MarkLogic on $40 per month

Author: Dave Cassel  |  Category: Entrepreneurism

Update (8 Mar 2012): Amazon has changed their prices again. Let’s see what the math tells us now. These numbers assume you want to run a web site 24×7, using the Heavy Utilization pricing on Reserved instances:

  • Small: ($195 + $0.016/hour * 8760 hours/year) / 12 months = $27.93 per month
  • Large: ($780 + $0.064/hour * 8760 hours/year) / 12 months = $111.72 per month
  • Large for 3 years: ($1200 + $0.052/hour * 8760 hours/year * 3 years) / 36 months = $71.29 per month

You may have heard about the recent release of MarkLogic 5. We at MarkLogic are excited about lots of great improvements in this release, which have been written about in other places. I’m pretty stoked about the Express License. Express is similar to the old Community License in that it’s available for anyone to use, but the big change is that you’re now allowed to go into production. There are some limits, as you might guess: 40 GB of data and 2 cores.

I found myself wondering how little one could spend and put something out there.

Hosting Options

There are a number of options when it comes to putting your software creation out there. There are basic web hosting (like this site), Virtual Private Hosts, Dedicated Hosts, colocation, using your own data center, and then there’s Amazon’s EC2. Ramping a VPS or above up to a good amount of memory pushes the other options above the cost of an EC2 instance. Even getting FIOS Small Business Internet would start at $70/month. Let’s take a look at what we could do with EC2.

Amazon EC2 Standard Small Instance

The Express License is limited to 2 CPUs, so we’ll be looking at the small instance. If we go with Linux, the cost per hour is $0.085 per hour. There are 24 * 365 = 8760 hours in a year, or 730 hours per month. Amazon will charge you for each hour in which your instance is busy working. Let’s take the worst case and say that we’re running at 100% (after all, we’re hoping people will show and use your site, right?). In that case, Amazon will charge you $0.085/hour * 730 hours = $62.05 per month. Not too shabby.

Amazon EC2 Reserved Small Instance

Amazon also offers reserved instances, where you pay a fixed fee for 1 or 3 years, getting you a reduced hourly rate. If you decide to go with one year of a Reserved Small Instance, you’ll pay a one-time fee of $227.50, plus just $0.03 per hour. Averaging that out, we get ($227/year + $0.03/hour * 8760 hours/year) / 12 months = $40.86 per month.

Okay, that’s slightly above the title $40/month, but “MarkLogic on $40.86 per month” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Oh, if you go with the 3-year term, it looks like it’s ($350/3 years + $0.03/hour * 8760 hours/year * 3 years) / 36 months = $31.62 per month, but three years seems like a long commitment for this level of service. Hopefully, you’ll be raking in the revenue and upgrading before that time is up.

Garage Stage

Lots of startups begin with big dreams and small bank accounts. I know, I’ve been there. But I think it’s fair to say that someone who’s looking to start a business can handle $40 per month in exchange for the productivity and performance they’ll get from MarkLogic. (If not, I humbly suggest you may be working on a hobby rather than a business.) If I’d had MarkLogic when I started Trovz….

Keeping It Real

Okay, let’s face it — there are some caveats on this approach. You’ve got the data limit of 40 GB. That should hold you for a while. There’s a limit of 2 CPUs, which will keep you from upgrading to a bigger EC2 instance. Truth be told, you won’t get the same performance this way that you would on a dedicated server with more CPUs and more RAM. But that costs more. All things considered, this looks like a real opportunity, especially considering that the cost estimates above assume that the server is busy 24×7 — in practice, I don’t know what utilization percentage is likely (that would vary project to project), but I would guess it’s going to be less than 100%. I have a project that I may launch this way at some point.

Here’s the bottom line: Express License + Amazon EC2 offers a cheap way to make use of some mighty powerful software. It may be enough to get you started. And when you outgrow what Express gives you, MarkLogic will be there to help you grow.

Final caveat: I haven’t set up an instance myself, just looked at Amazon’s documentation. Take the time to check out their documentation yourself before you launch. Also, I haven’t factored in the cost of bandwidth or EBS Volumes, although those costs appear minimal to me. Do your own due diligence, but I think you’ll like what you find. 


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5 Responses to “MarkLogic on $40 per month”

  1. David Lee Says:

    I have installed 5.0 using the Express license on a EC2 “large” instance which gives 8GB of RAM. I’m not sure how well ML will perform on a small instance, but its worth a try.

    The Large instance performs quite well with the exception that EBS volumes, being a fancy kind of NAS can be slow to get going as the data has to be network copied to the local server, and back to the NAS for writes.

    Generally though I suggest this is a great way to get started with MarkLogic with minimal initial investment.

  2. Dave Cassel Says:

    Thanks for the information, David. Applying the same math to the Large instance ($910/year plus $0.12/hour for a reserved instance) it looks like the max EC2 charge is about $163.43/month.

  3. Shannon Scott Shiflett Says:


    The CPU restriction does not exclude the “large” instance option, then?

    My understanding is, there is a 2-CPU limit, but each CPU is permitted multiple cores, is that right?

    Thanks for the post and discussion,

  4. Dave Cassel Says:

    Shannon, you are correct on the 2-CPU limit. The Amazon EC2 Large instance has “4 EC2 Compute Units (2 virtual cores with 2 EC2 Compute Units each)”. Scroll to Measuring Compute Resources on the instance types page for a description of EC2 Compute Units. For licensing purposes, MarkLogic measures cores, but the EC2 Large only has 2 cores, so it still works. The server will definitely be happier with the extra RAM (7.5 GB for Large, 1.7 GB for Small).

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