AWS starts renting cloudy M1 Mac minis
They're cheaper than cloudy x86 Apples, but not entirely tempting
Amazon Web Services has pressed Apple's M1 processor into service in a new elastic compute cloud instance type: the Mac2.
For $0.65 an hour the Mac2 provides a dedicated Mac mini with four performance cores, four efficiency cores, a dozen vCPUs, and 16GB of RAM. Bandwidth to Amazon Elastic Block Store tops out at 8Gbit/sec and network bandwidth is 10Gbit/sec. The sole OS option is macOS Big Sur – a year behind the current version, Monterey.
Those specs suggest the Mac2 instance type uses bog-standard off-the-shelf Mac minis.
AWS already offers Intel-powered Macs in the cloud running a six-core Intel Core i7 processor that presents a dozen vCPUs and offers 32GB of RAM. But the Intel-powered Mac1 instance cost $1.08 an hour.
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The prices mentioned above are for on-demand use. As the M1 Mac mini retails for $899 when equipped with 16GB of memory, users may wish to contemplate the discounts AWS offers for one- or three-year commitments to use the cloudy Macs (and should not forget the likely need to pay for cloudy Amazonian storage, too). Without those discounts, six weeks use of a cloudy M1 instance will cover the cost of buying your own box.
Interestingly, the AWS FAQ states the cloud colossus "will monitor customer demand for Reserved Instances," which could offer an even cheaper way to run cloudy Macs.
AWS has not explained why the M1 is cheaper than the Intel option, but electricity consumption looks to the most likely reason. Apple rates the M1 as using considerably less juice than the i7.
The Mac2 instances are rated as offering "up to 60% better price performance over the x86-based EC2 Mac instances for iPhone and Mac app build workloads."
For now, the Mac2 instance type is available in Amazon's US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Singapore) regions.
The formal debut of the Mac2 instance type means AWS has four Arm CPUs in production: the M1 plus three versions of its homegrown Graviton processor. ®