Beware of Amazon EC2 Micro Instances

Amazon EC2 is a Virtual Service Provider. After signing up for an EC2 account, you can create various instances with different memory and processing resources. The smallest of these is a Micro-Instance, which offers 613MB or RAM and 2 ECUs (for short periodic bursts).

Additionally, if you're a new Amazon AWS customer, a micro-instance is free to run for a whole year, which basically means free VPS! Otherwise, a micro-instance costs roughly $15 a month for 24/7 uptime. This seems like a sweet deal, especially when you consider their Small Instance, which is 1.7GB of RAM but only 1 ECU.

However, the catch with the micro is 2 ECUs for short periodic bursts. What this translates to in real life is that a micro-instance will run fairly fast for 2 or 3 seconds, then slow down to an absolute crawl for 15 to 20 seconds or more. I tried running a personal photo web-site which did some re-sampling manipulations. The first one or two re-samples would be fast, followed by pain. I also compiled numerous packages, like ImageMagick, which took over 30 minutes...

So Micro Instances may be free/cheap compared to some other VPS providers, but they're dead-slow for any processing task that runs for more than 2 seconds. So unless you just want to login and run linux commands... it's not really advisable, not even for personal web-site hosting.

I've since switched to a RackSpace Cloud Server, which costs around $11 a month for the smallest instance type. This only has 256MB of RAM, and not sure of the CPU, but it runs much faster than the EC2 Micro. ImageMagick compiles in 1 or 2 minutes, and my photo website works exceptionally well.


  1. Can we have more than one micto instance in AWS? How will we be charged for it, in such a case? Will all micro instances be free?

  2. What decade are you living in? I can't think of how you ended up having to compile ImageMagick. Are you afraid of OS package management?

  3. you right, i have observed same. batch of imagemagick jobs on micro instance takes literally days.. about 20 times slower then on my mid-level laptop.


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