EC2 management tweak, GovCloud updates

Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) customers with multiple AWS accounts can now switch between roles within the management console thanks to new integration with the Identity and Access Management service.

IT pros can sign in to the console as an IAM user and then switch the console to manage another account without having to enter another username and password, according to the official AWS blog.

AWS also added support for a number of its services within GovCloud, an isolated region AWS dedicates to government customers with highly sensitive security needs. Services supported now include Amazon Glacier, AWS CloudTrail, VM Import and Auto Scaling.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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