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AWS gives older EC2 instances a legacy lifeline

Preserves pre-2017 servers on its newer Nitro hardware

Amazon Web Services has shown it's willing to operate legacy workarounds for some customers of its elastic compute cloud (EC2).

Last week the cloud colossus issued an announcement titled "AWS Nitro System now supports previous generation of instances."

Nitro is AWS's SmartNIC-based tech that it uses to move plumbing jobs off its hosts to improve isolation for client workloads, as well as making sure all of the cores are available to rent. When the cloud business unit introduced it in 2017 it explained that the aim was to have EC2 instances on its servers perform indistinguishably from bare metal.

Nitro uses dedicated hardware, so was rolled out with new AWS hosts from 2017. EC2 instance types that predated Nitro couldn't use the system – the hosts just weren't built to run the dedicated Nitro hardware.

Last week that changed. AWS announced Nitro support "for EC2's previous generation of instances to extend the length of service beyond the typical lifetime of the underlying hardware."

AWS billed this as "allowing customers to continue running their workloads and applications on the instance families they were built on without any service life concerns."

In other words, the servers for which old EC2 instances were designed may die, but the instance types will live on and can run on AWS's next-gen hardware.

"The AWS Nitro System support for previous generation of general-purpose, compute optimized, storage optimized, and memory optimized instances allows our customers to focus on creating value-add services for their core business instead of rebuilding their workloads on newer instances," the announcement states.

"Customers of previous generation instances will experience a seamless transition to AWS Nitro System with the instance characteristics, feature sets, and workflows remaining the same," the post promises – about as simple a legacy migration path as can be imagined.

Simpler, at least, than rebuilding everything on one of the competing cloud providers – which must be a part of AWS's motivation. Never underestimate the value of customer inertia.

The post goes on that AWS will offer this migration for the "first wave of previous generation instances" – namely the M3, M2, and M1 types, which will be sorted in 2022.

More old EC2 instance types are, presumably, going to get this treatment in 2023 and later years.

All of which will mean AWS customers will be spared migrations, and may even end up running on hardware that is newer and more powerful than the kit that powered their instances when they were first switched on.

Cloudy servers may relieve users of the need to care for hardware, but applications designed to run on servers always have some degree of coupling to the underlying hardware. AWS's extension of old EC2 instance types is therefore acknowledgement that clouds are not immune from the forces that create legacy systems. ®

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