AWS took a not so veiled shot at its supplier Intel in its latest AWS EC2 instance launch. The big news, of course, is that the AWS EC2 M6i instances bring Intel Xeon Ice Lake processors to the cloud computing giant. Still, it felt a bit strange reading the release post on the launch.
AWS EC2 M6i Intel Xeon Ice Lake Instances Launched
The new AWS EC2 M6i instances are powered by the Ice Lake generation of Xeons. You can learn more about Ice Lake in our article. Intel Xeon Ice Lake Edition Marks the Start and End of an Era. These are Intel’s first 10nm server chips. They have the newer AI instruction support as well as using higher speed memory with the memory controller improvements in this generation. Perhaps the bigger one on the memory side is that AWS says that it is encrypting the memory on every M6i instance using Total Memory Encryption or TME for another level of security in its cloud.
Here is the instance list:
|m6i.large||2||8||Up to 12.5||Up to 10|
|m6i.xlarge||4||16||Up to 12.5||Up to 10|
|m6i.2xlarge||8||32||Up to 12.5||Up to 10|
|m6i.4xlarge||16||64||Up to 12.5||Up to 10|
Perhaps the most exciting for some folks will be the m6i.32xlarge. This offers 128 vCPUs or around a third more than the 96 vCPU m5 instances.
Where it is Awkward
Let us dig into why this announcement was a bit awkward. In paragraph 1 of the announcement we saw:
“Last year, we introduced the sixth generation of EC2 instances powered by AWS-designed Graviton2 processors. We’re now expanding our sixth-generation offerings to include x86-based instances…” (Source: AWS)
There are very few times one would point out that a new product trailed its generational launch by almost a year unless that was pointing to Arm-based Graviton being what AWS is pushing. We expect we are not too far off from Graviton 3 if AWS is keeping with Neoverse-like release cycles.
Then in the third paragraph of the same announcement:
“You might have noticed that we’re now using the “i” suffix in the instance type to specify that the instances are using an Intel processor. We already use the suffix “a” for AMD processors (for example, M5a instances) and “g” for Graviton processors (for example, M6g instances).” (Source: AWS)
One can spin this as AWS is simply aligning Intel Xeon instances with other instances. The other way to read this is that Intel has gone from the assumed default to needing the “i” designator. The way this paragraph is written Intel is being demoted from the de facto standard and is being caught up to AWS Graviton and AMD EPYC.
We know that AWS is on a multi-year journey to sell mostly its own Arm CPU-based instances. Five years ago, a large cloud provider would not have paragraphs treating Intel like this, but times have changed.
For AWS customers, more performance and better price/ performance are a good thing. Competition in the cloud allows one to get some savings from these ecosystems. Many of our readers are going to start using M6i instances soon.
For Intel, this feels like a bit of a mixed release. AWS is using Ice Lake which is good. At the same time, this is really driving the storyline that Intel gave huge discounts to cloud players helping to make enterprise server pricing less competitive. Now that workloads have moved to the cloud with that competitive advantage, the cloud providers are now making their own chips and starting to marginalize Intel’s products.
Still, overall this is good for the industry that new technologies are being adopted.