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I am considering moving from a VPS to EC2. EC2 is elastic and so is its pricing; I could boot my instance on demand, then let it shut down if it isn't active by the end of some hourly period.

How much time does that process take? Assume a micro instance booting from EBS. Assume Linux (probably Ubuntu); the 10 minute times mentioned for Windows leave me unimpressed. The transition could be ec2-run-instance (with its pending state) or ec2-start-instance. Feel free to mention the start up times of other clouds if you know them.

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Here's a pingback from the high scability blog: highscalability.com/blog/2011/3/17/… –  Tobu Mar 25 '11 at 23:33
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

There is no definite answer to this because that's dependent on EC2's current load. You may also experience capacity issues. In my experience I get EC2 startups in about a minute to three for a Small in west-1b. I don't think Amazon even has an SLA to guarantee the ability to start new instances. Rackspace Cloud Server 256MB is also about a minute but I've seen about three minutes or so.

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That's not too bad. Would having a reserved instance help with the unpredictability? –  Tobu Sep 9 '10 at 22:53
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@Tobu Amazon alludes to it on the site but the SLA doesn't appear to specifically state that. The "Unavailable" portion requires there be running instances. I would appreciate any correction to my understanding of this by anyone! –  Rob Olmos Sep 9 '10 at 23:37
    
@Tobu Reserved instance wouldn't help. They have no meaning except in how you're billed. –  ceejayoz Oct 1 '12 at 17:40
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On amazon, booting a machine off of EBS should be significantly faster than a read-only, S3 based instance - From http://aws.amazon.com/ebs/:
"You can also stop and restart instances that boot from Amazon EBS volumes while preserving state, with very fast start-up times. As with any use of Amazon EBS, you only pay for the amount of resources you consume."

For more detail on the EBS boot process, this is more-or-less required reading - See the section titled "Boot times" and "How You're Charged": http://docs.amazonwebservices.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/index.html?Concepts_BootFromEBS.html

Of particular note is that, "We charge a full instance hour for every transition from a stopped state to a running state, even if you transition the instance multiple times within a single hour." The following implies that this is only the case for EBS. This information is _deeply_buried_ - so, if you need to flick machines on and off frequently, boot-from-EBS could be more costly.

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My benchmarks indicate a bootup time of about 45s. The XEN hypervisor is responsible for most of that.
The test measures from instance launch (pick AMI and launch new instance) to SSH connectivity. I use debian squeeze, built with my own bootstrapper (doesn't start gettys etc.).

You can test the bootup time with a benchmark script I created for that specific purpose.

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