At AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Services announced that it is now offering Arm CPU-based instances for the first time.

The 'Graviton' 64-bit processor was designed in-house; it was created by Annapurna Labs, a chip company Amazon acquired for $350m in 2015. Annapurna also developed two generations of 'Nitro' ASICs that run networking and storage tasks in Amazon's data centers.

The Cloud Arms race

AWS Logo
– Sebastian Moss

“With today’s introduction of A1 instances, we’re providing customers with a cost optimized way to run distributed applications like containerized microservices," Matt Garman, VP of compute services at AWS, said.

"A1 instances are powered by our new custom-designed AWS Graviton processors with the Arm instruction set that leverages our expertise in building hyperscale cloud platforms for over a decade."

The A1 instances are available now in the US East (Northern Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon) and Europe (Ireland) regions as on-demand, reserved, spot and dedicated instances, and in dedicated host form. The chip is supported by Amazon Linux 2, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Ubuntu, with support for more operating systems on the way.

There are five flavors of A1 EC2 instances - from the a1.medium with 1 vCPU, 2GB of RAM, up to 3.5Gbps EBS and 10Gbps network bandwidth, priced at $0.0255 per hour on-demand, to a1.4xlarge with 16 vCPUs and 32GB of RAM, priced at $0.408 per hour.

Depending on the workload and configuration, AWS claims that A1 instances could be up to 45 percent cheaper than its x86-based virtual machines. Image hosting platform SmugMug said that it saw 40 percent cost savings from a shift to A1.

Earlier this month, AWS announced that it would offer instances based on AMD Epyc CPUs, something that could inconvenience its long-time partner Intel, the dominant supplier of server chips.