SUSE Linux joins the Amazon cloud

Cloud computing building blocks

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has added Novell's SUSE Linux to its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) portfolio.

This will be a boost for Novell at a time when it is believed to be actively seeking acquisition offers but it raises the point of whether Linux in the Amazon cloud is cheaper than Windows. As with everything cloud, the view is somewhat misty.

In US cents per hour for the European market, SUSE is pitching in at 12.5 cents for a default implementation. This is a half of a cent more expensive than Windows. Amazon's Linux at 9.5 cents is somewhat cheaper but Red Hat Linux, at 21 cents, appears much more expensive, especially when you add its $19 per month per customer surcharge.

The confusing issue is that Red Hat controls its distribution and its charge includes support. Support from AWS for basic Linux is the same as it charges for Windows. This is a monthly charge of $100 for Silver level and $400 for Gold. Support for Novell is charged by Novell at the equivalent of around $230.

A rule-of-thumb hourly comparison reveals that, with base level support, SUSE now becomes 44.5 cents per hour way above Windows (26 cents), Red Hat (24 cents) and Linux (23.5c). For Gold level support, Windows ramps up to 67 cents and Linux to 64.5.

The flaw in the costing is that part of the support for Red Hat is included in the hourly costs so support actually varies with usage.

So what appears to be a win for Microsoft in the commercial Windows versus Linux battle actually depends on the support levels chosen. Then the argument becomes the terms and conditions of the support and any discounts that can be negotiated.

Effectively, the playing field looks fairly even, though Red Hat does seem to have the edge. What does become obvious is that the differential between Windows and the relatively cheaper branded Linux on premise argument disappears in the cloud.