back to article Amazon’s cloudy Macs cost $25.99 a day. 77 days of usage would buy you your own Mac

If you plan to use one of Amazon Web Services’ new bare-metal Mac instances in its cloud for more than 77 days a year, you may be better off just buying the Mac Mini instead. The Register makes that suggestion after AWS revealed the price for its Mac instances: $1.083 an hour, $25.99 a day, or about $9,490 a year. You’ll also …

  1. N2

    Elsewhere

    About $35 per month?

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Stop

    Always do the sums

    On-premise tin may be cheaper than a long term usage of cloud services. Always do the sums and see if the numbers stack up. Don't just jump to cloud* "because"

    * Actually this applies to all the latest vendor fads.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Always do the sums

      Its usually quick to do the math.

      Will you be using the hardware you are renting for more than 3 months*. If so, the hardware is cheaper to buy yourself, unless you were intending on replacing that hardware within that usage period (3 months use over say a 3-5 year period).

      *Excluding power etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Always do the sums

        Also keep in mind how much of the time you're actually going to use the hardware. If you're only planning on using it for a 40 hr/wk job, then that machine is being used less than 1/4 of the time. A year of work time (about 2000 hrs/yr) comes out to $2,166. That's still more than the cost of the machine, but it's a lot more reasonable. (Though the computer should probably last a few years, not just one.)

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Always do the sums

          Indeed. And of the use-case is using the Mac to test cross-platform code or a website build, it only be required for an hour a day - or week.

          I'm not sure that the claim of 'cheaper to buy a Mac if you use it for 77 days' aids clarity, when that's based on using it 24 hours a day.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Always do the sums

            That's important when calculating costs for cloud services which can actually be spun up and shut down in an hour, but it isn't the same for these Macs. AWS requires that you use the Mac for a minimum of 24 hours. That means that, if you need it for an hour per day and five days per week, you have to pay for almost 120 hours (technically, you could cut off the morning of Monday and the afternoon of Friday if you can nicely schedule which hour you need it each day. So approximately a hundred hours rental for the Mac versus five for a different VM, which leads to a very different cost calculation.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Always do the sums

          One of the costs, which is missing, is the cost of maintaining consistency of environment.

          Having your own machine, means you can load it up, configure it and leave it on the shelf when not needed. This gives two benefits, firstly you can take if off the shelf whenever you want, for however long as you want and secondly what you take off the shelf is what you put back on the shelf from its last outing.

          My understanding of the AWS instance, is that what you take of the shelf will be a clean machine, which will thus need to be rebuilt, everytime you take it off the shelf... Additionally, this process is likely to pull the latest versions of components, which depending on what you are trying to achieve might not be what you wanted.

          So looking at this, I suspect that the AWS service actually compliments the inhouse systems, which is effectively where Amazon are currently positioning it.

        3. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Always do the sums

          Aren't these baremetal Macs, effectively co-located? If so then you can't save money by shutting them down.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Always do the sums

          And what about the residual value of your asset?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Always do the sums

            Let's see:

            Amazon: buy credits hourly (assume you can, another comment suggests minimum unit is one day), use 2,000 hours / year: 25.99/24*200 = 2,165.83.

            Amazon: buy credits daily (as suggested by another comment, for completeness), use 250 days in one year: 25.99*250 = 6,497.50.

            Buy the computer, use freely for one year, use standard depreciation over 36 months: 1,999.00 / 36 * 12 = 666.33.

      2. Cuddles

        Re: Always do the sums

        "*Excluding power etc."

        Power, maintenance, physical space to actually put it, security... quite a few fairly important things are hidden inside that "etc.". The raw cost of just the hardware may only be a few months of rental, but a small business operating out of rented office space that needs to expand their lease to fit an extra desk and PC could find the effective cost being an awful lot more. Same if it requires additional personnel for maintenance, additional security measures against theft, higher insurance premiums, and so on.

        If you're big enough that you don't really notice the additional overhead from dropping in an extra PC or two, then three months is a decent enough rule of thumb for considering the cost of the hardware. But depending on your size and circumstances, the incidental costs of those etcs can potentially be many times larger.

        1. Annihilator

          Re: Always do the sums

          Spot on. In big windows organisations, the cost of actually running a Mac can be much larger than the cost of the box. Having to support Macs as well as Windows on-premise is nothing to be sniffed at - not to mention incorporating it into any security/monitoring/patching processes. It's certainly not a flat one-off fee.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Always do the sums

            I thought that as far as Macs were concerned supporting the box itself actually is the cost of the box - if anything goes wrong you're supposed to get another.

            More seriously, if you're concerned about the security and monitoring of a box do those concerns really go away for one that's connected to your network but not within your physical reach? As to patching this is entirely out of your control and you have to rely on the third party and this particular option, AIUI, is specifically not on the current OS version.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Always do the sums

            You'll be using some sort of MDM for your Windows laptops anyway so sticking Meraki or the like on the Mac is not a big deal.

            I know some IT staff are willfully ignorant when it comes to Mac devices but that's on them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Always do the sums

          >a small business operating out of rented office space that needs to expand their lease to fit an extra >desk and PC could find the effective cost being an awful lot more

          It's a Mac Mini, it will fit just fine on a shelf or on top of a filling cabinet. If you're even thinking about accessing one through the cloud then you don't need a screen or keyboard.

    2. Steve K

      Re: Always do the sums

      The actual sums depend on quite a few factors.

      You do need to factor in things like Reserved Instance discounts if locking in for a longer period, egress charges (look at the recent University that fell foul of this)

      Also bear in mind that you can set non-Production environments to shut down when not in use to save on AWS/Azure etc. instance charges if on a Pay-As-You-Go tariff.

      I am surprised at the number of end-clients not doing this!

  3. deadlockvictim

    But is a cloudy Mac actually a Mac?

    My guess is that people who want to use a Mac will want the actual bare-metal at their side, rather than the Mac as a Service online.

    Adobe's Creative Cloud has cheered up Photoshop-botherers no end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But is a cloudy Mac actually a Mac?

      Agreed. Perhaps in the future things will change with the new M1 CPU, but for now Macs are almost never used as servers, always as desktops and you can't do video editing etc through the cloud so I don't really see the point of this service. Perhaps Amazon are simply hedging their bets.

      Re the cost - isn't that the same for most cloud services? The point isn't to get hardware on the cheap (unless you only need it for days or weeks) , its to not have to bother to set up, maintain and admin it all yourself as salaried employees to do that far exceed the cost of the hardware in the long term.

  4. Gunboat Diplomat

    Not just about cost

    I imagine it makes sense for some companies during the current situation - it's cheaper to buy your own but what if you've got multiple devs/testers working from home and due to lockdown/social distancing? Renting Macs on the cloud is probably a reasonable short term solution. Buying a Mac for everyone may not make sense and you may not want to send people to an office or data centre to set them all up.

    1. TonyJ

      Re: Not just about cost

      "...I imagine it makes sense for some companies during the current situation - it's cheaper to buy your own but what if you've got multiple devs/testers working from home and due to lockdown/social distancing? Renting Macs on the cloud is probably a reasonable short term solution. Buying a Mac for everyone may not make sense and you may not want to send people to an office or data centre to set them all up..."

      Not really. If they're going to be used to the extent that they cost as much as above (but as another poster pointed out, you really want to be using intelligent provisioning of all machines in the cloud to power them off when not in use) then it would make more sense to put them in an office (or even data centre) and provide some means to remote control into them.

      Costs can soon spiral if you don't manage your cloudy estate properly - the two things I usually see overlooked are the above power management* but also making good estimates of egress data costs.

      *It's been a while since I looked at it but MS's Azure costs calculator used to default to 40 hours a week, and if I recall correctly, also made the assumption that you'd be re-using existing on-premise licenses to further bring the costs down.

      I worked for a large retail outfit and had the devil's own time convincing their all-knowing EA that buy Citrix cloud licensing did not provide Azure licenses. Back of the fag-packet costings meant over £400k short.

      I should've let the arsehole go ahead and put the order in rather than pulling him out of the hole he'd dug for himself but that kind of overspend at that point in time would've put the whole company at risk.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Not just about cost

      " an M1-powered Mac Mini with comparable spec costs $1,099." taken from a post below...

      that works out to 100 p/month per dev to do his work, for the first year, or if you prefer to spread that cost over two years 50 p/month, cause you know the new M2 chips will be out by then. Resale value of these units will be high too, offsetting the cost of the next gen.

      Hopefully your dev is banking a bit more than that?

  5. Chz

    M1 Equivalent

    " an M1-powered Mac Mini with comparable spec costs $1,099."

    I don't think that 16GB and 32GB are "comparable" when the likely use is software development.

    If there were an M1-powered Mac with 32GB of RAM, we'd have already bought a dozen. But there isn't, and that's quite possibly why Amazon is still using the Intel-powered models.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "comparable"

      Yeah, well, you know what we mean: close enough.

      C.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: M1 Equivalent

      > I don't think that 16GB and 32GB are "comparable" when the likely use is software development.

      Nor is 16 GB RAM on Intel comparable to 16 GB on Apple's M1, given the unified memory architecture and very fast swap... of course no purchase decision should be made until made until reading the accounts of actual software developers using the M1 series.

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Possibly a good example?

    "AWS has aimed its Macs at developers who want to test and sign apps developed for Apple devices."

    Provided the daily rate can be used literally for odd days now and then, this is possibly a compelling example of the real benefits of cloud. (They're often hard to find). Testing and signing an Apple app occasionally would not merit the purchase price of a Mac.

    Way back before the flood, we used a pay per device (in those days postal) service for programming prototype logic chips - a very similar if clunkier concept. Only later when volume grew was it worth splashing out big bucks for compilers and programmers.

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Possibly a good example?

      Sign apps? Okay, makes sense.

      Test apps? Only Mojave & Catalina are supported. No doubt developers will want to make sure their latest bits work on Apple's latest OS too. Good luck.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If your systems process more than 1 byte per decade, "the cloud" will be way more expensive and way less reliable.

    Fact.

  8. thondwe

    Azure Macs

    Don't think Azure has virtual or physical Macs - docs suggest they just have ways to bring your own Mac Tin into their development pipelines...

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Azure Macs

      You'd be wrong. Pipelines has Mac agents you can run your build on.

      1. thondwe

        Re: Azure Macs

        OK misread the docs - in that case looks Azure Macs have been a thing since 2017???

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    DTBYO

    Days to buy your own. A new and useful metric for renting anything, cloudy or not.

  10. Mr Dogshit

    The only Mac worth buying

    is a big Mac

  11. Matthew Taylor

    They should charge more

    $1000 a month would still be steal, for the use of such a wondrous machine.

  12. andyheat

    “Azure has had cloudy Macs for months”

    Really? I can’t find anything on Azure’s website that is the equivalent of this - ie. a full Mac virtual machine.

    There is even a feedback item still open:

    https://feedback.azure.com/forums/216843-virtual-machines/suggestions/13826655-mac-os-x-virtual-machines

  13. Happytodiscuss

    Mac development support on AWS is for automotive console development testing?

    In a related Reg article, (Whoa BlackBerry: Firm hooks up with AWS on cloud telematics platform for vehicle data) the news is BlackBerry QNX has been integrated into AWS using the IVY platform. QNX is generally regarded as the brain pan for the main control applications being developed for automotive. Like there may be an entertainment domain, a 'pilot' console, an ECU (combustion/engine/transmission control centre), LIDAR (navigation, collision avoidance), environmental domain, and an orchestrator and external communications domain.(QNX). The IVY platform is AWS resident and probably consists of something like pub-sub bits and pieces communicating with vehicles anywhere that use QNX as the host application

    BlackBerry QNX is already hosted in about 175 million vehicles while Apple developed applications are found in far fewer than QNX can lay claim to, and probably far less than Android. Android is already supported within AWS. iOS being resident was the missing piece.

    Just a thought, that while Apple hooking up with QNX on AWS is for certain not the only reason for Amazon's announcement, it could be one.

    The tie that binds is Apple employee Dan Dodge hired about 2 years ago. He was the co-founder of QNX and probably wasn't hired by Apple for his Carnegie-Mellon smarts

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