Computing operating cost on AWS and other hosting providers

Contributed by Khurshidali Shaikh on 24 Apr 2013

Recently while designing the architecture of one of the project, the client asked us to compute the operating cost of the architecture we were proposing.  Below are the steps we followed to compute the same for AWS. The same can be used for other hosting environments.

Basically you need to find the cost of

In order to be able to compute the above first thing you must do is design an architecture at least at a higher level to identify the major components in the system to get a correct cost estimate.

  1. Identify the main components on the site that will consume considerable storage. Like user info, property info, image, other kind of data and attachments.
  2. Decide where each of these things will be stored. e.g user info, profile, property meta info may be stored in database. Decide what kind of database: RDS, SimpleDB, DynamoDB, combination of these. On the other hand things like images, documents should be stored in S3 for better scalability.
  3. Make some predictions on the number of total users present on the system, active users at given time, average traffic you forsee and the average data that will be created(e.g. photos, profiles, attachments, etc) by each user.
  4. With the above you can roughly estimate
    a) the total compute capacity you will need to serve the average traffic i.e. the number of EC2 instances
    b) the storage size for your RDS, S3, and other storage components
    c) bandwidth that will incurred in serving the expected traffic
    d) based on the architecture suggest the size/number of other components you will be using like cache server(elastic cache), elastic load balancer, monitoring, backup, etc
    e) estimate the no of support personnel and tools you will need to support the hosting infrastucture
  5. Taking (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) compute the cost using the AWS calculator

This should give you an approximate running cost on AWS. Off course this is based on assumptions and will vary if your assumptions differ too much from reality.

Since a site may not have same users and load at all times and may become popular over time you can also calculate the running cost based on predictions for 3 months, 6months, 1year, etc after launch.

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