Monthly Archives: May 2010

Is Amazon EC2 Really What You Need?

Amazon AWS LogoI like the concept of Amazon EC2, which allows you to rent computing power by the hour. Amazon AWSTheir entry level spec is called ‘small’, and costs $0.12 per hour for a Windows server based instance at their cheapest data center in Virginia USA, it provides you with the following:

    1.7 GB memory
    1 EC2 Compute Unit (1 virtual core with 1 EC2 Compute Unit)
    160 GB instance storage

Ok, everyone knows what 1.7GB of memory is, and 160GB of disk space. But what is an EC2 Compute Unit?

They describe that as “equivalent CPU capacity of a 1.0-1.2 GHz 2007 Opteron or 2007 Xeon processor”, which unfortunately does not help much.

I set out to find out exactly how much power that is, by using PassMark’s PerformanceTest 7.0. By running that on a few machines I had access to, and Amazon’s small EC2 I could get an idea how much processing power you can get for $0.12 per hour (about $87 per month). Here are the results:

Core i7 920 @ 2.667Ghz – Passmark Score 5,706
Intel Dual-Core E5200 @ 2.50GHz – Passmark Score 1,574
Intel Pentium Dual E2180 @ 2.00GHz – Passmark Score 1,270
Intel Atom D510 @ 1.66GHz – Passmark Score 663
Amazon Small @ 1 Ec2 – Passmark Score 343

These scores are based on PassMark’s CPU test only, and were not designed to test all aspects of the computer. With so much variation between disks, network and video performance I was really only interested in the raw CPU power.

The results were disappointing to say the least. You can purchase an entire computer based on Intel’s Atom processor for $300 – $400 on the market right now (no monitor or keyboard). That much financial outlay will get you a machine with nearly twice the CPU power of Amazon’s small EC2.

It would take you nearly 17 of these Amazon small EC2 computers to provide you with the same level of CPU power of a single i7 920 processor. So, if you want the i7 computing power on Amazon’s cloud it would cost you $1,468.80 per month. With numbers like that you really need to do your homework, if you require something that is CPU intensive for long periods vs. burst usage for only a few hours you may be better off buying than renting.