A few months ago we covered How AWS Added Apple Mac Mini Nodes to EC2 the company is back, delivering on a promise many quarters in the making. The new Arm-based Apple M1 Mac Mini instances to general availability.
Amazon AWS EC2 Adds Apple M1 Mac Mini to Arm Instances
We covered this before, but Amazon’s solution is basically to hook Mac Mini’s up to AWS Nitro cards, then provision the Mac Mini as a bare metal instance. Here is what the initial x86 implementation looked like:
The new instances are called “mac2.metal” instances (mac1.metal is the older x86 Mac Mini). They are currently $0.6498/ hr. While they are less expensive than their predecessors, they also have only 16GB of memory instead of 32GB so they are not directly comparable.
What is also interesting here is just how long it took to get the M1 Mac Mini’s installed in AWS. The original x86 version was announced in December 2020 and so this is about 2.5 years after that. We even reviewed the Apple Mac Mini M1 10GbE Gets 10Gbase-T over a year ago. Even with today’s announcement, the new systems seem to have taken a long time to deploy.
For developers, this is a big bonus. These systems can be provisioned quickly and used in a more cloud-like model with AWS handling security and sanitization aspects, along with hosting. The cost is still quite high. One can get a 16GB/ 256GB/ 10Gbase-T M1 Mac Mini from Apple for about $1000 making the payback period (minus power and space) roughly 64 days. Many developers likely already have Mac Mini M1’s, possibly for more than a year so this is not strictly a cost play. What one gets, of course, is the AWS infrastructure and services delivered via Nitro so that is perhaps where a lot of the markup is coming from.
With this introduction, AWS has made it easier for developers to access Apple M1 silicon. It has also struck new ground by becoming the first cloud provider we are aware of that has deployed two of the most closed CPUs out there. AWS does not sell its Graviton 3 CPUs to other manufacturers. Apple does not sell its M1 and M2 silicon to other manufacturers. In many ways it is strange to think of public clouds as embracing closed Arm ecosystems, but one could argue that is what AWS has done. The stranger angle is that it also means Apple has the least proprietary Arm CPU in the AWS public cloud. That may be the first time Apple has the least proprietary product in any category, but it sells its systems to end-users and businesses while Graviton is AWS-only.
Maybe this is useful to centrally build and test container images for developers on Mac? Of note, German provider Hetzner is also offering the m1 Mac mini as a dedicated server for less than 60€/month.
@nils a major use case for these is building and testing mobile apps for iOS without needing to purchase and maintain your own hardware, for instance as part of a CI/CD pipeline that automatically builds your app with each code change and runs a bunch of tests on it.