Price to Performance Considerations for EC2 Generational Upgrades

by Vantage Team

TL;DR: Newer generation EC2 instances not only give you better performance but oftentimes represent a significant decrease in price. In many cases if you’re able to upgrade your EC2 instance you will save significantly on costs and boost CPU performance.


We’re only a few weeks away from AWS Re:Invent - Amazon’s annual conference where they release news on new service launches, upgrades to existing services and general industry news. In the weeks leading up to the conference you usually see a number of new product launches - many of which are the launch of new EC2 Instances. We’ve already seen a few launches go out (i.e. new instance types of g5 and c6i) and it’s expected there will be more.

While cost savings aren’t the be-all end-all of these product launches, over time the lack of upgrading EC2 instances can materially add up in potential cost savings for you and your organization if not tended to.

Generational Update Example: T Instances

One of the most popular instance types used are T instances and from looking at an anonymized dataset of Vantage users, t2.medium are one of the most often used “antiquated” EC2 instances. Let’s take a look specifically at the last three generations of T instances specifically for the t2/t3/t4g.medium instance types:

* AWS t3 product page claims 30% performance improvement from t2 to T3.
** AWS t4g product page claimed 40% performance improvement from t3 to t4g, or 82% from t2 to t4g.

As you can see by keeping workloads on t2, you’re actually doing yourself a bit of a disservice both in terms of cost but also in regard to underlying CPU performance. While there are considerations for underlying CPU architecture changes for t4g in particular, we’ve found that the vast majority of use-cases can leverage these for better price to performance ratios.

Additionally - while these numbers represent savings on a per-instance basis for simplicity’s sake - you can imagine these savings being scaled up to the number of antiquated EC2 instances you’re using across clusters and teams at your organization. In many cases, across potential upgrades for T, M and C instances the savings can be surprisingly dramatic.

Considerations: Reserved Instance Coverage

One concern with making generational EC2 upgrades (outside of the upgrade process itself potentially causing a minor window of downtime) is to ensure that you don’t have reserved instances covering antiquated EC2 instances. In the event that you do have reserved instances covering antiquated instances, it may be worthwhile for you to evaluate when those reservations expire to unblock generational upgrades.

This concern is ultimately why AWS customers are increasingly choosing AWS Savings Plans which deliver the same discounts as reserved instances in many cases but give you greater flexbility.

How Much Can You Save?

Knowing your exact inventory of EC2 instances, what generation they are and what potential upgrades (and savings!) are possible is something that can take time away from your core engineering functions and require custom tooling especially in larger AWS environments.

All Vantage users automatically are provided with a monitoring service that will profile your account and give you down-to-the-resource Cost Recommendations of just how much you can save by making EC2 Generational upgrades. This feature is provided to all users automatically as part of their subscription, including the free tier. To see what kind of savings are in store for you, login to the Vantage console at