AWS EC2 Gets an Upgrade: Much Faster EBS Storage, And 7 New Instance Types

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It’s the week of the AWS annual reInvent 2020 conference, and today EC2 and EBS are enjoying major upgrades, with faster storage for all instances as well as 6 new EC2 instance types.

EBS upgrades – GP3 and io2 Block Express

The underlying storage of EC2 has become much faster: SSD-based, general-purpose and provisioned IOPS-based EBS volumes are upgraded. These are probably both powered by the relatively new PCIe 4.0 standard, which brings substantial improvements over previous generation SSDs.

First, gp3, which is a generational upgrade from the standard gp2 volumes used by default by EC2. These still cap at 16TB and provide single-digit latency in milliseconds, but now do so at 4x higher bandwidth with up to 1000MB / s per volume. Not only that, they are actually 20% cheaper per GB than existing gp2 volumes.

High performance provisioned IOPS instances also benefit from an upgrade. It’s called io2 Block Express and is just a faster drive with a maximum throughput of 4000MB / s per volume, again four times faster than before. Latency has also been improved to now be less than a millisecond. The price is the same, but since io2 forces you to pay for “provisioned IOPS”, essentially to buy speed, you will have to pay more for better performing disks.

New types of instances

Along with the new storage, many new instance types have been announced.

One of the strangest is Mac EC2 instances, which is exactly what you think, a Mac Mini in the cloud. Notably, these aren’t Apple’s fancy new M1-powered Mac Minis, just the much slower Core i7 model. The goal is to make it easier for developers to provision and rent Mac virtual environments. There is only one type of instance, mac1.metal, which comes with 12 cores and 32 GB of RAM.

R5b, a new series of R5 memory-driven DB instances from AWS. R5b instances can use gp3 and io2 block express volumes for much higher performance. Not much new, but since block storage is often a bottleneck for write-heavy operations, this will be a great upgrade for many people.

C6g, M6g and R6g instances are all based on the AWS ARM-based Graviton2 processor and support a 100 Gbps network. They are advertised as offering “up to 40% better price performance” compared to x86 instances, although this is in “a large number of applications built on open source software using Linux distributions”, which is a marketing argument for “it’s not 40% better at all. Either way, AWS Custom Silicon holds great promise and the Graviton2 chip competes well with x86 processors.

New D3 Series offers the largest local storage capacity in the cloud. This feature provides faster disk speed and up to 336TB of space, at an 80% lower cost per TB of storage than D2 instances.

G4dn is a new GPU instance designed to provide the best value for money for graphics and machine learning models. They are powered by up to 8 NVIDIA T4 GPUs, 96 vCPUs, a 100 Gbps network and 1.8TB local SSD storage based on NVMe. They are also available as bare metal instances.

Finally, they announce M5zn instances, which are pretty basic, except having a high clock up to 4.5 GHz and a 100 Gbps network.

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