Goldilocks and the Amazon m4.medium

by | 30 Jan 2018

Once there was a little girl named Goldilocks who used cloud computing.

Starting out she launched a C5.18xlarge instance but at over $3.00 per hour, she realized it would cost more per month than the rent of her little cottage in the woods.

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Next she tried a t2.nano, but try as she might, 500 meg of memory was not for the Photoshop work she wanted to do on her photo library, comprised of montages of her friends the three bears.

Then Goldilocks fired up an m4.medium, it did the trick, with multiple cores, and enough memory to run here retail site.

That is pretty much the story. When you get started in the cloud, you often don’t know how much CPU, how much memory, how much net bandwidth – and the “M”s feel “JUST RIGHT”.

Once you get experienced then the banquet of instance-type offering start to make sense as you optimize your workloads.

Why use an M family instance in AWS?

Image source: Botmetric 2017 survey

In Amazon AWS EC2 is the most used AWS service. According to a Botmetric report , 46% of EC2 usage is with the M family and M4 is the most popular for production instances. So why do AWS users keep coming back to M family instances?

Behavior – traditional environment you were locked into a specific hardware configuration. Many organizations treat cloud similarly despite the simple and cost effective elasticity of cloud to profile and load test different instance sizes. People start with the general purpose M family, set it and forget it.

Unknown Requirements – selecting instance types that match the application needs is an obvious advantage to using a cloud like AWS with may instance family and size choices. This of course means the DevOps or OpsDev group deploying the cloud application knows their application components’ resource requirements enough to make decisions on specific instance types.

Reserved Instances – the fewer instance types and sizes included in a reserved instance contract, the easier it is for cost allocation. Buy a bunch of cheap M family instances and use them.

Cost Efficiency – R and M family instance sizes rank at the top of the chart when looking at both Compute Efficiency (Compute ECU / $-hr) and Memory Efficiency (Memory GB / $-hr)

Known Resources – T family instances would be more popular if not for the known of when the compute credits run out. AWS addressed this with the “unlimited” option. Expect T family to become more popular as more users become aware.

Evaluation of Alternatives – M family instance sizes map most closely to the generic instance/VM sizes of other clouds. When making a purchase decision the M family is the easiest to use when seeking out alternatives for price/performance comparisons.

Access to Extras – M4 instance sizes allow for optional Enhanced Networking and EBS-optimized.

This post was a team effort, written by Patrick Kerpan and Ryan Koop. Our favorite AWS instance type is t2 large with the t2 unlimited option. According to Botmetric, 83% of the non production workloads run on T family.