It is possible to run Windows Server 2003 instances on Amazon EC2.

I was wondering is it possible for one or more of these machines to be a domain controller and the other machines you run to be a member of that domain?

Anybody think that this is a good / bad idea?

How will it work with AD ports, will only your group of servers be able to access these, or will they be open to everyone?


Well, yes, you can. If your AD should just be available inside the EC2 cloud, then you 'only' need to adjust the Security Groups (i.e. firewalling) between the nodes.

If you want the AD to reach into your own on-premises server park, then you'll need Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, which is a VPN between Amazon and your own servers.

Additionally, Amazon has a nice overview of how Windows is set up in their environment.

Regarding whether it's a good idea -- in most cases I would say "no". For these reasons:

  • Machine settings are not persistent across re-spawns. This could be worked around with redundancy, persistent data storage for each server, and some scripting.

  • EC2 servers can just suddenly disappear without warning (when the host server goes down). In practice this happens more often than you might think (i.e. a couple of times per year for a smaller cloud).

  • There is no clear commitment from Amazon on Windows 2008 R2 support. I think they're working on it, but getting Windows 2008 support took years. Personally, I would not consider a supplier with this track record for something as critical as AD. If Amazon wants to see larger Windows deployments on EC2 they must IMHO make a public and binding commitment to supporting Windows in a timely manner...

The problems above are not exactly dealbreakers; workarounds do exists. But EC2 and AD and Windows -- it doesn't look like a good fit IMHO.

Edit 2011: Updated wording to reflect that Amazon does have Win 2008 support on EC2 now, but still no Win 2008 R2.

Edit March 2011: As @natacado points out, Amazon has just announced support for Win 2008 R2. Given this, I might soften my stance on Windows @ AWS somewhat -- at least now all shipping Windows server OS's are supported; and there isn't a new Windows server release on the immediate horizon. But, it's still not a great track record for Amazon's Windows support IMHO.

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    Amazon released Windows Server 2008 R2 support just recently. Certainly faster than it took them to add Windows Server 2008 (I think 2008 was already available when they started with 2003 support, making it feel particularly behind-the-times), but still not speedy. – natacado Mar 16 '11 at 14:35
  • regarding your first bullet on whether it's a good idea. What are the implications specific to AD for the lack of persistent settings? And do you have suggestions for how persistend data storage addresses these? – Tom Resing Mar 14 '12 at 21:20

Technically yes, but remember Amazon EC2 instances vanish when they shut down, which generally means you have to plan persistent storage carefully.

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    As to AD access, be aware that almost every ISP blocks MS RPC and SMB ports; I would not expect access past the current netblock. – Jim Zajkowski Oct 30 '09 at 16:28

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