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AWS t2.nano instances offer dirt-cheap home for microservices

The AWS t2.nano could undercut all competitors on price with a three-year Reserved Instance contract, depending on storage requirements.

AWS t2.nano instances were rolled out this week, and will most likely host microservices and other light corporate workloads.

The instances, revealed at Amazon's annual re:Invent user conference in October, come with 512 MB of memory and one virtual CPU, and are now generally available at $0.0065 per hour in the U.S. East (Northern Virginia) region. A month's AWS t2.nano On-Demand usage will cost $4.75.

Factoring in an 8 GB Elastic Block Store solid-state drive (SSD) adds $0.80 to the cost, according to the AWS blog; a 2 GB data transfer amounts to $0.09 a month; and one Route 53 domain with 25,000 queries adds $0.51 per month for a grand total of $6.15 a month to run an On-Demand version of the AWS t2.nano.

The AWS t2.nano can run small workloads, such as low-traffic webpages, testing and development or instructional applications, as well as support the microservices trend sweeping software development for users who don't want to go the Docker route.

"Containers are best used for hosting platforms for someone else to come into and do stuff," such as when app developers collaborate, said Carl Brooks, analyst with 451 Research. "Not every microservices workload needs to be containerized."

How small -- and cheap -- can cloud services go?

The AWS t2.nano joins some other offerings on the market of similar size and price; the closest matches are Google Cloud Platform's f1-micro and DigitalOcean smallest instance, called a droplet.

My assumption is you'll see bigger businesses run fleets of t2.nanos.
Lydia Leonganalyst at Gartner

"When you're looking at a Digital Ocean customer, you're typically looking at a small business with one or two droplets; versus, if you're looking at AWS, most of the people using nanos will be doing things like microservices or lightweight corporate workloads," said Lydia Leong, research vice president at Gartner. "There will be some of that small business as well [for Amazon], but my assumption is you'll see bigger businesses run fleets of t2.nanos."

The typical price per hour for Google's f1-micro slightly undercuts Amazon's at $0.006, and it can be had with sustained usage at a rate of $0.0056 per hour. The f1-micro also offers slightly more memory at 600 MB.

DigitalOcean's smallest server instance starts at $5 per month, and comes with 512 MB of memory and 1 virtual CPU -- just like the AWS t2.nano. Its hourly price for compute is slightly higher at $0.007 an hour, but it also comes with 20 GB of SSD disk and 1 TB of network transfer, which would compound AWS costs significantly. For example, 20 GB of SSD general-purpose disk in the Elastic Block Store would cost $2.40 a month, for example, tacking $1.60 on to the total price of the AWS t2.nano with an equivalent amount of SSD storage.

It's worth noting that the storage included in DigitalOcean's offering also undercuts Google's storage pricing; 20 GB of solid-state persistent disk on the Google Cloud Platform at $0.17 per GB, per month would cost $3.40 a month.

Microsoft Azure, meanwhile, doesn't offer an instance with less than 750 MB of memory; the A0 instance, which also comes with 20 GB of storage, is priced at $0.018 per hour, which amounts to about $13 per month in the Central U.S. region.

AWS t2.nano also differs from competitors by offering burstable CPU performance in which the tiny instances can burst up to full CPU power through the accumulation of CPU Credits. With a three-year Reserved Instance contract, and assuming 8 GB of SSD storage, the t2.nano undercuts all prices with a total cost -- also including 2 GB of data transfer, and one Route 53 domain plus 25,000 queries -- of $3.51 per month.

Ultimately, the differences between these miniserver offerings in terms of cost are minute blips on the scale of enterprise computing budgets -- all offer a rock-bottom entry into the cloud.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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