Amazon launches bare metal EC2 instances

Customers can take advantage of hardware features you don't get with virtualised environments

Amazon Web Services is giving all users direct access to its underlying hardware with the launch of EC2 bare metal instances, the company announced yesterday.

The new i3.metal instance – which is now available in public preview mode – gives users access to the physical resources for applications that take advantage of low-level hardware features such as performance counters and Intel VT that are not always available or fully supported in virtualised environments.

It also allows for applications intended to run directly on the hardware or licensed and supported for use in non-virtualised environments, the company said.

“These bare metal instances give customers and partners the best of both worlds. You get direct access to underlying hardware with the elasticity, security and availability of the AWS cloud,” said AWS’s VP of global infrastructure Peter DeSantis at the company’s Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas.

“Now virtualised and non-virtualised protocols, workloads which need a specific hypervisor or access to specific hardware features and workloads with restrictive customer hostile licensing, can take full advantage of the benefits of the AWS cloud and once these workloads are in AWS they can take full advantage of other AWS services,” he added.

Several customers and partners are already “hard at work building cool things” with EC2 bare metal instances DeSantis explained. Among them is VMware, which announced VMware Cloud on AWS in October last year.

“They told us that they wanted to run their virtualisation stack directly on the hardware, within the AWS Cloud,” said AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post earlier. 

“We knew that other customers also had interesting use cases for bare metal hardware and didn’t want to take the performance hit of nested virtualisation.”

Barr emphasised that the availability of bare metal instances was an example of AWS’ ethic of all customers having access to everything it builds.

“When we do this, we make the resulting service or feature generally available; we do not build one-offs or 'snowflakes' for individual customers. That model is messy and hard to scale and is not the way we work,” he wrote.

DeSantis said additional instance families will be rolled out over the coming months.

The i3.metal instance specifications:

  • Processing – Two Intel Xeon E5-2686 v4 processors running at 2.3 GHz, with a total of 36 hyperthreaded cores (72 logical processors).

  • Memory – 512 GiB.

  • Storage – 15.2 terabytes of local, SSD-based NVMe storage.

  • Network – 25 Gbps of ENA-based enhanced networking.

The author travelled to AWS re:Invent 2017 in Las Vegas as a guest of Amazon Web Services.

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