Amazon EC2 vs. other cloud/VPS hosting options vs. real hardware

 Originally published on April 13, 2009 by Dirk Paessler
Last updated on March 03, 2022 • 6 minute read

We wanted to roughly rate performance of a virtual server hosted by Amazon EC2 compared to other hosting offerings. So last week we ran several performance tests on Amazon EC2 instances as well as other cloud and vps hosting platforms plus some servers in our own labs.

In last week's post "CPU, Disk, Memory Speed Comparison of Amazon EC2 Instance Types" we tried to find out how the individual EC2 instance types compare. Now we compare EC2 instances against other options. As references we simply used virtual (and real servers) from our labs which are uses for testing our software. Consider this an "ultimate incomplete selection" of VPS hosting offerings around the globe. The contenders are:

Hosting CompanyOfferingLocationTechnologyUS$/month


Amazon EC2 c1.medium US East Coast XEN ~US$180
Amazon EC2 m1.small US East Coast XEN ~US$90 VPS Cologne DE Virtuozzo US$20 VPS Atlanta GA Virtuozzo US$15
Paessler Labs: Virtuozzo Container on a DELL Poweredge 2950 (Xeon E5140, 2.3 GHz, Win2k3) Dedicated Miami FL ? ~US$90 Cloud Server San Francisco CA ? ~US$100
Paessler Labs: VM on VMware ESX 3.5 Server on DELL Poweredge 2950 (Xeon E5430, 2.7 GHz)
Paessler Labs: DELL Poweredge 2950 (Xeon E5405, 2 GHz, Win2k3)
Paessler Labs: DELL Precision 390 (Core 2 Duo X6800, 2.93 Ghz, Win7)
Here are the results (we have scaled all test results in comparison to the "c1.medium" instance which we have defined as 100%):


Comparing EC2 With Other Hosting Options

Blame our test method or not, but again the "m1.small" instance (US$ 90/month) under-performs. When compared to the cheap Virtuozzo Container hosting by hosteurope or vpsland (USD 15-20/month) is has less performance. But of course performance is not everything, reliability is very important, too. And being able to scale quickly. And in these two categories EC2 ourperforms hosteurope and vpsland of course. Quite impressive is the memory and cpu speed of the GoGrid Cloud Server. Compared to EC2's c1.medium you get twice the power at the same price (USD 90-100/month) (in fact the GoGrid system scored the highest cpu performance in our test). Newservers' server system - in the same price range - only was better in memory speed when compared to EC2.

Comparing EC2 With a Virtual Machine on VMware ESX 3.5

A virtual machine on our VMware ESX server showed about 50% of the disk performance and about 200% of the memory and CPU performance.

Comparing EC2 With Real Hardware

Let's look at the comparison of an EC2 "c1.medium" instance with real hardware. As a rule of thumb you get the disk speed of a decent 2008 server system, but only 50% of the CPU performance and 20% of the memory performance. But remember: Since our CPU test measures performance only with one single thread the differences for the CPU performance can differ by multiples for multi threaded applications.


Our test programs are only very simple load tests for memory, CPU and disk. Our test contenders were pretty much selected by random from the systems in our own software test labs and can not be considered a "complete range". This test is no substitute for application-specific "real world" tests that you should run on a new platform before you consider moving your applications onto it.

Test Notes

All test were run on Windows operating systems between April 1st and April 6th 2009. We could not run our memory load test on the three Virtuozzo-based systems because the test failed due to the containers' memory limitation of 512 MB RAM.