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AWS Launches EC2 Computing Instances That Run Apple's MacOS Operating System

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • The new MacOS EC2 instances depend on Mac Mini computers from Apple.
  • No other major cloud provider has computing instances running MacOS.
  • Apple is a significant AWS customer.

Amazon's cloud division on Tuesday announced the availability of new virtual computing instances for software developers that run Apple's MacOS operating system, representing an alternative to Microsoft Windows and open-source Linux.

Amazon Web Services controls the cloud infrastructure market, and it has sought to keep its lead against the likes of Google and Microsoft in part by regularly adding to its wide assortment of tools. No major cloud provider to date has brought about a means to rent a remote computing infrastructure with MacOS from their clouds. As a result, at least initially, Amazon has an advantage that can attract customers to AWS, which is the main source of Amazon's operating income.

Rather than run MacOS on its standard computer servers, AWS is drawing on Apple's Mac Mini computers, featuring Intel Core i7 chips, to deliver EC2 virtual-computing instances with MacOS, according to a statement. The instances run on bare metal, meaning that a developer will get the full power of a Mac, rather than virtual machines, which deliver small virtual slices of physical computers, a spokesperson told CNBC on Monday. Instances of Mac Minis feature Apple's M1 Arm-based chips will arrive in 2021, AWS said in a blog post.

Developers can put early versions of their applications on the instances to run necessary tests before rolling out updates to the end users. The instances provide a way to remotely use Mac-specific software such as the Xcode integrated development environment. Through Xcode, developers can upload apps to Apple's App Store. Developers can alternatively do that with existing Mac computers, or by relying on Mac specialists such as MacStadium.

Intuit, a major AWS customer, has started using the new Mac instances, and Amazon's Ring subsidiary plans to use them. The instances are available from five of AWS' 24 data center regions located around the world, according to the statement.

Amazon and Apple have a close relationship. Apple's iCloud services rely on AWS. As of last year Apple was spending over $30 million on AWS. The two companies started working closely on developing EC2 instances with MacOS about a year ago, said Dave Brown, vice president for EC2 at AWS, said during a press session. AWS is buying Mac Minis from Apple to provide the Mac instances, the spokesperson said.

AWS' annual Reinvent conference, normally a gathering of customers, software makers and employees in Las Vegas, kicked off Monday as an online event because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Correction: This article has been updated to include the correct number of data center regions that AWS operates.

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