Amazon Announces General Availability of Mac EC2 M1 Instances to Build and Test on macOS

AWS recently announced the Mac EC2 M1 general availability instances based on the Apple ARM processor and designed for the CI/CD of Apple-based applications. The Mac M1 option is faster and cheaper than the existing x86-based Mac version, but still requires a minimum 24-hour commitment.

Mac M1 Instances are dedicated Mac mini computers connected to the AWS Nitro system using the Thunderbolt interface. The Mac mini behaves like a traditional EC2 instance and can be used to build or test apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Safari.

Source: https://speakerdeck.com/sebsto/tvos-apps-with-amazon-ec2-mac-instances?slide=16

Sebastien Stormacqleading developer advocate at AWS, Explain:

The availability of Mac EC2 M1 instances gives you access to machines built around the Apple-designed M1 system-on-chip (SoC). If you’re a Mac developer revamping your apps to natively support Macs with Apple Silicon, you can now build and test your apps and enjoy all the benefits of AWS. Developers building for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV will also benefit from faster builds. Mac EC2 M1 instances offer up to 60% better price performance than x86-based Mac EC2 instances for iPhone and Mac application creation workloads.

The AWS CLI and Systems Manager and CloudWatch agents are preinstalled on Mac instances for management and observability. In a Twitter feed, a few developers have expressed concerns about the 24-hour minimum commitment, an Apple requirement for the macOS license, and the inability to perform macOS updates on instances. Chad Brewbaker, Principal Software Engineer, comments:

Seems to be a bit of a problem not patching vulnerabilities – especially for those doing browser automation subject to media injections, as they typically don’t pick up Chrome patches for weeks.

New instances integrate with other AWS services, such as EFS, Auto Scaling, and Secrets Manager. Stormacq offers a presentation on how to deploy pipelines with Mac instances and writes:

I use Secrets Manager to securely store my build secrets, such as signing keys and certificates used to sign my binaries before distributing them on the App Store.

Corey Quinn, cloud economist at The Duckbill Group, strong points how compliance is one of the main benefits of running a Mac instance:

It’s not “Desktop in the Cloud” according to Amazon Workspaces. It’s “your macOS/iOS builds can now live with the rest of your cloud assets rather than a Mac sitting under a developer’s desk that we hide when the auditor shows up.”

New Dedicated Instances cost a minimum of $15.6 per operating day and are currently only available in the Northern Virginia, Oregon, Dublin, and Singapore regions. The price of the Mac M1 instance is significantly lower than the Intel Mac which starts at $26/day.

Lance B. Holton