Amazon to offer Windows virtual machines on its EC2

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Amazon launched a virtual infrastructure available on demand and powered by the Xen hypervisor, the Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2), in August 2006.

As far as we know the number of customers that are currently using it is not public, but, despite early security issues and multiple outages, reliable sources reported to that such number is remarkable.
Nonetheless Amazon may have many more customers if it would start offering Windows virtual machines.

So far in fact the company only offers Linux instances. It’s unclear if this depends on technical issues (like the version of Xen that it’s currently in use), on policy issues (like the feeling that EC2 is not robust enough to support million of customers hosting Windows) or licensing issues (Microsoft has to give its blessing for such a massive infrastructure).

It seems that the things are finally changing: with a brief note online Amazon announced that EC2 will have Windows instances this fall.

At the moment the page just offers a notification alert subscription but, interestingly enough, it surveys the readers about possible uses of Windows virtual machines:

  • Web Server
  • Video Transcoding
  • MS SQL Server Database
  • Desktop Software
  • Microsoft Software
  • Backoffice Software
  • Development
  • High Performance Computing

Of course one of the most interesting options above, and there’s no guarantee that Amazon will allow that kind of use, is for desktop software. And that means that EC2 could become the biggest hosted VDI infrastructure on the planet (Brian Madden posted some interesting questions about this scenario).

Now, considering that Citrix influences the Xen community and that VDI is its main battleground against VMware, it would be interesting to know what kind of involvement it has in the whole project.

It would also be interesting to know if the startup Desktone has some involvement as well: the company is the first currently offering a technology for hosted VDI scenarios (see the coverage here) and, what a coincidence, is partially funded by Citrix.