Estimating the size of Amazon Web Services using instances

Jack of all Clouds has a one year perspective on his method to count the EC2 instances on AWS to gauge the growth of amazon web services.

Recounting EC2 One Year Later

December 29th, 2010  |  Published in Analysis  |  9 Comments

It’s been over a year since my original Anatomy of an EC2 Resource ID post. In what became my little claim to fame in the industry, I uncovered the pattern behind those cryptic IDs AWS assigns to every object allocated (such as an instance, EBS volume, etc.). The discovery revealed that underlying the IDs is a regular serial number that increases with each resource allocated. While this may sound technical and insignificant, it turned out to be very valuable: it enabled, for the first time, a glimpse into the magnitude of Amazon’s cloud.

The numbers gathered in that post back in September 2009 showed that approximately 50,000 instances were being spun up every day on EC2 (in the us-east-1 region). So what’s happened since? I joined forces with CloudKick, providers of a cloud management and monitoring platform, to dig up more data. Here’s what we found: (click to expand to an interactive chart)

Click to open interactive chart

The chart above plots the number of instances launched per day, from mid-2007 till present day. Growth is, well, unmistakable. A couple of peaks dominate the landscape around February and October 2010, peaks which somewhat correlate to availability of new AWS services (see interactive map). The evidence is highly circumstantial though as I find it hard to draw a direct conclusion on how these specific events pushed the daily launch count as high up as 150,000.

Let’s zoom out now and look at EC2′s growth over the years:

What can you determine from these numbers?

Responding to my previous research, a top Amazon official commented that a count of instance launches doesn’t really reflect anything meaningful (like the actual customer base, server count or revenues – all of which we’d all love to figure out). I respond that it’s examining the numbers one year later that provides the real value: it’s like looking at a mysterious dial on your car’s dashboard: even without understanding the exact parameter measured, if it shoots up then there’s a decent chance you’re driving faster.

Watching my frozen kindle post.  It is interesting to see after 5 days traffic is twice the normal amount.  I would assume Amazon sold a significant number of Kindles as Xmas gifts.


The numbers alone may not tell you the answer, but they give you a hint on magnitude and direction.