Unused EC2 Reservations Can Save You Money

Dec 31 2012 | by Zev Schonberg

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I was recently talking to a Cloudyn customer about best practices for reducing AWS spend. While expecting that our Reserved Instance Calculator – which recommends optimal deployment plans – would top his list of penny-pinching tools, his actual choice was a bit of a surprise. According to him, Cloudyn’s Unused Reservation report was his secret cloud cost-cutter. And when he elaborated on how it works for him, I knew I had to share it with you. So here goes…

The Obvious Stuff – A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Say you’ve got a compute-intensive project coming up. You figure you’ll probably need five c1.medium instances for about one year and you decide to save some money by purchasing 5 Linux/UNIX Reserved Instances. Four with Heavy Utilization pricing and one with Light Utilization pricing. (Feel free to check my work, but based on AWS pricing as of December 2012 you’d be paying $3402 for the 4 heavies – no matter how many hours you do or don’t run your instances – and another $178 one-time fee plus $0.10 per hour for the light reservation).

Now determining whether long-term reservations make sense from an ROI and flexibility perspective is quite complex and occasionally, even the best and brightest might over-provision a bit with the result being a negative ROI on their AWS reservation.

When that happened to our customer, they were extremely happy to have that info readily available in their Unused Reservations and complementary Selling Recommendations reports. This allowed them to immediately put those unused reservations up for sale in Amazon’s Reserved Instance Marketplace where they could recoup some of their costs by selling them before the term expired.EC2-Selling-Recs

The Not So Obvious Stuff – Waste Not, Want Not

When starting new projects, companies often purchase new instances to meet increased computing requirements. However, this is not always necessary and might be a complete waste of money. What our thrifty customer has done quite successfully, is to match up available, unused reservations with the demands of new and even ongoing projects.

So for example, if a new (or existing) project can use the same instance types and be located in availability zones of existing unused reservations, our customer uses those reserved instances instead of buying new and much more expensive, On-Demand instances. This not only saves money but helps drive a higher ROI for the already paid-for, and unused reservations.

Let Me Show You How It’s Done

If you’ve read this far, hopefully I’ve made it somewhat clear how you can capitalize on your unused EC2 reservations. Of course, you might have some questions, like “how do you determine if a reservation is unused or not?” or “is it really true that AWS charges you for your hourly usage on Heavy Utilization, even if you don’t run any instances?”, and the like. I’d be happy to address all these mysteries…all you need to do is set up an account with Cloudyn (totally free) and I’ll definitely be in touch.

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