Choosing the right AWS Instance type for your workload

With over 250 different services, AWS offers a large number of options. Among them, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) provides a further 300 AWS instance types spread over five unique instance families. It’s a bit hard to take the decision and identify the EC2 instance that provides the best resources for your application workload for the lowest price. Over-provisioning AWS instances for the workloads they are used for becomes one of the biggest causes of expenditure.   

To expedite the process of choosing the right instance type for your workload, get a deep dive into different instance types in full detail.

What are AWS Instances?

The amount you pay will depend on the type of instance you use on AWS. An AWS instance is a virtual server on the AWS platform you can use to run cloud-based applications within the AWS public cloud. The instances are virtualized, so you can dynamically increase or decrease manually or automatically the computing capacity to match the peak and off-peak demands your company generates. Instances provide compute power and renting computing capacity from AWS can improve your costs, time-to-market, and time-to-benefit.

Instances differ in terms of CPU, RAM (memory), storage, and networking capacity, across one or more size options, and should be carefully matched to your workload’s unique demands. For the best experience, you should launch on instance types that are the best fit for your applications.

Because different instances have varying processing capacity, some are better suited to specific workloads than others. As previously stated, instances are essentially virtual servers. AWS instances run on a host system, just like any other virtual server. AWS provides almost infinite virtual host machines with a variety of computational resources (CPU, RAM, storage, and bandwidth).

AWS instances are classified into various families. In most cases, you can identify instance types by looking at their names, which consist of a letter, a number, and occasionally an extra letter.

 The initial letter, which is normally uppercase, denotes the AWS instance’s family. It’s followed by a number that indicates the generation to which the instance belongs. The traits of families and generations differ. After that number, a small-cap letter usually indicates how AWS optimized that instance type. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, M, P, R, T, and X are among the letters. The number of generations of AWS instances ranges from 1 to 6. For example, AWS instances in the third generation of the F family of AWS instances are referred to as F3.

When Should You Use Each Instance Type?

In AWS, there are five different types of instance types. As stated below, the name of each instance family explains the preferred use case:

  • General Purpose
  • Compute Optimized
  • Memory-Optimized
  • Accelerated Computing
  • Storage Optimized

Take a brief look at different instance families-

  1. General Purpose: (Mac, M6g, M6i, M5, M5a, M5n, M5zn,  M4, T4g, T3, T3a, T2, A1) : A general-purpose instance has enough processing power to handle a wide range of scalable use cases. These instances are appropriate for applications like web servers and code repositories that require memory, compute, and networking resources in equal amounts.
  •  Amazon EC2 A1 instances- offer significant cost savings and are appropriate for scale-out and Arm-based applications supported by the Arm ecosystem.  The Arm-based servers are powered by AWS Graviton processors, are EBS-optimized, and have Enhanced Networking capabilities (up to 10Gbps network bandwidth).
  • MAC: Are offered on the AWS Nitro System, and they’re powered by Apple’s Mac mini machines. Developers can use this EC2 family to access macOS to develop, build, test, and sign applications that require the XCode IDE.
  • T: These sorts allow you to burst CPU utilization whenever and for as long as you require. Each generation has its features. You can use t3 if you have an application that requires some basic CPU and memory use. The T4g general-purpose instance type, in particular, uses AWS Graviton2 processors, which are 40% more efficient than T3 processors. These instances are appropriate for tasks including web development, testing, and microservices.
  • M: Small and medium-sized databases, as well as enterprise applications like cluster computing and robust data processing, can benefit from these instances.

2. Compute Optimized Instance(C4, C5, C5, C5a, C5n, C6g, C6gn)

Compute Optimized instances are suited for compute-intensive applications that benefit from high processor performance. Even when used for intensive work, AWS made them more cost-effective. These types are ideal for intensive computing use cases, such as high-performance web servers, media transcoding, scientific modeling, dedicated ad servers, gaming servers, and batch processing workloads.

3. Memory-Optimized AWS Instances (z1d, High-memory, R5, R5a, R5b, R5n, R6g, X1, X1e, X2gd): Memory-optimized instances are geared for workloads that require big data sets to be processed in memory.

The memory-optimized r instance family is ideal for in-memory databases, such as those used in data mining and analytics, real-time processing of unstructured big data, and Hadoop/Spark clusters. The R instance family can be used to handle massive workloads in memory without causing delays. For massive big data processing, the X instance family supports high-performance databases like HANA and SAP, as well as enterprise-grade databases with in-memory databases.

4. Accelerated Computing AWS Instances (Vt1, F1, G3, G4ad, G4dn, Inf1, P2, P3, P4)

This instance family can provide sustained high performance, which is far better than what is attainable with software operating on CPUs. Hardware accelerators, sometimes known as co-processors, are used in accelerated computing instances.

5. Storage Optimized AWS Instances(H1, D2, D3, D3en, I3, I3en)

This class of instances is EBS-optimized and Enhanced Networking allows them to handle applications that demand sequential read and write access to massive data sets. They’re designed to give applications tens of thousands of low-latency, random I/O operations per second (IOPS). Big data processing clusters, MapReduce workloads, and distributed file systems like MapR-FS and HDFS all benefit from storage-optimized instance families.

What Are Other Factors To Consider When Choosing AWS Instance Types?

Families and generations aren’t the only things to think about when it comes to AWS EC2 spending. Here’s a quick rundown of what else you should keep in mind.

  1. AWS Instance Sizes

The size of an instance is typically one of the most important factors for instance pricing

All AWS instance types come in a myriad of sizes, including:

·       Nano

·       Micro

·       Small

·       Medium

·       Large

·       XLarge

·       2XLarge

·       4XLarge

·       6XLarge

·       8XLarge

·       16XLarge

·       32XLarge

2. Fixed vs. Burstable Performance Instances: Burstable performance instances give a baseline level of CPU performance while also allowing you to “burst” over it when your applications require it. Small databases, web servers, and developer projects are examples of applications that require fast processing in bursts but slow down at other times. Fixed performance instances, on the other hand, allow you to maintain a high level of CPU performance throughout time. The fixed-performance instance types are excellent for high-volume websites and video encoding.

3. EBS-optimized Instances: EBS-optimized instances allow EC2 instances to fully use the IOPS allocated to an EBS volume. They ensure your EBS volumes run optimally by providing dedicated throughput (500-4,000 Mbps) for your EC2 instances and Amazon EBS volumes.

When you utilize G3, C4, P2, D2, R6g, C5, C6, M4, M5, and M6g, you automatically obtain EBS-enabled instances. Otherwise, every time you use one of your EBS-optimized instances with another EC2 instance, you will be charged by the hour.

4. AWS Relational Database Storage (Amazon RDS) Instances: Other than EC2, AWS Relational Database Storage (Amazon RDA) also provides three different types of instances based on memory and processing power. RDS instances, like Amazon EC2 instances, come in a variety of sizes. To avoid going over your AWS monthly budget, you’ll want to rightsize them as well.

·       General Purpose (db.M4, db.M5, db.M6g)

·       Memory Optimized (db.R4, db.R5, db.R6g, db.X1, db.X1e, db.z1d)

·       Burstable (db.T2, db.T3)

5. AWS Instance Pricing :

If you’re utilizing paid instances, bear in mind that AWS rates change regularly, so keep a watch on them. Amazon EC2 offers a free trial and four paid pricing options. You must utilize only AWS Micro instances during the free trial, with no more than 750 hours of Linux or Windows t2.micro instances. The following is how Amazon’s EC2 pricing works:

· On-Demand instances give you the flexibility to scale up or down your compute resources according to your application’s requirements. You can also pay by the hour or by the second, so you’re not restricted by a usage limit. This relieves you of the costs and hassles of planning, purchasing, and maintaining hardware, and converts what are typically high fixed costs into considerably lower variable costs. Just bear in mind that EC2 instances are constantly operating, thus AWS will continue to charge you per hour or second until you terminate them. This price option may be appropriate if your apps consume varying amounts of resources at different times.

· Spot Instances provide EC2 users with access to Amazon EC2 spare capacity for a tenth of the cost of an ON-DEMAND instance. With Spot Instances, you pay the Spot price that’s in effect for the period your instances are running. Prices are determined by the number of unused instances and the demand for them. They’re also frequently available at off-peak hours, so you’ll have to run your instances to take advantage of them. AWS, on the other hand, can revoke the instances with a two-minute notice if they choose to. The good news is that you can put your work on hold and come back to it later.

· You can also utilize your AWS Savings Plan with other AWS instances, Lambda functions, or Fargate. When you choose the Amazon Savings Plan, you can commit to a specific monthly spend rather than an instance family. A dedicated EC2 server is provided via dedicated hosts. The physical EC2 server is now exclusively for your usage. The plan is available on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. You may also purchase it as a Reservation for up to 70% less than the On-Demand option. If you’re worried about maintaining compliance, this might be the best option.

· Per Second Billing is maybe the most equitable because you only pay for what you use. Per-Second Billing does not charge you for the seconds or minutes your instances are idle, unlike On-Demand billing, which charges you for every hour your instances are running.

How OpsLyft can help?

We recognize how perplexing and difficult a decision this is. We hope that this outline of AWS instance types helps you in determining which ones are most suited to your computing requirements. We hope that this outline of AWS instance types helps you in determining which ones are most suited to your computing requirements. We recognize, however, how perplexing and difficult a decision this is.

OpsLyft assists you in making sense of your complex cloud spend and AWS bill by allowing you to distinguish between instances by gathering data from multiple AWS services.  Schedule a demo and take a look at the solutions we have built to handle the same for you.

We will give you a complete walkthrough of it and tell you more about how it can benefit your organization. Feel free to contact us for other DevOps-related queries at

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