Having run Minecraft servers at home so my daughter and I can play together, the inevitable question of “Can I play with my friends” was voiced. I didn’t want to put any of my computers on the web or, if I’m honest, open any ports on my router, so Cloud computing was the way to go.
I started out with Amazon AWS because, well I can’t really remember now, but it was probably the prospect of a year’s free usage. That doesn’t entirely work out because the basic (free) servers aren’t really up for running Minecraft but it was a start. And it was fun talking seriously about cloud services with Amazon at a trade show using my Minecraft experiences. Scalability – yup I know that as the first server wasn’t up to Minecraft and Mumble.
Then Microsoft had a content marketing win by offering a free ebook on Azure. I’m a sucker for free stuff so I downloaded it the phone and started reading while I was waiting for BHS to cook the office bacon oreder yesterday. I’m equally a sucker for trying something new so come the evening I signed in to Azure and gave it a go.
I’ve got a reasonable server set up with AWS but was hoping to get an Attack of the B-Team server running as some friends had been interested in the Galacticraft plugin and it seemed the easiest way to get that running. It’s a lot more demanding than a standard Minecraft server; the batch file starts it with 3Gb of RAM rather than the 1Gb I normally start a server with.
That’s what’s important to most of us. I thought that Azure was cheaper but looking the the AWS pricing I think the server costs are about the same. It works out about 10p an hour for a 2 core instance with 7GB of RAM. Certainly cheaper than buying a server of similar power. (I still need to set up cron to shut down automatically in case I forget).
The pricing is like for like with an Ubuntu server. Azure offers Windows instances but then you have to factor in OS licensing. There’s times when that’s worth the cost but not for Minecraft.
Ease of Use
This was an win for Azure on several fronts
Security is inversely proportional to convenience so you could take the greater ease of Azure either way. Actually it’s more about choice. AWS provides you with key file to sign in with. Getting it to work with PuTTY involves conversion and then you need to have the key file with you whenever you want to access the server.
Not a big problem but I nearly came a cropper when I needed to access the server and wasn’t sure where the key file was. Luckily I found it.
Azure lets you use a key file if you want but I chose to use an ordinary username and password. A key file would be good for something that’s running all the time. But for an occasional game server, Azure is easier to manage.
Address on the web
Part of the setup process for Azure let me set up a web address, something.cloudapp.net. The AWS equivalent is ec2-xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx.compute-1.amazonaws.com where the x’s make up an IP address. To try and make something more memorable I signed up for an fixed IP address with AWS. Unfortunately that adds to the cost. To get to the same easy address to enter into Minecraft I signed up to http://www.noip.com. It’s free but I do have to click a link to keep the account activated every month.
That’s a win for Ubuntu rather than either AWS or Azure. It was a simple job to get Attack of the B-Team working.
I don’t like judging something purely on how it looks but the Azure interface does look good. AWS is rather functional but I’ve never had any problems with it.
It’s not all good looks. The Azure backend has some useful graphs showing usage. That’s important to me when running a Minecraft server because I want to be able to check that the server is up to the load before it becomes a problem. Users complaining about slow websites is one thing, but irate children is another!
Given that the pricing is the same, it’s really down to convenience and it is nice not to have to carry a key file around with me and the server load graphs are handy for checking that the server is up to the job.
So it’s looking good for Azure at the moment.