AWS and GCP moves to per-second billing model

In one week, Both AWS and GCP announced a per-second billing model. Here is a short explanation of what changed on each cloud provider and what these changes really means to us — the customers.

The AWS announcement

A week ago, Amazon Web Services has announced that it will begin offering per-second billing in all AWS regions, effective October 2.

The new per-second billing model will be applicable for EC2 on-demand, reserved and spot instances (Linux Only!). This change will also be applied to the provisioned EBS storage, AWS EMR and AWS Batch.

Great news for EMR and Batch customers.. since jobs often run for less than an hour, per-second pricing will make choices more cost-effective.

In his blog post, Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, said that by billing usage down to the second “we will enable customers to level up their elasticity, save money, and customers will be positioned to take advantage of continuing advances in computing”.

AWS has offered per-hour billing since launching services in 2006. However, Google and Microsoft began offering per-minute billing a few years ago. These services are all attractive to customers, as the pay-per-use model helps clients to control costs and cut back on waste. With the move to per-second billing, Amazon is breaking down the concept of usage billing even further, so that customers can control charges and reduce excess payments.

AWS will charge for a minimum of one minute.

The GCP announcement

A week after the big rival announcement, Google announced yesterday a very similar move, effective immediately.

Google Compute Engine, Container Engine, Cloud Dataproc, and App Engine’s VMs will now feature per-second billing. This new pricing model extends to pre-emptible machines and VMs that run premium operating systems, including Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Enterprise Linux Server.

Like AWS, Google will charge for a minimum of one minute.

AWS only offers per-second billing for basic Linux instances and not for Windows Server and other Linux distributions on its platform that currently feature a separate hourly charge.

Previously, Google billed users by the minute to run VMs on its platform — for the most part. Some GCP offerings, such as Persistent Disks, GPUs and committed use discounts, have been using per-second billing since their launches, according to a blog post on Tuesday by GCP Group Product Manager Paul Nash.

Nash also noted that unlike switching from a per-hour to a per-minute billing structure, switching from per-minute billing to per-second billing will likely yield only minuscule savings for most organizations. “We estimate it as a fraction of a percent,” he said.

What about Microsoft Azure?

So far, Microsoft hasn’t made a similar move. “With Azure Container Instances we’ve actually led the way for per-second billing, with a service that spins up in seconds and spins down in seconds, we realized it was incredibly critical to give customers this granularity in costs,” Corey Sanders, Microsoft’s head of product for Azure Compute, told Frederic Lardinois at the Microsoft Ignite conference when he asked him about his company’s plans. “I’m excited to see other clouds follow suit and offer customers the best flexibility for their pricing.”

As for regular virtual machines, Sanders stayed on message and noted that Microsoft wanted to focus on containers because it’s there that per-second billing makes the most sense. “We’re always looking to improve billing constructs across our platform and to make it easier and more agile for our customers to use,” he said. I’d be very surprised if Microsoft didn’t make a move to also check the per-second billing checkbox in the near future, though.