Cost Comparison

For the sake of alternative cost comparison, we use Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Computing 2 (EC2) price points. The EC2 instance type most similar to UFRC’s Normalized Compute Unit (NCU) is the c4.large instance, which comes with 1 core (2 vCPU) and 4GB RAM (3.75 GiB) – equivalent of 1 NCU purchased from UFRC – and utilizes high frequency Intel Xeon E5-2666 v3 (Haswell) processors optimized specifically for EC2.

The fully burdened cost to the University of Florida for delivering 1 core hour on HiPerGator is $0.031. This includes the cost of the data center, electrical power, and staff salaries, which are subsidized and not charged to UF researchers.

AWS offers various purchasing models for EC2 instance types; below are 4 examples as of 09/25/2017 (note that prices are subject to change):

  • On-Demand: $0.10/hour
  • Reserved Instance (RI), Standard 1-Year Term, All Upfront: $0.059/hour
    (this is the effective hourly rate with upfront cost of $515)
  • Reserved Instance (RI), Standard 3-Year Term, All Upfront: $0.039/hour
    (this is the effective hourly rate with upfront cost of $1,013)
  • Spot: $0.0232/hour
    (this rate has not reached $0.025/hour in 4 different AZs of NoVa region in over 2 months)

Since the “Spot” price is not a guaranteed rate, the “Reserved Instance” (RI) price will be used as the c4.large “Price Per Unit” in the cost comparison below.

Compare the costs of purchasing equivalent HiPerGator and EC2 compute resources for 1-year and 3-year terms. Note that, for both 1-year and 3-year terms, the total cost of all resources purchased from UFRC is less than the price of a single c4.large instance from AWS. The table below compares the AWS prices with the fully loaded commercial prices for HiPerGator; UF faculty pay significantly subsidized prices for the use of HiPerGator.

UF Research Computing vs Amazon Web Services

Compute Unit Commercial Price Per Unit

1-year term

1 compute core
(4GB RAM per core)

HiPerGator  NCU $271
EC2  c4.large $515

3-year term

1 compute core
(4GB RAM per core)

HiPerGator  NCU $813
EC2 c4.large $1,013

There are many advantages to fully mature cloud services (such as those provided by AWS) that are not provided by HiPerGator. This is part of the reason the AWS prices are higher. A small sampling of these advantages include:

  • The latest cores, meaning faster processing
  • Hardware options unavailable from UFRC (GPUs, FPGAs, high RAM-core ratios, etc.)
  • Software options unavailable from UFRC (e.g. HiPerGator runs Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6; however, a researcher may need a different operating system, desire root access, need key software already configured in marketplace, etc.)
  • Bursting for larger jobs (Need 5,000 nodes for the weekend? No problem!)
  • No waiting in the queue for those with funding
  • Off-site backups/redundancy/high-availability
  • Public data sets (geospatial/environmental, genomics/life sciences, datasets for machine learning, regulatory and statistical data, etc.)

Thanks to Bill Richmond, Senior Solutions Architect at AWS, for helping construct this cost comparison.