Amazon Launches Memory-Packed Cloud Servers That Leave Microsoft's And Google's In The Dust

Amazon Web Services is fighting a cloud price war with Google and Microsoft, but it's now trying to carve out differentiation by offering more powerful memory-packed virtual servers than its rivals.

On Thursday, AWS started selling its new R3 instances in its U.S., Asia-Pacific and EU regions. There are five different configurations, ranging from $0.175 per hour for an instance with 2 virtual CPUs, 15 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, to $2.80 hourly for an instance with 32 virtual CPUs, 244 GB of RAM and 2 SSDs with 320GB of storage each.

AWS is touting R3 instances for things like in-memory analytics and high-performance databases. They're powered by Intel's Xeon "Ivy Bridge" processors and come with solid state drive-backed storage and beefed-up networking performance, among other features, Jeff Barr, chief evangelist at AWS, said in a blog post.

[Related: With Microsoft's Help, VMware Looks To Take Bite Out Of Citrix's XenApp Business ]

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Netflix and MongoDB are among the early customers using R3 instances, Barr said in the blog post.

Kevin RisonChu, director of systems and infrastructure at Digitaria, a San Diego, Calif.-based AWS partner, said R3 instances are faster and more cost-effective than AWS' existing M2 and C1 memory-intensive instances.

"The R3 instances are also great if you want to run your own transcoding or database servers. Anything that can take advantage of available memory would benefit from the R3 instance class," RisonChu said in an email.

Digitaria runs several websites and enterprise applications on behalf of its customers, and while these are not necessarily processor intensive, they will benefit from the better memory performance of the R3 instances, RisonChu said.

Google's corresponding high-memory instances range from $0.16 per hour for 2 vCPUs and 13GB of RAM to $1.31 hourly for 16 vCPUs and 104GB of RAM.

Microsoft's memory-intensive Azure instances range from $0.35 per hour for 2 virtual CPUs and 14GB of RAM to $1.41 hourly for 8 virtual CPUs and 56GB of RAM. But starting May 1, Microsoft will slash the price of its memory-intensive Linux server instances by up to 35 percent and memory-intensive Windows server instances by up to 27 percent.

It probably won't take Microsoft and Google long to respond with more powerful cloud servers of their own. But right now, AWS can boast that it has the most powerful cloud servers of the three, and it may already be plotting its next price cuts.