Amazon Web Services Unveils Cheaper Compute Instances

The new T2 instances are designed for workloads that need a consistent baseline of CPU power but occasionally need more performance.

cloud computing

Amazon Web Services is launching a new set of small compute instances designed to offer organizations a low-cost level of capabilities for workloads that don't require a lot of CPU power over a sustained time but may need to have quick access to more when demands arise.

The new T2 compute instances, announced July 1, are now the lowest-cost option in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) lineup, starting at $0.013 per hour, or $9.50 per month, according to officials. The T2 instances are designed for such uses as Web servers, development and small databases, which call for a consistent baseline of performance but occasionally need to "burst up" to more CPU power at times.

Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, compared such situations to driving, with cars that can go as fast as 150 mph, though drivers rarely, if ever, get them up to those speeds.

"Most of the time I am using just a fraction of the power that is available to me," Barr said in a post on the cloud service's blog. "Many interesting compute workloads follow a similar pattern, with modest demands for continuous compute power and occasional needs for a lot more."

He pointed to such applications as remote desktops, low-traffic Websites and development environments—including build servers—as examples.

"In many of these cases, long periods of low CPU utilization are punctuated by bursts of full-throttle, pedal-to-the-floor processing that can consume an entire CPU core," Barr wrote. "Many of these workloads are cost-sensitive, as well. Organizations often deploy hundreds or thousands of remote desktops and build environments at a time; saving some money on each deployment can have a significant difference in the overall cost."

The low cost also can spill over to storage performance when T2 instances are used with Amazon Block Storage General Purpose volumes, according to AWS officials.

According to Barr, the T2 instances include t2.micro, with a single virtual CPU (vCPU) and 10 percent baseline CPU performance and six CPU credits per hour. The t2.small instance also includes a single vCPU, with a 20 percent baseline CPU performance and 12 credits per hour, with pricing at $0.026 per hour, or $19 a month. The t2.medium instance comes with two vCPUs, 40 percent baseline performance, 24 CPU credits per hour and a price tag of $0.052 per hour, or $38 per month.

The CPU credit is determined by the size of the instance, and each credit provides the performance of a full CPU for one minute, Barr said. Organizations can use up to their max of CPU credits each hour, or can store unused credits in their CPU credit balance.

"Let's say that you have a business process that needs a burst of CPU power at the beginning and end of the business day in each time zone in your geographic region," he wrote. "By putting this process on a T2 instance, you can handle the compute load at peak times expeditiously and cost-effectively using the CPU Credits that were accumulated during the non-peak times."

The T2 instances are available in seven regions, including two in the United States (Northern Virginia and Oregon), three in the Asia-Pacific (Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney, Australia), and one each in Europe (Ireland) and South America (Sao Paulo, Brazil). More regions will offer T2 instances in the future.

AWS' launch of the T2 instances comes at a time of increasing competition in the public cloud space, including from the likes of Google, Microsoft (Azure) and IBM (SoftLayer). In April, Google unveiled what officials called Sustained Use Discounts for organizations that run large projects on virtual machines. The discounts are designed to save users money as they use more virtual machines in the Google Cloud by automatically lowering the price of the VMs when used for sustained workloads, according to company officials. The more a customer uses a virtual machine, the more of a discount he or she gets.