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What is AWS Instance Types? : A Complete Guide

Last updated on 30th Jan 2023, Artciles, Blog

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Varun Vasanth (ITIL Data Expert )

Varun Vasanth is an ITIL Data Expert with 6+ years of experience and he has expertise in ITSM/ITIL Service Implementations. His articles help to impart knowledge and skills in the core field and get students to acquire informative skills.

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    • In this article you will learn:
    • 1.What is an Amazon EC2 Instance Types?
    • 2.Features of Amazon EC2.
    • 3.EC2 Instance Type.
    • 4.Conclusion.

What is an Amazon EC2 Instance Types?

In general Amazon EC2 instance types offer flexibility and scalability through a variety of computing, memory and storage specifications within each instance family. AWS EC2 instances are broadly classified according to budget and workload requirements.

Features of Amazon EC2:

  • An instance is a virtual computing environment.
  • Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) are preconfigured templates for instances that package the bits required for a server. Instance types are different configurations of a CPU, memory, storage and networking capacity for an instance.
  • Secure instance login information with key pairs (AWS stores a public key and can store a private key in a secure location) Storage volumes for temporary data that is deleted when an instance is stopped or terminated also known as instance store volumes Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) persistent storage volumes for data also known as Amazon EBS volumes Regions and Availability Zones are multiple physical locations for resources such as instances and Amazon EBS volumes.
  • A firewall that allows you to specify protocols, ports and source IP ranges that can connect to instances via security groups.
  • Elastic IP addresses are static IPv4 addresses that are used in dynamic cloud computing. Tags are metadata that can be created and assigned to Amazon EC2 resources. Virtual networks also known as virtual private clouds can be created that are logically isolated from the rest of the AWS cloud and can optionally connect to their own network (VPCs).
AWS Instance Types

EC2 Instance Type:

Type: General Purpose:

General Purpose instances are the most commonly used and are a good place to start if you’re new to AWS or cloud computing in general. They offer an excellent value for money and functionality with typical applications including web servers development environments for mobile or gaming apps and enterprise applications such as CRMs and ERPs. One of the most significant distinctions within this class is between instances with Fixed vs. Burstable performance. With Burstable performance EC2s will be able to rapidly scale up compute power — at a cost.

General Purpose: A1

A1 instances are general-purpose but distinguish themselves by being an ARM-based offering rather than an Intel or AMD offering. As a result this platform will appeal to the ARM development community as well as applications that already run open source software such as Java and Python and support multiple architectures.

General Purpose: M5

M5 instances are powered by Intel Xeon processors and are thus well-suited for x86 development. When compared to the A1 they provide better compute, memory and network performance. M5 instances are ideal for development, test and web server environments. They also support Intel AVX-512 a set of CPU instructions that benefits the processing of encryption algorithms so these instances are a good choice when security is important but performance is not an issue.

General Purpose: T3 and T3a

T3 and T3a are Intel and AMD’s respective Burstable performance instances. Burstable performance can instances are ideal if you need a cheaper and slightly less powerful offering than a fixed performance instance (such as an M5) but still want the ability to quickly scale up a compute to handle workloads resulting in “bursts” in power.These bursts of power don’t come cheap — they’re paid for with CPU credits. In general learn CPU credits when not running at full processing power. The amount that can be earned is determined by the amount of time spent at a low threshold and the size of the instance. These credits will be spent if a burst is required.

Type: Compute Optimized:

Compute Optimized: C5

C5 instances are ideal for applications where raw compute power is prioritised, such as gaming servers, scientific modelling, high-performance web servers, and media transcoding. C5 instances run on Intel Xeon Platinum processors and are 25% faster than previous-generation C4 instances, demonstrating the benefits of generational improvement in cloud resources.

Type: Memory Optimized:

Memory Optimized: R5 & R5a

R5 and R5a are Intel and AMD offerings of regular memory optimised instances, respectively. These instances are ideal for memory-intensive workloads such as real-time big data analytics, large in-memory caches and high-performance databases. The R5 and R5a instances benefit from an AWS Nitro System which provides access to nearly all of the server’s compute and memory resources (i.e. allocating as little as possible to an OS).

AWS Instance

Memory Optimized: X1 & X1e

X1 and X1e instances have been optimised to provide a high memory-to-compute ratio with the X1e family delivering the highest memory-to-compute ratio among EC2 offerings. These instances are used for the most memory-intensive applications, such as SAP HANA and serve as a solid foundation for real-time applications.

Memory Optimized: High Memory instances

High Memory instances have the most available RAM, with 6 TB, 9 TB, or 12 TB of memory in a single instance. These like the X1/X1e are well-suited to production deployments of massively memory-intensive real-time databases like SAP HANA.The High Memory instances have an important caveat in that they are only available on Dedicated Hosts on a 3-year Reservation. This means that you’ll have to commit to a 3-year contract but you’ll get the security benefit of being on a dedicated host which means you’ll have your own server and won’t have to share resources like AWS does with its other offerings.

Type: Accelerated Computing:

Accelerated Computing: P3, G3, F1

Accelerated Computing instances optimise for specialised tasks such as graphics processing or floating-point number calculations using separate Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) or Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Offerings in this case include:

P3: These are general GPU offerings that are good for machine learning and have strong parallel processing capabilities.

G3: These GPU offerings are designed for graphics-intensive tasks such as rendering, encoding and streaming.

F1: These are instances that include FPGAs for accelerated processing. can leverage FPGAs in a variety of ways over time for various enhancements and all of this is aided by custom FPGA-specific AMIs (called AFIs) that provide faster deployment and development options than conventional FPGAs.

Type: Storage Optimized

Storage Optimized H1 & D2

H1 and D2 instances are part of a Dense storage offering that allows for more sequential read-writes for large data sets such as those used in distributed Hadoop deployments. H1 and D2 instances offer massive storage on HDD with H1 offering up to 16 TB and D2 offering up to 48 TB.

Storage Optimized I3

I3 instances provide SSD storage with a maximum capacity of just under 16 GiB. These instances on the other hand have lower latency than HDD-based storage and include an AWS Nitro System for optimised access to memory and computer resources (also known as “Bare Metal” access).


Depending on the workload and application requirements you can select from the various Amazon EC2 instance types that have been described. To support a variety of workloads the Amazon EC2 platform is constantly expanding its available instance types with new releases.

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