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Backed by New Hypervisor, AWS Launches C5 Compute-Intensive Instances

After at least a year in development, the new C5 instance family for compute-heavy workloads is now generally available from Amazon Web Services (AWS).

First announced at last November's AWS re:Invent conference, the C5 is designed for computationally demanding workloads, including scalable multiplayer gaming, video encoding, distributed analytics, ad serving and high-performance computing. AWS customers that are already running the C5 include streaming giant Netflix, supercomputing provider Rescale, and life sciences firm Grail.

There are six size configurations available in the C5 family (as described in the table below). The smallest supports two virtual CPUs, contains 4GiB of memory and has EBS bandwidth of up to 2,250 Mbps. The largest supports 72 virtual CPUs, contains 144GiB of memory and has EBS bandwidth of 9,000 Mbps.

[Click on image for larger view.] Available C5 instance sizes. (Source: AWS)

The C5 replaces the nearly 3-year-old C4 as the highest-capacity compute-optimized instance family in the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). The C5 scales to as much as twice as many virtual CPUs as the C4 and promises a performance-to-price ratio that's anywhere from 25 to 50 percent better, according to AWS' press release on Monday.

Under the hood, the C5 instances run on Intel's Xeon Platinum 8000 processors, which are part of the Xeon Scalable line (previously code-named "Skylake"). Notably, it's also backed by a "new, lightweight hypervisor" that AWS said will eventually be used to power future EC2 instances.

The unnamed hypervisor "runs hand-in-glove with our hardware," said AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a Monday blog post describing the C5. "The new hypervisor allows us to give you access to all of the processing power provided by the host hardware, while also making performance even more consistent and further raising the bar on security," Barr said.

As noted by The Register, an AWS FAQ suggests that the new hypervisor is based on the KVM Linux virtualization infrastructure, and not the Xen hypervisor that's usually favored by AWS. According to Barr: "The instances do not require (or support) the Xen paravirtual networking or block device drivers, both of which have been removed in order to increase efficiency."

AWS said it will share more information about the new hypervisor at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, which this year kicks off on Nov. 27.

Currently, the C5 instances are available in AWS' Northern Virginia, Oregon and Ireland regions. More information is available here.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for RCPmag.com and senior editor of AWSInsider.net.

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