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Amazon EC2, in a nutshell, provides resizable computing capacity in the cloud, allowing users to launch as many or as few virtual servers as they need. This versatile service facilitates a myriad of tasks from hosting websites and web applications to running large-scale data processing tasks. But the true value of EC2 is best leveraged when organizations understand the different types of EC2 instances and how they align with their specific business objectives. In this article, we aim to demystify the various AWS EC2 instance types. We’ll delve into what AWS EC2 is and explore its key use-cases. We’ll elucidate why different EC2 instance types exist, and provide an overview of each one, focusing on General Purpose, Compute Optimized, Memory Optimized, Accelerated Computing, Storage Optimized, and HPC Optimized instances. Finally, we’ll offer a comparative analysis of these types, aiding you in understanding which instance type best aligns with your unique requirements.

What is Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud? (Amazon EC2)

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a robust component of Amazon’s vast cloud computing platform, offering secure, scalable, and resizable computing power tailored for virtually any workload. It is designed with reliability in mind, providing a service level agreement (SLA) commitment of 99.99% availability. Amazon EC2 | AWS Architecture Blog, ec2, instance types,

How does AWS EC2 work?

At its core, EC2 provides a broad and deep compute platform with more than 600 instance types. These options deliver a wide choice of processors, storage, networking, operating systems, and purchase models, allowing you to match the needs of your workload effectively. Uniquely, AWS is the only major cloud provider supporting Intel, AMD, and ARM processors. It is also the only provider offering on-demand EC2 Mac instances and 400 Gbps Ethernet networking. EC2 instances’ versatility, combined with flexible options like AWS Graviton-based instances, Amazon EC2 Spot instances, and AWS Savings Plans, empowers you to optimize both performance and cost. Amazon EC2 allows you to scale your capacity within minutes, thereby catering to dynamic workload demands seamlessly.

Common EC2 Instance Use Cases

Running cloud-native and enterprise applications: Amazon EC2 provides secure, reliable, high-performance, and cost-effective compute infrastructure to run various applications. From small-scale cloud-native apps to massive enterprise systems, EC2 supports an array of business needs. Scaling for High Performance Computing (HPC) applications: The on-demand infrastructure and vast capacity offered by EC2 allow you to run HPC applications faster and more cost-effectively. It provides the resources necessary to handle compute-intensive tasks, enabling you to scale as per the application demands. This is especially helpful when using compute services like AWS EMR. Developing for Apple platforms: Amazon EC2 supports on-demand macOS workloads, allowing you to build, test, and sign Apple-compatible applications. With EC2, you can access environments in minutes, scale capacity as needed, and benefit from AWS’s pay-as-you-go pricing. Training and deploying Machine Learning (ML) applications: Amazon EC2 delivers purpose-built compute, networking, and storage services that optimize price performance for ML projects. This means you can train your machine learning models with the best price performance for training and deploy them at the lowest cost per inference instances in the cloud.

Why are there Different AWS EC2 Instance Types?

In the world of cloud computing, one size does not fit all. Applications come with a diverse range of computational needs, some demanding more CPU power, others requiring more memory, and some needing specialized hardware like GPU for performing specific tasks. This is where the variety of AWS EC2 instance types comes into play. EC2 instance types are essentially different categories of virtual servers that are tailored for varying use-cases based on their hardware capabilities. These instance types have been designed to better align with the requirements of different workloads, offering a mix of memory, CPU, storage, and networking capacity.

Different AWS EC2 Instance Types, How to Choose the one Ideal for your needs

Navigating the vast landscape of AWS EC2 instance types can initially seem overwhelming, but it’s imperative to understand your specific application requirements to make an optimal choice. This section delves into the details of various EC2 instance types and provides insights into their ideal use cases, helping you select the one that aligns best with your unique needs.

General Purpose Instances

General Purpose instances on AWS EC2 strike a balance between compute, memory, and networking  resources. These instances are versatile and can be employed for an array of diverse workloads. In essence, if your application utilizes compute, memory, and networking resources in nearly equal measures, like web servers or code repositories, a General Purpose instance is an ideal fit.

M7g Instances

One of the notable General Purpose instance types is the M7g instance. Equipped with Arm-based AWS Graviton3 processors, these instances offer excellent price performance for general-purpose applications. Key features of M7g instances include:
  • 20% higher enhanced networking bandwidth compared to M6g instances.
  • EBS-optimized by default.
  • Support for Elastic Fabric Adapter (EFA) on m7g.16xlarge and m7g.metal instances.
  • The AWS Nitro System, is a combination of dedicated hardware and lightweight hypervisor, enhancing security and performance.

Use Cases

General Purpose instances, such as the M7g, are widely used for applications built on open-source software, including application servers, microservices, gaming servers, midsize data stores, and caching fleets. They also find extensive use in services related to web servers, mobile or gaming development environments or apps, and enterprise-level applications like ERP or CRM. Moreover, General Purpose instances offer both Fixed and Burstable instances, providing the flexibility to scale up your overall computing power when necessary, albeit at an extra cost. For those new to cloud computing or AWS, General Purpose instances, with their balance of computing power, memory, and storage, are a solid choice for a majority of AWS workloads, making them among the most popular and widely used EC2 instance types.

Compute Optimized Instances

Compute Optimized instances cater to compute-intensive applications that require high-performance  processors. This instance type shines in situations where computing power is paramount, making them ideal for a variety of workloads such as batch processing, media transcoding, high-performance web servers, high-performance computing (HPC), scientific modeling, dedicated gaming servers, ad server engines, machine learning inference, and other compute-bound applications.

C7g Instances

The C7g instances, a subset of Compute Optimized instances, harness the power of Arm-based AWS Graviton3 processors, delivering superior price-performance for compute-intensive applications. Key features of C7g instances include:
  • AWS Graviton3 processors, custom-built for maximum performance.
  • The latest DDR5 memory, offering 50% more bandwidth compared to DDR4.
  • 20% higher enhanced networking bandwidth compared to C6g instances.
  • EBS-optimized by default.

Types of Compute Optimized Instances

AWS offers two major types of Compute-optimized instances: the C5/C5n instances and the C6/C6g instances.

i. C5/C5n Instances

The C5 series is tailor-made for applications that demand raw computing power, such as online gaming, scientific modeling, and media transcoding. Powered by the Intel Xeon Platinum processor, the C5 instances have shown a 25% speed improvement compared to their C4 predecessors. A variant of the C5, known as the C5d instance, allows you to physically connect the NVMe-based SSD device to the host server, providing block-level storage for the entire instance lifetime.

ii. C6/C6g Instances

The C6 series, powered by the AWS Graviton2 processors, is designed for intensive and advanced applications such as high-performance computing, video encoding, ad serving, and distributed analytics. With the C6g instance, you can achieve a 40% improvement in price-performance compared to the C5 series.

Use Cases

Compute Optimized instances, including the C5, C5n, C6, C6g, and C7g, excel in scenarios where compute resources are heavily needed. Whether you’re operating a high-performance web server, running scientific models, hosting a dedicated gaming server, or working on machine learning inference, these instances can provide the high-speed processing you require. Furthermore, C5 and C5n instances are specifically well-suited for applications such as online gaming, scientific modeling, and media transcoding, while the C6 and C6g instances perform exceptionally well for high-performance computing, video encoding, ad serving, and distributed analytics. The versatility and raw power of Compute Optimized instances make them an excellent choice for those with high-performance requirements, delivering exceptional performance for compute-intensive tasks.

Memory Optimized Instances

AWS offers a variety of Memory-Optimized instances, each catering to specific workload requirements. Here are the key types of Memory-Optimized instances:

i. R5/R5a/R5n Instances

The R5 series is apt for workloads with high memory needs, such as high-performance databases, real-time Big data analytics, and large in-memory cache applications. The R5 and R5a instances are powered by Intel and AMD processors, respectively. They also benefit from the AWS Nitro system, which provides easy access to the server’s computing and memory resources. Compared to the predecessor R4 type, R5 instances provide 5% more memory per vCPU and a 10% price improvement per GiB over R4.

ii. R6g/R6gd Instances

R6 instances, powered by AWS Graviton2 processor, are well-suited for high-memory workloads such as open-source databases (e.g., MySQL) and in-memory caching (e.g., KeyDB). The R6gd instance allows for the physical connection of the local NVMe-based SSD drive to the host server, enabling block-level storage.

iii. X1/X1e Instances

The X1 family of instances is powered by the Intel Xeon processor, designed to provide high computational memory for memory-intensive applications like SAP HANA, Apache Spark, and high-performance computing. Among all EC2 instances, the X1e instance type offers the highest memory-to-compute ratio at the lowest price per GiB of RAM.

iv. High Memory Instances

True to their name, High Memory instances provide the highest capacity of RAM – ranging from 6TB to 24TB in a single instance. These instances are commonly used for running high in-memory databases, including the deployment of SAP HANA database to the cloud platform. It is important to note that high-memory instances are only available on dedicated hosts, where users need to commit to running instances for a 3-year period.

Use Cases

Memory Optimized instances are ideal for memory-intensive applications that require rapid data processing. They are widely used in Big Data analytics or applications running on platforms like Hadoop or Apache Spark. They also perform exceptionally well for high-performance databases, real-time Big Data analytics, large in-memory cache applications, and open-source databases. High Memory instances are perfect for running high in-memory databases or deploying large databases like SAP HANA to the cloud.

Accelerated Computing Instances

Accelerated Computing instances on AWS EC2 provide additional hardware accelerators, such as Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), to deliver high throughput for compute-intensive applications. This instance type is particularly well-suited for applications that demand parallel processing, such as graphics processing, floating-point calculations, or data pattern matching.

P4 Instances

Among these, Amazon EC2 P4 instances represent the latest generation of GPU-based instances and offer the highest performance for machine learning training and high-performance computing in the cloud. They are powered by 2nd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors and come equipped with up to 8 NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs, providing high computing power. Key features of P4 instances include:
  • 3.0 GHz 2nd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors.
  • Up to 8 NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs.
  • 400 Gbps instance networking with support for Elastic Fabric Adapter (EFA) and NVIDIA GPUDirect RDMA.
  • 600 GB/s peer-to-peer GPU communication with NVIDIA NVSwitch.
  • Deployment in EC2 UltraClusters consisting of over 4,000 NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs.

Types of Accelerated Computing Instances

Several types of Accelerated Computing instances cater to various computational needs:

i. P3 Instances

P3 instances employ up to 8 NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, supported by high-frequency Intel Xeon processors, offering high network bandwidth and supporting peer-based GPU communication through NVLink.

ii. P2 Instances

P2 instances, designed for general-purpose GPU compute applications, feature NVIDIA K80 GPUs and are powered by Intel Xeon processors, offering capabilities such as high-performance networking and double-precision floating-point calculations.

iii. Inf1 Instances

Inf1 instances are equipped with 16 AWS Inferential machine learning chips and are powered by 2nd generation Intel Xeon processors, offering low latency and cost-effective performance for machine learning applications.

iv. G3 and G4 Instances

G3 instances, designed for graphics-intensive applications, leverage the NVIDIA Tesla M60 GPU, while G4 instances utilize the NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU. Both are powered by high-frequency Intel Xeon processors and support NVIDIA Grid Virtual Workstation features for high-performance graphics workloads.

v. F1 Instances

F1 instances offer hardware acceleration using FPGAs. They feature NVMe SSD storage, support for enhanced networking, and are powered by high-frequency Intel Xeon processors, making them ideal for custom application development and deployment.

Use Cases

Accelerated Computing instances serve a broad range of applications. P3 and P2 instances are ideal for deep-learning applications and high-performance databases. Inf1 instances cater to low-latency machine learning applications. G3 and G4 instances handle graphics-intensive applications, and F1 instances are perfect for custom applications that can leverage hardware acceleration provided by FPGAs.

Storage Optimized Instances

The EC2 Storage Optimized instances of AWS, specifically crafted for high-demand storage tasks,  deliver powerful performance in terms of sequential read and write operations on sizeable local datasets. These instances are finely tuned to manage thousands of low-latency, random I/O operations per second (IOPS), proving indispensable for certain application types.

Im4gn Instances

Exemplifying this category, Amazon’s EC2 Im4gn instances are built around AWS Graviton2 processors, providing unparalleled price performance for storage-centric workloads. These instances, compared to their I3 counterparts, offer up to 40% superior price performance and a considerable 44% drop in cost per TB of storage. Key attributes of Im4gn instances include:
  • AWS Graviton2 processors at the core
  • A maximum of 30 TB of NVMe SSD instance storage using AWS Nitro SSDs, offering up to 60% lower I/O latency and up to 75% reduced latency variability compared to I3 and I3en instances
  • Optimized to function best with workloads equivalent to 4 GB of memory per vCPU
  • 2x NVMe SSD storage density per vCPU compared to I3 instances
  • Capable of up to 100 Gbps of network bandwidth with ENA-based Enhanced Networking
  • Support for Elastic Fabric Adapter on im4gn.16xlarge
  • Provision of up to 38 Gbps of bandwidth to the Amazon Elastic Block Store
  • Support for Torn Write Prevention (TWP), enhancing performance and reducing latencies with database workloads such as MySQL and MariaDB.

Types of Storage Optimized Instances

The variety of Storage Optimized instances caters to different storage demands:

i. D2 Instances

Equipped with 48TB of HDD storage, D2 instances serve high-density storage needs, providing excellent sequential read/write operations for extensive datasets. Optimized for applications like MPP data warehousing, MapReduce, and Hadoop computing, and log processing, D2 instances deliver the best cost per disk throughput on Amazon EC2.

ii. H1 Instances

Offering up to 16TB HDD storage, H1 instances, driven by Intel Xeon processors, ensure high disk throughput and enhanced networking up to 25Gbps. They are most suitable for data-intensive applications requiring high throughput and sequential access to extensive data volumes.

iii. l3/ l3en Instances

L3 instances offer lower latency SSD storage compared to HDD-based instances. These instances excel at providing high IOPS at lower costs due to their low latency and superior random I/O performance. L3 instances are ideally suited for high-frequency OLTP systems, relational databases, and caching for in-memory databases like Redis.

Use Cases

Storage Optimized instances are geared towards applications that require high transaction volumes and low latency workloads such as in-memory databases, data warehousing, and data analytics. They are also appropriate for high storage requirements in applications like log processing, ensuring optimal performance under demanding conditions.

HPC Optimized Instances

High Performance Computing (HPC) optimized instances on AWS EC2 are purpose-built to deliver the most cost-effective performance for running HPC workloads at scale on AWS. They are ideal for applications that take advantage of high-performance processors, such as large, complex simulations and deep learning workloads.

Hpc6id Instances

Amazon EC2 Hpc6id instances are designed for memory-bound and data-intensive HPC workloads. They are perfect for high-demand tasks such as finite element analysis (FEA) for crash simulations, seismic reservoir simulations, and structural simulations.

Key features of Hpc6id instances:

  • Up to 3.5 GHz all-core turbo frequency, 64 cores of Intel Xeon Scalable processors with 5 GB/s per vCPU of memory bandwidth and 1024 GiB of memory.
  • Elastic Fabric Adapter (EFA) enabled for inter-node network bandwidth speeds of up to 200 Gbps, offering increased performance for network-intensive applications.
  • Simultaneous multi-threading is disabled to optimize performance and cluster management.
  • Powered by the AWS Nitro System, a combination of dedicated hardware and lightweight hypervisor.

Hpc6a Instances

Amazon EC2 Hpc6a instances are optimized for tightly coupled, compute-intensive, high-performance computing (HPC) workloads. They offer cost-efficient performance and are designed for workloads such as computational fluid dynamics, molecular dynamics, and weather forecasting. Moreover, these instances excel for workloads that can leverage improved network throughput and packet-rate performance.

Use Cases

HPC-optimized instances are a perfect fit for applications that take advantage of high-performance processors. They are optimal for complex simulations and deep learning workloads. Hpc6id instances are primarily designed for memory-bound and data-intensive HPC workloads, while Hpc6a instances are tailored for tightly coupled, compute-intensive workloads. Their combined capabilities offer an exceptional performance range for diverse HPC workloads, providing cost-effective and efficient solutions for demanding computing tasks.

Comparative Analysis of Different AWS EC2 Instance Types

Below is a comparative table that provides an at-a-glance view of different AWS EC2 Instance Types, their names, primary functionality, key features, and ideal use cases.
Instance Type Instance Name Functionality Features Use Cases
General Purpose M5 Balanced compute, memory, and storage Up to 96 vCPUs, 384 GiB Memory, Up to 900 GB NVMe SSD, Enhanced Networking up to 25 Gbps Web servers, application servers, gaming servers, caching fleets, app development environments.
Compute Optimized C5 High compute performance Up to 96 vCPUs, 192 GiB Memory, 900 GB NVMe SSD, Enhanced Networking up to 100 Gbps High-performance web servers, scientific modeling, batch processing, distributed analytics, ad serving.
Memory Optimized R5 Large memory workloads Up to 96 vCPUs, 768 GiB Memory, 3.6 TB NVMe SSD, Enhanced Networking up to 100 Gbps High-performance databases, distributed web scale in-memory caches, big data analytics, real-time apps.
Storage Optimized Im4gn High I/O operations Up to 30 TB NVMe SSD, 2x NVMe SSD storage density per vCPU, Up to 100 Gbps network bandwidth Large scale, NoSQL databases, in-memory databases, data warehousing, data analytics.
Accelerated Compute P4 GPU-based compute tasks Up to 8 NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs, 2nd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors, 400 Gbps instance networking Machine learning, graphical processing, floating-point calculations, data pattern matching.
HPC Optimized Hpc6id High-performance compute Up to 3.5 GHz all-core turbo frequency, 64 cores of Intel Xeon Scalable processors, 1024 GiB of memory, 200 Gbps bandwidth Large, complex simulations, deep learning workloads, finite element analysis for crash simulations.
  • For a more detailed view of pricing related to these and other AWS EC2 instances, users can visit Economize Cloud’s AWS Pricing Catalog.
  • To get an estimate of monthly costs based on your usage needs, we recommend using the AWS EC2 Pricing Calculator. This tool will allow you to get a more accurate picture of your potential costs when choosing the best EC2 instances for your specific workloads.


Navigating the vast array of AWS EC2 instance types can be a complex task. It’s imperative to understand the specific needs of your applications and workloads to select the most cost-effective and performance-optimized instances. This guide provides an overview of several instance types and their ideal use cases, equipping you with the knowledge to make an informed decision. For more insights and resources on effective cloud monitoring and cost management, you can explore the following:
  1. Economize Blog: Offers a wealth of articles on various aspects of cloud cost management, including best practices, case studies, and the latest trends.
  2. FinOps Framework: An in-depth guide to implementing and managing a successful FinOps practice.
  3. Economize Resources Page: Offers a range of resources, including a pricing catalog, pricing calculator, and webinars, to help you navigate your cloud cost management journey.
Ultimately, the key to maximizing the benefits of AWS EC2 lies in understanding your application requirements and aligning them with the right instance type. As your needs evolve, AWS provides the flexibility to adjust and optimize your infrastructure, helping you to deliver the best performance and user experience at the lowest possible cost.

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Adarsh Rai

Adarsh Rai, author and growth specialist at Economize. He holds a FinOps Certified Practitioner License (FOCP), and has a passion for explaining complex topics to a rapt audience.

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