AWS: Amazon EC2 M1 Mac instances have arrived

Amazon Web Services launches its Apple M1 silicon instance on EC2, giving app developers a new option.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Maskot/Getty Images

Amazon Web Services has launched the new "Mac2" instance on EC2 that uses Apple's Arm-based M1 chips on the 2020 Mac mini. 

Amazon EC2 M1 Mac instances are dedicated Mac mini computers attached through Thunderbolt to the AWS Nitro System, thus allowing the Mac mini to appear and behave like any other Amazon EC2 instance. 

This lets developers access machines built around the Apple-designed M1 System on Chip (SoC), for example those re-architecting their apps to natively support Macs with Apple silicon.

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AWS said developers building for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV will also benefit from faster builds.

The on-demand hourly price for the new Mac2 instance is 65c per hour, giving uses a dedicated host for about $474 a month. 

AWS announced the M1-based instance in December 2020 shortly after Apple unveiled the M1 Mac mini, which starts at $699. AWS moved the M1 instance to preview in December last year and now counts Pinterest, Intuit, FlipBoard, Twitch, and Goldman Sachs among customers using it. 

The Mac2 instance consists of the M1 SoC with 8 CPU cores, 8 GPU cores, 16GiB of memory, and a 16 core Apple Neural Engine. The Mac mini with 16GB RAM and 256 SSD storage costs $899. 

The M1 Mac2 instance is a cheaper option than AWS's Mac1 instance, which uses Apple's earlier Intel-based Mac mini and costs $1.083 an hourly. It provides a dedicated host for about $790 a month and features an Intel Core i7 CPU with 6 cores and 32 GiB RAM. 

AWS says the Mac2 instances offer up to 60% better price performance over Mac1 instances for iPhone and Mac app build workloads. 

Mac2 instances support macOS Big Sur 11 and macOS Monterey 12 as Amazon Machine Images (AMIs).

The instance connects to the user's Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), boots from Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes, and uses EBS snapshots, Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), security groups and other AWS services such as Amazon CloudWatch and AWS Systems Manager, explains AWS developer advocate, Sébastien Stormacq.

Stormacq said the M1 handled the clean, build, archive, and unit tests on a sample project he wrote 47.8% faster than the Mac1 instances. 

AWS's new FAQ for the EC2 M1 instance indicates they're currently only available in four regions, including US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Singapore). 

The advantage of the x86 Intel Mac instance is wider availability spanning 12 regions, including US East (Ohio, N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Europe (Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Ireland, London), and Asia Pacific (Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo).    

"Customers such as Pinterest, Intuit, FlipBoard, Twitch, and Goldman Sachs have seen up to 75% better build performance, up to 80% lower build failure rates, and up to 5x the number of parallel builds compared to running macOS on premises," AWS says in the FAQ.  

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