Trouble with Amazon’s cloud cover


It’s interesting to hear that IBM and Google shared a platform where the respective CEOs Schmidt and Parsimonious talked about cloud computing (though there’s nothing tangible to show for their efforts so far, not even a roadmap or a sniff of vaporware). 

Meanwhile Amazon’s EC2 continues to amaze me and its becoming more and more robust but there’s always a but…

The Amazon platform provide any number of machines instances but, paraphrasing Henry Ford, you can have any OS you like – as long as its Linux.  EC2 is based on [unspecified] kit that runs the Xen hypervisor.  The Xen domains then run Linux instances.  This is great if the software you want to use runs on Linux.  But what if you want to demo your Windows software?  On the face of it, EC2 seems like it will be a great way for clients to try software, even Windows, because you can run an emulator like QEMU on your EC2 instance and load a copy of Windows (plus your license of course) into your QEMU VM – and it works.  Well sort of.  The emulation is perfect but the performance sucks.   It’s not really a surprise because QEMU is an emulator – its running the VM entirely in software.  Even running QEMU on Windows to run Windows is slow.  Fortunately there’s KQEMU.  This allows QEMU to virtualize its emulation whereby all user-mode code is passed directly to the CPU to execute and this improves performance substantially.

But here’s the trouble with EC2.  Each machine instance is already emulated so KQEMU can’t work – it doesn’t have access to the hardware =  so performance cannot be improved.  A real shame.

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