AWS today opened its re: Invent with one conference surprise announcement: the company brings the Mac mini to its cloud. These new EC2 Mac instances, as AWS calls them, are now available in preview. They won’t come to a good deal, though.
The target audience here – and the only AWS target for now – are developers who want to build cloud-based and test environments for their Mac and iOS apps. But it’s worth noting that with remote access, you get a Mac mini fully featured in the cloud, and I’m sure developers will find all sorts of other use cases for this as well.
Given the recent launch of the M1 Mac minis, It’s worth noting that the hardware AWS uses – at least for now – are i7 machines with six physical cores and 12 logic and 32 GB of memory. Using Mac’s integrated networking options, AWS connects them to its Nitro System for fast network access and storage. This means that you can also attack the AWS store in these cases, for example.
Needless to say, the AWS team is also working to bring it about Apple’s new Mac M1 minis in their data centers. The current plan is to launch this “early next year,” AWS tells me, and certainly in the first half of 2021. Both AWS and Apple believe that the need for Intel-powered machines will not disappear anytime soon, however. , especially given that many developers will want to continue testing their Intel machines for the foreseeable future.
David Brown, The A2S vice president of EC2, tells me that these are completely unmodified Mac minis. AWS has only disabled Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It helps, said Brown, that the minis fit well into a 1U rack.
“You can’t really stack them on the shelves – you want to put them in some sort of service sled [and] it fits very well on a service slide and then our cards and all the various things we have to worry about, from an integration standpoint, fit around it and just insert it into the Mac mini via the ports it provides, “Brown explains. He admitted that this was obviously a new challenge for AWS. The only way to offer this type of service is to use Apple’s hardware, after all.
It should also be noted that AWS does not virtualize hardware. What comes here is full access to your own device that you are not sharing with anyone. “We wanted to make sure we supported the Mac Mini that you could get if you went to the Apple store and bought a Mac mini,” Brown said.
Unlike other EC2 instances, every time you spin up a new Mac instance, you have to pay in advance for the first 24 hours to get started. After those first 24 hours, prices are second to none, as with any other type of instance AWS offers today.
AWS will charge $ 1,083 per hour, billed per second. There is only less than $ 26 to turn a car on and run for 24 hours. It’s a lot more than what some of the smaller Mac cloud providers are charging (we’re generally talking $ 60 or less per month for their entry-level offerings and about two to three times more for an i7 machine comparable to 32GB of RAM).
Until now, Mac mini hosting was a small niche in the hosting market, although it has a good number of players, with the likes of MacStadium, MacinCloud, MacWeb and Mac Mini Vault vying for its market share.
With this new offer from AWS, they are now facing a formidable competitor, although they can still compete for the price. AWS, however, argues that it can give developers access to all the additional cloud services in its portfolio, which distinguishes it from all smaller players.
“The speed at which things happen [other Mac mini cloud providers] and the granularity that you can use those services isn’t as nice as you have with a big cloud provider like AWS, ”Brown said.“ So if you want to launch a machine, it takes a few days to deliver and someone puts a machine in a rack for you and gives you an IP address to access and manage the OS. And usually, it takes at least a month – or a longer period of time to get a discount. What we have done is that you can literally launch these machines in minutes and have a working machine available to you. If you decide you want 100 of them, 500 of them, just ask us why and we will make them available. The other thing is the ecosystem. All those other 200-plus AWS services that you can now use with Mac mini is the other big difference. “
Brown also emphasized that Amazon makes it easier for developers to use different image formats, with the company currently offering images for macOS Mojave and Catherine, with Big Sure support coming “at some point in the future.” And developers can obviously create their own images with all the software they need to be able to reuse them every time they run a new machine.
“Virtually every one of our customers today has some need to support an Apple product and the Apple ecosystem, whether it’s iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, whatever. They’re looking for that bold use case,” Brown said. . “And so the problem we’ve really been focusing on resolving is the customers saying,‘ Hey, I’ve moved all of my server workloads into AWS, I’d like to be able to move some of those server workflows into build, because I also have some Mac minis in a data center or in my office that I need to keep. I would just love to be on AWS. ‘»
AWS’s launch clients for the new service are Intuit, Ring and the FiLMiC mobile camera app.
“Mac EC2 instances, with their familiar EC2 interfaces and APIs, have allowed us to seamlessly migrate our existing iOS and macOS pipelines to build and test in AWS, further improving the productivity of developers, “said Pratik Wadher, vice president of Product Development at Intuit.” We’ve experienced up to 30% better performance on our data center infrastructure, thanks to the expansion of elastic capacity, and a high-availability configuration exploiting more areas. We now run around 80% of our production based on the EC2 Mac instance, and we are excited to see what the future holds. AWS innovation in this space ”.
New Mac instances are now available in many AWS regions. These include US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland) and Asia Pacific (Singapore), with other regions to follow soon.