If you plan to use one of Amazon Web Services’ new bare-metal Mac instances in its cloud for more than 77 days a year, you may be better off just buying the Mac Mini instead.
The Register makes that suggestion after AWS revealed the price for its Mac instances: $1.083 an hour, $25.99 a day, or about $9,490 a year. You’ll also pay for AWS storage.
Next, we visited apple.com, and priced the same Mac Mini that AWS has pressed into service: the Intel Core i7 model with 32GB of RAM, 10G Ethernet, and a 512GB disk. It costs $1,999.00. Do the math: $1999/$25.99 = 76.91 – so you’ll be better off buying that Mac Mini if you need one more than 77 days a year.
Dividing $9,490 by $1,999 gives us a result of 4.74 – the number of your very own Mac minis you could buy rather than running one in AWS for a year.
AWS will sell the Mac instances for less on its EC2 Savings Plans, and when The Register fiddled with that facility, it seemed to suggest we could pay vastly less than the per-hour plan though didn’t offer a firm price.
Meanwhile, Mac-hosting outfit MacStadium offers what looks to be the same Mac Mini as a bare-metal system for $139 a month. AWS’s pricing chews through that sum in about five days. Cheaper, and more expensive, options are available from MacStadium, and there are other businesses out there offering remote-hosting or co-locating Macs.
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If you think that Apple's new M1 silicon can handle your workloads, an M1-powered Mac Mini with close-enough specs – 16GB rather than 32GB of RAM, notably – costs $1,099.
AWS is of course picking up the cost of housing and feeding the Macs it rents, and ensuring they are resilient. But is that really a massive value-add for computers that are supposedly known for their reliability?
Yes, and no.
AWS has aimed its Macs at developers who want to test and sign apps developed for Apple devices. There’s no indication that task will go faster in the AWS cloud. But having access to cloudy Macs to do the job will mean developers don't need Macs dedicated to this occasional task. Even at $25.99 a day, that could work out financially, compared to buying the Minis outright and keeping them on a shelf.
The cloud giant thinks its bare-metal Macs systems could be used to power build farms or render farms. That sort of rig doesn't have to be used every day – yeah, a lot of software engineers need something like that all the time, but not everyone – and it requires scale that needs plenty of capital. Thus, folks may lean toward temporarily renting the gear.
And Amazon is banking on people wanting the convenience of managing their Macs-in-the-cloud alongside all their other rented services and storage, all from their AWS dashboard.
One more thing: AWS is a little late to the party, as Microsoft’s Azure Pipelines build and test tool has offered macOS running on Mac Pros since March 2020. And GitHub Actions provides macOS runners. And so on. ®