AWS Compute Blog

15 years of silicon innovation with Amazon EC2

The Graviton Hackathon is now available to developers globally to build and migrate apps to run on AWS Graviton2

This week we are celebrating 15 years of Amazon EC2 live on Twitch August 23rd – 24th with keynotes and sessions from AWS leaders and experts. You can watch all the sessions on-demand later this week to learn more about innovation at Amazon EC2.

As Jeff Barr noted in his blog, EC2 started as a single instance back in 2006 with the idea of providing developers on demand access to compute infrastructure and have them pay only for what they use. Today, EC2 has over 400 instance types with the broadest and deepest portfolio of instances in the cloud. As we strive to be the best cloud for every workload, customers consistently ask us for higher performance, and lower costs for their workloads. One way we deliver on this is by building silicon specifically optimized for the cloud. Our journey with custom silicon started in 2012 when we began looking into ways to improve the performance of EC2 instances by offloading virtualization functionality that is traditionally run on underlying servers to a dedicated offload card. Today, the AWS Nitro System is the foundation upon which our modern EC2 instances are built, delivering better performance and enhanced security. The Nitro System has also enabled us to innovate faster and deliver new instances and unique capabilities including Mac Instances, AWS Outposts, AWS Wavelength, VMware Cloud on AWS, and AWS Nitro Enclaves. We also have strong collaboration with partners to build custom silicon optimized for the AWS cloud with their latest generation processors to continue to deliver better performance and better price performance for our joint customers. Additionally, we’ve also designed AWS Inferentia and AWS Trainium chips to drive down the cost and boost performance for deep learning workloads.

One of the biggest innovations that help us deliver higher performance at lower cost for customer workloads are the AWS Graviton2 processors, which are the second generation of Arm-based processors custom-built by AWS. Instances powered by the latest generation AWS Graviton2 processors deliver up to 40% better performance at 20% lower per-instance cost over comparable x86-based instances in EC2. Additionally, Graviton2 is our most power efficient processor. In fact, Graviton2 delivers 2 to 3.5 times better performance per Watt of energy use versus any other processor in AWS.

Customers from startups to large enterprises including Intuit, Snap, Lyft, SmugMug, and Nextroll have realized significant price performance benefits for their production workloads on AWS Graviton2-based instances. Recently, EPIC Games added support for Graviton2 in Unreal Engine to help its developers build high performance games. What’s even more interesting is that AWS Graviton2-based instances supported 12 core retail services during Amazon Prime Day this year.

Most customers get started with AWS Graviton2-based instances by identifying and moving one or two workloads that are easy to migrate, and after realizing the price performance benefits, they move more workloads to Graviton2. In her blog, Liz Fong-Jones, Principal Developer Advocate at, details her journey of adopting Graviton2 and realizing significant price performance improvements. Using experience from working with thousands of customers like Liz who have adopted Graviton2, we built a program called the Graviton Challenge that provides a step-by-step plan to help you move your first workload to Graviton2-based instances.

Today, to further incentivize developers to get started with Graviton2, we are launching the Graviton Hackathon, where you can build a new app or migrate an app to run on Graviton2-based instances. Whether you are an existing EC2 user looking to optimize price performance for your workload, an Arm developer looking to leverage Arm-based instances in the cloud, or an open source developer adding support for Arm, you can participate in the Graviton Hackathon for a chance to win prizes for your project, including up to $10,000 in prize money. We look forward to the new applications which will be able to take advantage of the price performance benefits of Graviton. To learn more about Graviton2, watch the EC2 15th Birthday event sessions on-demand later this week, register to the attend the Graviton workshop at the upcoming AWS Summit Online, or register for the Graviton Challenge.

Cloud computing has made cutting edge, cost effective infrastructure available to everyday developers. Startups can use a credit card to spin up instances in minutes and scale up and scale down easily based on demand. Enterprises can leverage compute infrastructure and services to drive improved operational efficiency and customer experience. The last 15 years of EC2 innovation have been at the forefront of this shift, and we are looking forward to the next 15 years.