Amazon Web Services adds macOS on bare metal to EC2

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

David Brown, Amazon’s vice president of EC2, runs through a skit with Filmic CEO Kevin Buonagurio sketching the company’s evolution from running Mac minis on wire shelves in a closet to macOS instances in Amazon EC2.

Amazon Web Services and Apple have partnered to bring modern cloud-provisioning capabilities to the macOS platform with Tuesday morning’s launch of the new mac1.metal ECS instance type. In something of a departure from Amazon’s usual cloud fare, the new instance types aren’t virtual machines at all—they’re Mac mini systems, bolted in pairs to 1U rack-mount sleds.

No, these aren’t Apple Silicon systems—the minis in question are the Intel-based model, each with a Core i7-8700B 6c/12t CPU, 32GiB RAM, and 10Gbps network interface. The mac1.metal instances don’t offer local storage, instead relying on Elastic Block Storage (EBS) accessed at 8Gbps via high-speed Thunderbolt 3. Customer provisioning, billing, and out-of-band management are handled via Amazon’s Nitro offboard system, in peripherals mounted on the sleds and connected via the minis’ external interfaces.

Although there’s no virtualization in play here, the mac1.metal instances can be spun up and down nearly as rapidly, thanks to the AWS Nitro hardware management—which is invisible, from the customer’s perspective. To someone who spins up a mac1.metal instance, the instance is for all intents and purposes a perfectly vanilla, brand-new Intel Mac mini.

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