Courting Apple developers, Amazon to buy tons of Macs

From Frederic Lardinois “AWS brings the Mac mini to its cloud” posted Tuesday on TechCrunch:

The target audience here — and the only one AWS is targeting for now — is developers who want cloud-based build and testing environments for their Mac and iOS apps. But it’s worth noting that with remote access, you get a fully-featured Mac mini in the cloud, and I’m sure developers will find all kinds of other use cases for this as well…

David Brown, AWS’s vice president of EC2, tells me that these are completely unmodified Mac minis. AWS only turned off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It helps, Brown said, that the minis fit nicely into a 1U rack.

“You can’t really stack them on shelves — you want to put them in some sort of service sled [and] it fits very well into a service sled and then our cards and all the various things we have to worry about, from an integration point of view, fit around it and just plug into the Mac mini through the ports that it provides,” Brown explained. He admitted that this was obviously a new challenge for AWS. The only way to offer this kind of service is to use Apple’s hardware, after all.

It’s also worth noting that AWS is not virtualizing the hardware. What you’re getting here is full access to your own device that you’re not sharing with anybody else. “We wanted to make sure that we support the Mac Mini that you would get if you went to the Apple store and you bought a Mac mini,” Brown said…

AWS will charge $1.083 per hour, billed by the second. That’s just under $26 to spin up a machine and run it for 24 hours. That’s quite a lot more than what some of the small Mac mini cloud providers are charging (we’re generally talking about $60 or less per month for their entry-level offerings and around two to three times as much for a comparable i7 machine with 32GB of RAM).

“Pretty much every one of our customers today has some need to support an Apple product and the Apple ecosystem, whether it’s iPhone, iPad or  Apple TV, whatever it might be. They’re looking for that bold use case,” Brown said.

My take: The waning of Wintel.

See also: Apple in the server rack?

20 Comments

  1. Kathy Corby said:
    So: now the rationale for introducing the M1 chip in the mac mini before the MacBook pro becomes abundantly clear. And will someone please give a share bonus to the person in the design department who said “Oh, and we need to be sure they fit into a 1U rack.”

    9
    December 1, 2020
  2. George Row said:
    Not so much the waning of intel as the waxing of AWS.
    $26/day x 365 days = $9,500/year for a $700 machine! That’s either very expensive air conditioning or an enormous profit!

    5
    December 1, 2020
  3. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    John Konopka: “ The M1is optimized to run macOS on a laptop”. Or that M1 Mac Mini apparently since AWS is looking at it – wow!!

    If, as Gregg Thurmann wrote earlier, Apple puts an “S1” server ARM chip, with many many cores, like the Ampere server ARM CPU Altra that is mentioned in Erik Eingheim’s article 3 days ago “Why is Apple’s M1 chip so fast?”, in a future Mac Pro, that would be something to marvel at!

    3
    December 1, 2020
  4. David Emery said:
    There was a hosting company in Colorado years ago that had banks of Mac Minis. A quick web search shows several companies in that line of business. It’s like the quote from “The Soul of a New Machine” “The Bastards say welcome!”

    2
    December 1, 2020
  5. Jerry Doyle said:
    That’s a truckload of Mac Mini(s) purchased by Amazon. Amazon still will need to purchase additional truckloads. Interesting to see how competitors work together profitably for each other. Whatever it takes to move the product 🙂

    4
    December 1, 2020
  6. Gary Morton said:
    The M1 appears to be a game changer. Once the AWS technical folks get their hands on banks of M1 Mac minis in their massive server farms, it will be interesting to see where it goes. Power consumption drives costs for cloud providers. Processor speed drives performance. By all accounts Apple silicon, is best in class in the combination of these two characteristics.

    3
    December 1, 2020
  7. Gregg Thurman said:
    As a developer, and I required a Mac mini, I’d buy one then sell it when I was finished before I’d pay those prices.

    But then after using it I’d probably keep it.

    2
    December 1, 2020
    • Jerry Doyle said:
      @Gregg Thurman: “…. As a developer, and I required a Mac mini, I’d buy one then sell it when I was finished before I’d pay those prices.”

      I surmise you are an individual developer. Aren’t we talking here about larger shops of developers worker on a whole host of multiple programs in development and through the use of AWS these larger shops are able to incur cost savings in capital expenditures (equipment), rental space per square foot (storage) etc. When one adds these cost savings incurred for a group of developers working on a multiplicity of programs then it seems to make common sense to me which avenue to pursue. It’s the same cost effective premise used by many others, such as contractors, who rent needed equipment to complete jobs resulting in less storage capacity, insurance, maintenance, upkeep, etc. Rent what is needed.

      1
      December 1, 2020
      • Gregg Thurman said:
        rent needed equipment to complete jobs resulting in less storage capacity, insurance, maintenance, upkeep, etc. Rent what is needed.

        Great points I failed to consider. Thanks for opening my eyes.

        0
        December 1, 2020
  8. Paul Brindze said:
    @Jerry Doyle. Agree .. plus add on that many (most?) developement shops are now working remote (from home) and, unlike many other businesses, seem to be planning on staying that way post pandemic. Add to your scenario savings in office rent and big savings in higher support costs they might otherwise feel if they owned all those mini’s. AWS works best for these spread out organizations.

    0
    December 1, 2020
  9. Paul Brindze said:
    Overall, easier development equals more apps equals more App Store revenue for Apple (possibly more significant than the sale of more mini’s?).

    4
    December 1, 2020
  10. George Ewonus said:
    One of my children (and their partner) are software engineers at Google (working from home like most googlers). They have to ensure that code does work on a variety of platforms, including macs. This definitely speeds things up. I do believe Google can afford to amortize the cost of AWS.

    0
    December 1, 2020
  11. Gregg Thurman said:
    I’m wondering now what AWS’s competitors will do in light of this.

    It’s obvious that Amazon sees a great need to support Apple developers in light of the merging of processors and OS in Apple products. I think Amazon’s decision is predicated on a whole lot of developers, who previously did not develop for Mac/iPhone et al, joining the fun.

    How many exclusively Windows programs are going to be ported to ARM Macs? What happens to Mac sales when that happens?

    2
    December 1, 2020
    • Dan Scropos said:
      Gregg said-“ What happens to Mac sales when that happens?”

      Per Neil Cybart’s latest piece-“ Approximately 90% of Apple users don’t use, and probably never will use, a Mac.”

      I wonder if he’s rethinking that now? This should grow both the base, but also the percentage of folks within the base that use Macs. This is huge.

      1
      December 1, 2020
  12. Mordechai Beizer said:
    I just noticed that these are minis with Intel chips. I assume that is only a stopgap to get experience with jumpstarting the service and that they will be replaced with M1 minis later on. There are no power or cooling savings with the Intel minis.

    2
    December 1, 2020
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      Could Amazon have received a sweetened deal to clear out Intel-powered minis ahead of the M1 mini?

      Or did the price remain the same in exchange for Apple’s tech support to facilitate AWS’s implementation?

      1
      December 1, 2020
  13. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Horace Dediu had mentioned in the Apple 3.0 Zoom #2 soirée that earlier this year Apple had approached a somewhat fair valuation after so many years of languishing.

    I would hope that we could all smell an increased P/E as a result of nebulous things like this AND the inevitable ripple-effect of Apple Silicon to boot,

    …AND new devices,

    …AND new services,

    …AND new users,

    …AND new apps,

    …AND…

    2
    December 1, 2020

Leave a Reply