Amazon EC2 Performance will cost more than other vendors.

When we first started working on our platform, there was no question that we would use Amazon’s platform for hosting. EC2 has amazing tools, rock solid reliability and instant name recognition for investors and users. It is actually a part of our marketing.
During development, we created dozens of servers to either test functionality or to validate features. We actually used several AMI and host operating systems. EC2 is great for validating ideas. It costs us very little for all this.
So we are approaching launch and I assumed that we would be using a small or large instance since a micro instance seemed sluggish. The plan was to go with RDS for the db and S3 to offload some load from our web host.
So I setup a small instance with RDS and do some performance testing (ab, j-meter, and some of those testing sites like pingdom). The numbers returned back were atrocious: requests per second of less than 1 and page load times of 37 seconds with load. I review CPU utilization on the RDS instance: nothing more than 30% during the tests. After some digging its clear that the web host was to blame.
The next step was to create a large instance. Monthly cost for this would be 250 per month just for that box: the RDS and S3 would be more. In total, our monthly costs would be $400 per month. What did we get for this cost: 4 requests per second and page loads of 14 seconds. The RDS was lucky to see 40% CPU utilization. This was not something we could go live with. These numbers were what we got locally so across the internet it would be worse.
Now we didn’t do performance tuning (caching in the app, memcache, xcache). That wouldn’t have bought us much and even a five fold increase would not get us to acceptable levels of performance.
EC2 has server more robust than large, but, then costs go up rather quickly.
We have found another VPS vendor who offers much better value for the money. For what we are working on right now, EC2 cost structure just doesn’t work.

Sobering details of the startup

For those who know me personally you know that I haven’t been able to shut up about this platform that I have been working on for the past few months.  Its been a lot of hard work, especially because it was happening after I would do  my 9 to 5.

Unfortunatley, a competitor has gotten to market with a product very similar to ours.  But, if you know anything about people who try things like this, thats just water on a ducks back.  We are aware that the market has changed, but, we are still convinced that we can develop a viable platform and a good company.  You see thats what we are really after, not so much to be the most well known or to be the most profitable, but, just to be sustainable and reputable.

At this point I only have the following advise:

  1. Do something you believe in.  Don’t be caught doing something that you wouldn’t want to be doing when you die.
  2. Remember that the race belongs to the dedicated and wise, not the quick.
  3. You have to be doing this for a reason other than making money, because frankly you can make money selling internet porn or as a mail carrier.
  4. God rewards those who pursue their dreams with a singular conviction.  You may not get exactly what you thought you would get, but, trust me it will be something so much more worthwhile.
  5. Don’t limit yourself to just what you can imagine.  There is a whole universe out there and you can’t imagine what the boundaries of it are and of where you might fit into those boundaries.
  6. Have a fine German Ale every once in a while, it will reboot you very quickly.

Best of luck on your adventures my friends, I am actually enjoying my own.