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Not sure if this counts as a software recommendation.

I need a virtual machine to run some raytracing software. It does not need a big hard disk or fast network connection. Just a really fast CPU (multi-core is okay) and maybe 8-16 GiB RAM. It does not need to be running 24/7. I would prefer a "pay as you go" plan, since I may be starting or stopping the VM at odd hours. I do not need a database, web server, etc. or other services running.

What are some good (cheap) solutions?

I tried Azure already. It was really easy to set up. The rate was $110.26 for 65.43 hours for the F16 (16 cores, 32 GiB RAM, ...) service. I feel comfortable with using this, except maybe the price.

Google's service seems cheaper maybe, especially if the VM "preemptible". I.e. Google will shut it down when their higher-paying customers need the load. This may be bad for me though.

Any other suggestions? If you could tell me how to sign up with said service, that would be great, because there are so many of them, and so many add-ons, that I don't really know what I'm doing.

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Digital Ocean

DigitalOcean.com provides virtual machine instances on-demand. You can manually create and stop/start an instance (a “Droplet”) in a minute, with an operating system at your disposal (either FreeBSD or any of a few Linux distros). Through their API, you can programmatically create/stop/start a Droplet as well.

The cost is hourly, with a monthly maximum. Cost starts at less than a US penny per hour, or more for more memory/processors/storage/traffic. Their standard offering with 8 gigs of memory costs over a US dime per hour, for 16 gigs almost a US quarter per hour. You probably want their "High-Memory" offerings with less cores and less storage, where 16 gigs costs US $0.18 per hour currently.

Optionally, you can pay for a chunk of storage separately, “SSD Block Storage”. Then join that storage to any VM that you startup and then later tear down (delete).

Lots of good documentation and tutorials available.

Heroku

Heroku.com is another provider of virtual computing environments on demand. In contrast to Digital Ocean, you get a managed environment already configured rather than a full OS on a virtual machine. Underneath, Heroku is powered by AWS (Amazon) the last I heard.

  • Actually, I need more cores and less memory. I can see DO's High Memory plan. Do they have a High CPU plan as well? – posfan12 Apr 5 '17 at 13:33
  • @posfan12 Don't think so. Digital Ocean tries to keep everything very simple and straightforward including their offerings and pricing. But I suggest contacting their salespeople to ask. – Basil Bourque Apr 5 '17 at 16:28
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I've been using Linode for a very long time, so I'll recommend looking at them. I've never had an issue with the service that a mistake on my end didn't cause. Their support folks bend over backwards to make you happy.

Storage is all SSD based. Billing can be hourly, or fixed-rate monthly. For $80/mo or $0.12/hr you can get 12gb RAM, 6 cpu cores, almost 200gb storage, 8tb of transfer, and a 1gb/s network connection. Need more? $0.96/hr gets you 20 cores, 80gb RAM, and 1.5tb storage. Need even more? At $1.44 per hour (getting close to your Azure pricing) you can get a "high memory plan" with 200gb ram and 16 cpu cores.

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