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AWS offers “bare-metal” Mac cloud services

News Analysis
Dec 03, 20202 mins
Cloud Computing

Calling AWS's new cloud offering "bare metal" is a stretch, given that it comes with an operating system, but it does provide a cloud-based Apple work environment.

m1 mac mini angle
Credit: IDG

Amazon Web Services has announced that it is offering what it calls bare-metal Macs in its cloud, although Amazon’s definition of “bare metal” doesn’t exactly jibe with the generally accepted definition.

“Bare metal” typically means no operating system. It’s very popular as a means of what is known as “lift and shift,” where a company takes its custom operating environment, starting with the operating system, libraries, apps, databases, and so on, and moves it from on-premises to the cloud without needing to make a modification to its software stack.

Here, Amazon is offering Macs running macOS 10.14 (Mojave) or 10.15 (Catalina) on an eighth generation, six-core Intel Core i7 (Coffee Lake) processor running at 3.2 GHz. (Amusingly, the instances are run on Mac Minis. What I wouldn’t give to see a data center with racks full of Mac Minis.)

But really, it’s all they had to work with. The only other Macs are laptops, all-in-one desktops with an unnecessary monitor for cloud data centers, and the giant, overpriced Mac Pro. So this really was AWS’s only option.

EC2 Mac instances with the Apple M1 custom Arm chip are already in the works, and planned for 2021, according to a blog post by Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS.

The macOS EC2 instances are accessible over SSH shell or as a VNC remote desktop with up to 32GB of memory for access to AWS services. They are fairly limited in their offerings: you can access Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon FSx for Windows File Server, Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), AWS Systems Manager, and Amazon Machine Images.

On the networking side, the instances run in a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and include ENA networking with up to 10Gbps of throughput. With EBS-Optimization, and the ability to deliver up to 55,000 IOPS (16KB block size) and 8Gbps of throughput for data transfer, EBS volumes attached to the instances can deliver the performance needed to support I/O-intensive build operations.

AWS is positioning the instances as a development environment for jobs like “Developing, building, testing, and signing iOS, iPadOS, macOS, WatchOS, and tvOS applications on the Xcode IDE.” So developers can build render farms or CI/CD farms to offload the work from their systems.

Amazon has not disclosed instance pricing yet, only saying that you can run Mac instances on-demand and you can also purchase a Savings Plan.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.