AWS Compute Blog

Diving Deep into EC2 Spot Instance Cost and Operational Practices

This blog post is written by, Sudhi Bhat, Senior Specialist SA, Flexible Compute.

Amazon EC2 Spot Instances are one of the popular choices among customers looking to cost optimize their workload running on AWS. Spot Instances let you take advantage of unused Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) capacity in the AWS cloud and are available at up to a 90% discount compared to On-Demand EC2 instance prices. The key difference between On-Demand Instances and Spot Instances is that Spot Instances can be interrupted by Amazon EC2, with two minutes of notification, when Amazon EC2 needs the capacity back. Spot Instances are recommended for various stateless, fault-tolerant, or flexible applications, such as big data, containerized workloads, continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD), web servers, high-performance computing (HPC), and test and development workloads.

Customers asked us for fast and easy ways to track and optimize usage for different services. In this post, we’ll focus on tools and techniques that can provide useful insights into the usages and behavior of workloads using Spot Instances, as well as how we can leverage those techniques for troubleshooting and cost tracking purposes.

Operational tools

Instance selection

One of the best practices while using Spot Instances is to be flexible about instance types, Regions, and Availability Zones, as this gives Spot a better cross-section of compute pools to select and allocate your desired capacity. AWS makes it easier to diversify your instance selection in Auto Scaling groups and EC2 Fleet through features like Attribute-Based Instance Type Selection, where you can select the instance requirements as a set of attributes like vCPU, memory, storage, etc. These requirements are translated into matching instance types automatically.

Instance Selection using Attribute Based Instance Selection feature available during Auto Scaling Group creation

Considering that AWS Cloud spans across 25+ Regions and 80+ Availability Zones, finding the optimal location (either a Region or Availability Zone) to fulfil Spot capacity needs without launching a Spot can be very handy. This is especially true when AWS customers have the flexibility to run their workloads across multiple Regions or Availability Zones. This functionality can be achieved with one of the newer features called Amazon EC2 Spot placement score. Spot placement score provides a list of Regions or Availability Zones, each scored from 1 to 10, based on factors such as the requested instance types, target capacity, historical and current Spot usage trends, and the time of the request. The score reflects the likelihood of success when provisioning Spot capacity, with a 10 meaning that the request is highly likely to succeed.

Spot Placement Score feature is available in EC2 Dashboard

If you wish to specifically select and match your instances to your workloads to leverage them, then refer to Spot Instance Advisor to determine Spot Instances that meet your computing requirements with their relative discounts and associated interruption rates. Spot Instance Advisor populates the frequency of interruption and average savings over On-Demand instances based on the last 30 days of historical data. However, note that the past interruption behavior doesn’t predict the future availability of these instances. Therefore, as a part of instance diversity, try to leverage as many instances as possible regardless of whether or not an instance has a high level of interruptions.

Spot Instance pricing history

Understanding the price history for a specific Amazon EC2 Spot Instance can be useful during instance selection. However, tracking these pricing changes can be complex. Since November 2017, AWS launched a new pricing model that simplified the Spot purchasing experience. The new model gives AWS Customers predictable prices that adjust slowly over days and weeks, as Spot Instance prices are now determined based on long-term trends in supply and demand for Spot Instance capacity. The current Spot Instance prices can be viewed on AWS website, and the Spot Instance pricing history can be viewed on the Amazon EC2 console or accessed via AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI). Customers can continue to access the Spot price history for the last 90 days, filtering by instance type, operating system, and Availability Zone to understand how the Spot pricing has changed.

Spot Pricing History is available in EC2 DashboardAccessing Pricing history via AWS CLI using describe-spot-price-history or Get-EC2SpotPriceHistory (AWS Tools for Windows PowerShell).

aws ec2 describe-spot-price-history --start-time 2018-05-06T07:08:09 --end-time 2018-05-06T08:08:09 --instance-types c4.2xlarge --availability-zone eu-west-1a --product-description "Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)“
    "SpotPriceHistory": [
            "Timestamp": "2018-05-06T06:30:30.000Z",
            "AvailabilityZone": "eu-west-1a",
            "InstanceType": "c4.2xlarge",
            "ProductDescription": "Linux/UNIX (Amazon VPC)",
            "SpotPrice": "0.122300"

Spot Instance data feed

EC2 offers a mechanism to describe Spot Instance usage and pricing by providing a data feed that can be subscribed to. Therefore, the data feed is sent to an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket on an hourly basis. Learn more about setting up the Spot Data feed and configuring the S3 bucket options in the documentation. A sample data feed would look like the following:

Sample Spot Instance data feed dataThe above example provides more information about Spot Instance in use, like m4.large Instance being used at the time as specified by Timestamp and MyBidID=sir-11wsgc6k representing the request that generated this instance usage, Charge=0.045 USD indicating the discounted price charged compared to the MyMaxPrice, which was set to On-Demand cost. This information can be useful during troubleshooting, as you can refer to the information about Spot Instances even if that specific instance has been terminated. Moreover, you could choose to extend the use of this data for simple querying and visualization/analytics purposes using Amazon Athena.

Amazon EC2 Spot Instance Interruption dashboard

Spot Instance interruptions are an inherent part of the Spot Instance lifecycle. For example, it’s always possible that your Spot Instance might be interrupted depending on how many unused EC2 instances are available. Therefore, you must make sure that your application is prepared for a Spot Instance interruption.

There are several best practices regarding handling Spot interruptions as described in the blog “Best practices for handling EC2 Spot Instance interruptions. Tracking Spot Instance interruptions can be useful in some scenarios, such as evaluating your workload for the tolerance for interruptions of a specific instance type, or to simply learn more about frequency of interruptions in your test environment so that you can fine-tune your instance selection. In these scenarios, you can use the EC2 Spot interruption dashboard, which is an opensource sample reference solution for logging Spot Instance interruptions. Spot Instance interruptions can fluctuate dynamically based on overall Spot Instance availability and demand for On-Demand Instances. However, it is important to note that tracking interruptions may not always represent the true Spot experience. Therefore, it’s recommended that this solution be used for those situations where Spot Instance interruptions inform a specific outcome, as it doesn’t accurately reflect system health or availability. It’s recommended to use this solution in dev/test environments to provide an educated view of how to use Spot Instances in production systems.

Open Source Solution available in github called Spot Interruption Dashboard for tracking Spot Interruption termination notices.

Cost management tools

AWS Pricing Calculator

AWS Pricing Calculator is a free tool that lets you create cost estimates for workloads that you run on AWS Services, including EC2 and Spot Instances. This calculator can greatly assist in calculating the cost of compute instances and estimating the future costs so that customers can compare the cost savings to be achieved before they even launch a Spot Instance as part of their solution. The AWS Pricing Calculator advanced estimate path offers six pricing strategies for Amazon EC2 instances. The pricing models include On-Demand, Reserved, Savings Plans, and Spot Instances. The estimates generated can also be exported to a CSV or PDF file format for quick sharing and additional analysis of the proposed architecture spend.

AWS Pricing Calculator support different types of workloadsFor Spot Instances, the calculator shows the historical average discount percentage for the instance chosen, and lets you enter a percentage discount for creating forecasts. We recommend choosing an instance type that best represents your target compute, memory, and network requirements for running your workload and generating an approximate estimate.

AWS Pricing Calculator Supports different type of EC2 Purchasing options, including EC2 Spot instances

AWS Cost Management

One of the popular reporting tools offered by AWS is AWS Cost Explorer, which has an easy-to-use interface that lets you visualize, understand, and manage your AWS costs and usage over time, including Spot Instances. You can view data up to the last 12 months, and forecast the next three months. You can use Cost Explorer filtered by “Purchase Options” to see patterns in how much you spend on Spot Instances over time, and see trends that you can use to understand your costs. Furthermore, you can specify time ranges for the data, and view time data by day or by month. Moreover, you can leverage the Amazon EC2 Instance Usage reports to gain insights into your instance usage and patterns, along with information that you need to optimize the overall EC2 use.

AWS Cost Explores shows cost incurred in multiple different compute purchasing options

AWS Billing and Cost Management offers a way to organize your resource costs on your cost allocation report by leveraging cost allocation tags, so that it’s easier to categorize and track your AWS costs using cost allocation reports, which includes all of your AWS costs for each billing period. The report includes both tagged and untagged resources, so that you can clearly organize the charges for resources. For example, if you tag resources with an application name that is deployed on Spot Instances, you can track the total cost of that single application that runs on those resources. The AWS generated tags “createdBy” is a tag that AWS defines and applies to supported AWS resources for cost allocation purposes and if opted, this tag is applied to “Spot-instance-request” resource type whenever the RequestSpotInstances API is invoked. This can be a great way to track the Spot Instance creation activities in your billing reports.

Cost and Usage Reports

AWS Customers have access to raw cost and usage data through the AWS Cost and Usage (AWS CUR) reports. These reports contain the most comprehensive information about your AWS usage and costs. Financial teams need this data so that they have an overview of their monthly, quarterly, and yearly AWS spend. But this data is equally valuable for technical teams who need detailed resource-level granularity to understand which resources are contributing to the spend, and what parts of the system to optimize. If you’re using Spot Instances for your compute needs, then AWS CUR populates the Amazon EC2 Spot usage pricing/* columns and the product/* columns. With this data, you can calculate the past savings achieved with Spot through the AWS CUR. Note that this feature was enabled in July 2021 and the AWS CUR data for Spot Usage is available only since then. The Cloud Intelligence Dashboards provide prebuilt visualizations that can help you get a detailed view of your AWS usage and costs. You can learn more about deploying Cloud Intelligence Dashboards by referring to the detailed blog “Visualize and gain insight into you AWS cost and usage with Cloud Intelligence Dashboard and CUDOS using Amazon QuickSite”Compute summary can be viewed in Cloud Intelligent Dashboards


It’s always recommended to follow Spot Instance best practices while using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances for suitable workloads, so that you can have the best experience. In this post, we explored a few tools and techniques that can further guide you toward much deeper insights into your workloads that are using Spot Instances. This can assist you with understanding cost savings and help you with troubleshooting so that you can use Spot Instances more easily.