Amazon AWS adds Mac mini to its developer cloud - but M1 has to wait

Amazon is adding the Mac mini to its AWS cloud, adding a new option for those wanting an army of instantly-available EC2 Mac instances for coding and other applications. As with Amazon's existing Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) offering, users will be able to summon the capabilities of anything from one to hundreds of the computers, though initially that won't mean the very latest Mac mini model.

While Apple may have just started shipping the M1-powered Mac mini – its first desktop computer to use the company's homegrown Apple Silicon chipset – that's not the configuration which Amazon is using. Instead, the EC2 Mac machines will be Intel-based, using eighth-generation 3.2GHz (4.6GHz turbo) Core i7 processors.

They'll each be outfitted with 32GB of memory, and use the Mac mini's Thunderbolt 3 connection to offer 8 Gbps of EBS storage and 10 Gbps of VPC network bandwidth. Available OSes include macOS 10.14 (Mojave) and 10.15 (Catalina), and users will be able to access them via either the command line or Remote Desktop.

With the Mac mini one of Apple's most affordable options, you might be wondering why you'd want to rent time on one in Amazon's cloud. The primary argument is scale: if you need more compute, you can simply bring more EC2 Mac instances into play, much more rapidly and easily than trying to add physical Macs yourself. When your requirements are less demanding, you can shut off the extra instances and only pay for what you actually need.

There's also the potential for cross-platform development. "Customers can also consolidate development of cross-platform Apple, Windows, and Android apps onto AWS," Amazon points out, "leading to increased developer productivity and accelerated time to market."

As for the M1 Mac mini, Amazon's Jeff Barr – Chief Evangelist for AWS – confirmed that EC2 Mac instances using Apple Silicon are "already in the works" at the company. They're expected to go online sometime in 2021.

Like with other instances, you'll be able to use the Mac instances on-demand or purchase a "savings plan" if you can commit to a certain amount of compute power in a year. Amazon plans to add new AMIs each time Apple pushes out a major or minor supported OS release, as well as updated Amazon packages each quarter.

If you're an AWS user, you'll be able to add EC2 Mac instances from today. Currently they're available in the US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), Europe (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Singapore) regions, though Amazon says other regions are coming soon.