Linux vs Windows: An AWS Cost Comparison

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When Amazon Web Services came out in 2006, it was launched on Linux. The open source operating system established AWS as a cost-effective cloud solution and helped increase its adoption. AWS started supporting Microsoft Windows in 2008, before Microsoft’s own cloud platform, Azure, became available in 2010.

As the “native OS” for AWS, and by virtue of being an open-source platform, Linux Server is less expensive to run on AWS than a Windows Server. If you are running applications that are built on Windows, you will need to understand the cost implications of running them on AWS and how best to optimize the costs.

While evaluating the cost of each operating system on AWS, it is important to look at the total cost of ownership, TCO, including computing costs, licensing costs, system administration, migration and support costs.

Following is a comparison of AWS Linux pricing vs. AWS Windows pricing across these cost factors.

The Cost of Computing on Linux vs. Windows: Amazon EC2

AWS Free Tier, the introductory offer for new AWS customers, provides 750 hours of free instance usage for Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS, and 5GB of storage capacity with Amazon S3 for 12 months. This offer provides the opportunity to assess the cost of your cloud deployment based on your applications’ underlying operating system

When you are ready to purchase instances, you will need to evaluate the best pricing model to optimize your cloud infrastructure.

The table below illustrates the cost differential for the same EC2 instance type across three pricing models: On-demand, Reserved Instances, Savings Plans. (Refer to our earlier article for a detailed review of all EC2 pricing options).

According to the example below, the same instance type running on Windows Server can cost up to 2.6 times more than the same instance type running on Linux for Reserved Instance pricing. The differential in cost is 2.37 times more for Savings Plans, with all parameters, such as Region and terms, staying the same.

It is important to point out that Reserved Instances  (RIs) provide the best pricing for instances running on either operating system. If you have applications in production, mission critical applications that require high availability, or steady state use cases with predictable workloads, reserved instances will provide significant savings.

While the example above illustrates pricing for Standard Reserved Instances, Convertible RIs provide flexibility and cost savings for specific scenarios:

  • Convertible RIs are well suited for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Windows Server applications
  • However, for database applications the situation is different. Convertible RIs are not cost effective for Microsoft SQL Enterprise. The high hourly cost creates risk
  • Standard Reserved Instances only apply to usage on a specific operating system. On the other hand, EC2 Instance Savings Plans apply to usage on any OS. If you have applications running on multiple OS, you may be inclined to purchase Savings Plans. While this may look like the more flexible option, the discounts over Standard RIs are not that significant. 
  • If you have deployments across multiple regions, Compute Savings Plans will offer more flexibility than Convertible RIs.
  • Convertible Reserved Instances apply to usage for a specific instance type, OS, and region while Compute Savings Plans  apply to usage across all attributes, with a defined tenancy.

It is evident that pricing considerations for compute services can be complex. You need to know the details of all pricing models and how they support your specific application requirements and deployments across multiple variables. Adding other layers related to the size of financial commitment you can make, and your risk appetite, the decision can be agonizing. Parquantix will develop a cost optimization strategy that will best suit your business and technical needs.

What are the differences in licensing costs?

Because Linux is an open source platform, it does not have any license fees. License fees for specialized Linux distributions such as Red Hat and SUSE are embedded in the subscription costs with those vendors. Windows however incurs licensing costs from Microsoft. Depending on the type of license, and agreement, the costs can vary widely. Enterprise Agreements are negotiated based on the size of your organization, and number of users. Client Access Licenses that supplement on-premise Windows Server licenses can easily add up to increase the cost of your deployments.

Dedicated Hosts

One consideration to help you save on your licensing costs is to have physical Amazon EC2 servers dedicated for your usage. Dedicated hosts help you move Microsoft Windows Server, Microsoft SQL Server or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server licenses to AWS and manage them through AWS License Manager.

What are the differences in software support costs?

Linux as an open source environment does not provide support for your deployment on the platform. You will need someone with Linux expertise to manage your deployment, which can get expensive. If you access Linux through distributions, such as Red Hat and SUSE, Linux support will be covered as part of your subscription. Window support, on the other hand is available through Software Assurance from Microsoft, which also covers upgrades to the future software versions.

What are the differences when it comes to IT staffing?

The AWS ecosystem that was built on Linux has accelerated demand for IT and engineering professionals with expertise on Linux, which increased salaries. In 2020, the average annual salary for system admins for Linux Server has reached close to 40% higher than those for Windows Server.

Optimize Your AWS Cost on any OS with an Automated Tool

Building and running your cloud architecture on either operating system, Linux or Microsoft Windows, requires a thorough consideration of costs across a number of factors, including computing, administration and support. AWS has a broad product portfolio with complex pricing models that can lead to confusion and administrative overload. Parquantix will develop a strategic AWS cost management strategy based on your application and business requirements, and usage patterns. Our automated tool will procure and manage instances with the pricing model that guarantees the highest performance and value for your applications in the cloud.

Are you ready to start optimizing your AWS costs?

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