Amazon introduces EC2 free tier (sort of)

With a surprising move, yesterday Amazon announced the availability of a free plan for its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing platform EC2.

The offer, available starting November 1st, will include each month:

  • 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Linux Micro Instance usage (613 MB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support)
  • 750 hours of an Elastic Load Balancer plus 15 GB data processing
  • 10 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage, plus 1 million I/Os, 1 GB of snapshot storage, 10,000 snapshot Get Requests and 1,000 snapshot Put Requests
  • 5 GB of Amazon S3 storage, 20,000 Get Requests, and 2,000 Put Requests
  • 30 GB per of internet data transfer (15 GB of data transfer “in” and 15 GB of data transfer “out” across all services except Amazon CloudFront)
  • 25 Amazon SimpleDB Machine Hours and 1 GB of Storage
  • 100,000 Requests of Amazon Simple Queue Service
  • 100,000 Requests, 100,000 HTTP notifications and 1,000 email notifications for Amazon Simple Notification Service

The free tier offer expires after 12 since following the sign-up date, except for Amazon SimpleDB, SQS, and SNS services, which are free indefinitely. After the12 months the standard pricing is applied.

This is not the only example of free cloud computing platforms: Google offers its Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution, Google App Engine (GAE) for free as well, up to a certain resource usage.
Considering the enormous popularity that Amazon already has with EC2, and the very low cost for a normal Micro Instance, it’s surprising that the company felt the need to offer this free tier. One may argue that this is a preemptive strike against upcoming competitive offerings, maybe from Rackspace or even from Microsoft and Google (despite both are not in the IaaS market yet).