Amazon switches on macOS Big Sur for AWS

Amazon’s decision to introduce Mac support via AWS illustrates Apple’s growing importance in enterprise IT,

Apple, Mac, macOS, mac Mini, AWS, Amazon
Michael Simon/IDG

Delay may be the deadliest form of denial, but Amazon’s decision to introduce Mac support via AWS illustrates Apple’s growing importance in enterprise IT, as vendors across the board follow the money.

Big Sur in the cloud

That importance is this week reflected by Amazon’s decision to offer macOS Big Sur in the cloud within AWS. The company originally confirmed plans to offer Big Sur support in early December when it first introduced support for Macs in the form of a fleet of Mac minis. Now, it seems those Macs have been upgraded and Amazon has introduced support for macOS Big Sur in its cloud.

The company says it will keep its Macs updated in sequence to Apple’s OS releases.

The move follows a similar announcement from Scaleway earlier this month when that company introduced access to Mac mini systems in the cloud. Others offering cloud-based Mac deployments include Macstadium, and now (since December, anyway), AWS.

It should be interesting down the road to learn what kind of energy cost-savings cloud-based providers bringing M1 Macs online are seeing, given the huge difference in power draw compared to Intel-based Macs.

What is this for?

The idea is that customers can run on-demand macOS workloads using these hosted Macs. Developers may use this to build or provision their apps, as the service can provision and access macOS environments in minutes and developers gain the flexibility to dynamically scale capacity in response to demand.

Announcing the launch of Mac support in AWS in December, David Brown, vice president for Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) at Amazon, said:

“With EC2 Mac instances, developers can now provision and access on-demand macOS compute environments in AWS for the first time ever, so they can focus on creating ground-breaking apps for Apple’s industry-leading platforms, rather than procuring and managing the underlying infrastructure.”

What this means is app developers (particularly games developers) can simply host macOS environments remotely to provision applications.

Apple owns half the mobile gaming world

Big Sur on AWS should be of particular use to iPhone and iPad game developers, who can develop, build and sign games with macOS and then deploy those titles via the cloud. It also comes at a point in games industry development where more than half of 1.75 billion mobile gamers play their games on an iPhone or iPad.

“Now, Amazon EC2 Mac instances enable you to build entire cross-platform game development build farms in the cloud that previously were a mix of on-premises and the cloud,” wrote AWS Senior Product Marketing Manager Rick Armstrong.

Games are not the only fruit in Apple’s tree — enterprise deployments of AWS-based assets also exist, and this offering supports build farms, render farms and CI/CD farms targeting all Apple’s environments.

What’s available?

So, just what does AWS offer? At present, its Big Sur machine images are hosted on Intel-based Mac minis, though the company plans to introduce EC2 Mac instances with the M1 chip later this year. Otherwise, the current deployments support Xcode 12.5 and later, which includes SDKs for iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS and macOS.

These Macs are backed by Amazon Elastic Block Store, and they include the AWS Command Line interface, command line tools for Xcode, the Amazon SSM Agent and Homebrew. The service is available in the US, EU and APAC regions. You can find out more about AWS Mac provision online.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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