FlexiScale is a new UK based on-demand computing service, similar to Nirvanix and the EC2/S3/SQS components of Amazon Web Services. While they all provide basic computing and storage through a pay-as-you-go pricing model, each company has targeted their pricing and service offerings towards different users.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a complete set of very simple, inexpensive services that can be combined to create any application. The caveat is that you must develop and manage everything yourself; they provide no control panels or sophisticated to help build and manage your network. Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) allows for storage of objects which are then replicated and distributed across the Amazon data centers. The objects can then be accessed through direct web request, and the service will scale to accommodate any level of traffic. You just pay for the bandwidth used. Amazon Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) is a similar service, only instead of storage you are commissioning an entire server. Each server instance has the equivalent of a 1.7Ghz x86 processor, 1.75GB of RAM, 160GB of local disk, and 250Mb/s of network bandwidth. Pricing is based on the number of hours you run each instance, plus the bandwidth used between your instance and the Internet. As an added bonus, traffic between EC2 and S3 is free. Finally, Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) is the glue that ties things together, giving you a way to communicate between your instances and any other machines that comprise your network. SQS is priced per message, with additional charges for bandwidth used.
Nirvanix provides a similar service to S3, but with some convenient enhancements if you are developing an application that relies heavily on file storage. For one, their API supports media manipulation, transcoding routines, and search functionality. You could implement these with EC2, but for certain applications, such as a video conversion service or an online backup service, the Nirvanix API could really simplify things. Nirvanix also supports HTTP upload, which is not something you can do with S3. Pricing is by storage and bandwidth used, plus Nirvanix offers paid support options which are not available from Amazon. Nirvanix also offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee, also missing from Amazon.
FlexiScale is currently hosted in the UK, so their markets are the UK and Europe. Their services are more inline with AWS than with Nirvanix, but in addition to basic storage and computing they also offer a load balancing service, and they support Windows instances. They do not have anything similar to SQS. In contrast to EC2, they offer a control panel, snapshots, monitoring and recovery.
The pricing models are hard to compare directly, but we’ll try anyway.
|Features||Amazon Web Services||Nirvanix||FlexiScale|
1.75GB RAM, no Windows
Limited to media manipulation and transcoding
2.0GB RAM, supports Windows
Replicated across global datacenters
UK datacenters only
Free bandwidth between EC2 and S3
Free bandwidth between EC2 and S3
AWS is certainly the most affordable, and with the inclusion of SQS it’s still the best platform for developing a scalable application. Nirvanix remains competitively priced, and if their additional API features fit your application they could really help cut your development time. FlexiScale’s higher prices are hopefully reflective of a higher level of service, and their load-balancing service is an excellent add-on that I wish AWS provided.