Web company Mixpanel delivered an informative tirade on why they are leaving Rackspace Cloud for Amazon Web Services (AWS) today. The story basically boils down to “AWS is better potting soil for Web apps,” although there are choice words for Rackspace support and operations failures as well.
Mixpanel makes an app that tracks your website’s use in some detail; it’s a tool for site operators and e-commerce types. It left Rackspace for a few significant reasons, one of which was the Elastic Block Store (EBS) feature of AWS, the ephemeral storage system linked to your virtual machines; another was the lack of a fully developed API for Rackspace. Big deal, Rackspace makes hay over customer wins, too.
What this highlights is the difference in the two offerings — Rackspace Cloud is much closer to traditional hosting, both in concept and design, than AWS. Go to the site, click on a button, get a server/website/whatever. You also have to deal with humans after a certain size, submitting a request to increase resources here and there.
AWS is a completely hands-off, completely blinded set of resources and rules that have much less to do with the way standard hosting operates; it’s fundamentally different even if the end result (you get a server) is the same.
Mixpanel wants (apparently) a generally new but now well-established concept; they want Web stuff and they want it all the time and everywhere. They mention Amazon’s superlative CDN, the range of instance sizes and so on, but it’s really the fact that you’re not actually dealing with infrastructure, except in the loosest concept, that’s pulling them over.
Storage and CPU and bandwidth are logically connected, but so loosely that you can’t really say it’s mimicking the operation of a physical facility. It’s just buckets of ability you buy, like power-ups in a video game or something. This is ideal for a Web application, since that’s how users are looking at the application, too. Maybe not so much for someone running a different kind of application. Encoding.com, for instance, chose Rackspace because their video encoding service needed Rackspace’s superior internal connectivity and CPU, not application flexibility.
Anyway, the fun part starts in the comment section of the blog, where users come on to gripe about AWS in almost the same way Mixpanel is griping about Rackspace; one developer said he was mysteriously slapped with charges over bandwidth that could possibly have occurred and is not unwilling to turn his test instance back on, since AWS simply refuses to address the issue. Sounds like some place where they put a premium on customer support might be a better fit — you know, where they have “fanatical support”…