Modernize Your Virtual Machines To The Latest Instance Family

Longtime readers of the ParkMyCloud blog know about some of the pillars of cost savings — Reserved Instances for production workloads, schedule your non-production servers to turn off on nights and weekends, and resize your VMs to a smaller size if it’s underutilized — our data shows that 95% of instances in the public cloud are operating at less than 50% average CPU — but one of the more underrated methods of saving money on your cloud bill is by making sure your VMs and databases are running on the latest instance family. Let’s take a look at what this means, what your options are, and how much you can expect to save.

Instance Family 101

When you spin up a virtual machine in a public cloud like AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud, you get to decide the specifications of the machine. In addition to disk options and network options, you’ll often choose CPU and memory in a “bundle” of pre-built sizes. These sizes have an instance family they are a part of, which usually helps you choose based on whether the application you plan to run is CPU-intensive, memory-intensive, or requires a GPU.

For example, if you are setting up an EC2 virtual machine in AWS, you’ll get to pick from a couple different instance sizes and types as one of the first screens you see in the console. If you pick the instance type of “m5.large”, then “m5” is the instance family and “large” is the size. M5 in AWS is a balanced instance family, while C5 is meant for CPU-intensive applications. Microsoft Azure has a similar idea, with their D-series being a balanced instance and the F-series being optimized for CPU.

Google Cloud does VM sizing a bit differently, but still has the concept of an instance family. A general purpose VM in GCP is often of the type “n2-standard”. Specializing in CPU offers a few different options, where you have the choice between “n2-highcpu” instances for more vCPUs or “c2-standard” for higher performance of those vCPUs. Additionally, GCP offers custom VM sizes, so you can individually pick your vCPU count and the amount of memory you need.

Why Modernize?

Cloud providers incentivize instance modernization by pricing the newest generations the lowest. Most new instance families come out due to better-performing hardware. This usually comes in the form of newer CPU types, but can also refer to networking or memory improvements as well. This means that not only are you getting a server that performs better (even with the same specs), but it’s also cheaper as well. The same size but in a more modern family gets you 10%-20% discounts in price. This combination of better performance and better price means that unless your application doesn’t interact well with the latest hardware, then it’s a no-brainer to switch.

ParkMyCloud Can Help Modernize

One of the recommendations that ParkMyCloud makes, in addition to schedules for non-production resources and size recommendations based on usage data, is to modernize a VM to a newer instance family so that you can optimize performance with the lowest cost. If you choose to accept this recommendation to move to the latest family, then you can choose to resize right away, or to pick a time in the future (like during a maintenance window) — ParkMyCloud takes the action for you. Note that this involves restarting the machine, so you may want to make sure it’s not in use at the time of resizing.

Remember, VM sizing and type selection has a drastic effect on cost — one size down within the same VM family can reduce the cost by 50%, and with changes between families or across more than one size, savings can be even greater. ParkMyCloud’s user interface helps you see how much you can save by making this modernization update, so you know that you’re getting the most out of your cloud spend. Try out ParkMyCloud today to get recommendations for parking, rightsizing, and modernizing your instances!

Originally published at on November 21, 2019.

CEO of ParkMyCloud