Switch to AWS Graviton to reduce RDS costs

Tal Shladovsky
July 13, 2023
min. read
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In today's cloud computing landscape, cost optimization plays a crucial role in maximizing the value of your infrastructure. Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a range of services to help users achieve cost efficiency, and one such option is leveraging Graviton processors for Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service). This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on optimizing AWS RDS costs by utilizing Graviton processors.

Understanding AWS RDS Cost Optimization

When considering the cost of Amazon RDS, it is essential to understand the key cost components associated with it. AWS RDS cost is primarily influenced by the following factors:

  • Instance Types: The choice of instance types determines the underlying hardware, compute power, and memory allocated to your database. Different instance types have varying costs, and selecting the right one based on your workload requirements is crucial.
  • Database Engine: The database engine you choose, such as Amazon Aurora, MySQL, PostgreSQL, or others, can impact cost due to differences in licensing fees, storage requirements, and performance characteristics.
  • Provisioned Storage: AWS RDS provides storage for your databases, and the amount of provisioned storage directly affects the cost. It is essential to estimate your storage needs accurately to avoid unnecessary expenses.
  • Multi-AZ Deployment: Enabling Multi-AZ (Availability Zone) deployment enhances high availability but comes at an additional cost. This feature replicates your database across multiple AZs, ensuring automatic failover in the event of an infrastructure issue.
  • Backup and Snapshots: Regular backups and snapshots are crucial for data protection and disaster recovery. However, storing backups and snapshots can contribute to storage costs, especially if retention periods are long or if frequent snapshots are taken.

Cost optimization is a critical aspect of effective database management for several reasons:

  • Cost Efficiency: Optimizing AWS RDS costs ensures that you are using your resources efficiently, avoiding unnecessary expenses, and getting the most value out of your investment.
  • Budget Management: By implementing cost optimization strategies, you can better manage your budget and allocate resources to other areas of your business that require financial attention.
  • Scalability: Cost optimization allows you to scale your database environment without incurring exponential costs. This flexibility is essential as your database needs to evolve over time.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Maximizing cost efficiency directly impacts your ROI. By optimizing costs, you can achieve higher returns on your AWS RDS investment and allocate your savings to other business initiatives.

Introducing Graviton Processors

Graviton processors are a family of custom-designed processors developed by Amazon Web Services (AWS) specifically for their Graviton-based instances. These processors utilize the Arm architecture, offering an alternative to the traditional x86 processors commonly used in the industry. Graviton processors provide several benefits for AWS customers:

  • Cost Efficiency: Graviton processors are designed to deliver high performance at a lower cost. They offer a price-performance advantage, allowing users to achieve significant cost savings compared to traditional x86 processors.
  • Energy Efficiency: Graviton processors are built with energy efficiency in mind. They optimize power consumption, resulting in reduced operational costs and environmental impact.
  • Performance: Graviton processors offer competitive performance for various workloads, including web applications, microservices, and data processing tasks. They are capable of handling demanding workloads with efficiency.
  • Scalability: AWS provides a range of Graviton-based instances that can scale to meet changing workload requirements. This scalability ensures that your applications can grow without compromising performance or incurring excessive costs.

When comparing Graviton processors with traditional x86 processors, there are a few key differences to consider:

  • Architecture: Graviton processors utilize the Arm architecture, while x86 processors use the x86 architecture. Arm processors are known for their energy efficiency and power optimization, whereas x86 processors have a long history in the industry and widespread compatibility.
  • Performance Characteristics: Graviton processors offer competitive performance for various workloads. While x86 processors have traditionally dominated the market, Graviton processors have shown significant improvements in performance over time, particularly for certain types of workloads.
  • Ecosystem and Software Compatibility: The x86 architecture has a vast ecosystem and extensive software compatibility due to its long-standing presence. Many software applications and tools are optimized for x86 processors. However, the Arm ecosystem is growing rapidly, and AWS provides support and resources to facilitate the adoption of Graviton-based instances.

AWS supports various database engines on Graviton-based instances, including:

  • Amazon Aurora: Graviton processors are compatible with Amazon Aurora, a highly available and scalable relational database service. This allows users to leverage the benefits of Graviton processors while utilizing Aurora's performance and reliability.
  • Amazon RDS for MySQL and PostgreSQL: Graviton-based instances are also compatible with Amazon RDS for MySQL and Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL. Users can migrate their existing MySQL or PostgreSQL databases to Graviton instances to take advantage of cost savings and performance improvements.

Performance and Cost Benefits of Graviton Processors

Graviton processors offer performance advantages for specific workloads, enabling users to achieve efficient and high-performing infrastructure. Some of the key performance advantages include:

  • Web Applications and Microservices: Graviton processors excel in handling web applications and microservices workloads. With their optimized architecture and efficient resource allocation, they can deliver fast response times and handle concurrent requests effectively.
  • Containerized Workloads: Graviton processors are well-suited for containerized workloads. Their energy-efficient design and scalability make them ideal for running containerized applications, providing efficient resource utilization and reducing operational costs.
  • Data Processing and Analytics: Graviton processors can efficiently process large volumes of data and perform analytics tasks. With their competitive performance and scalability, they enable faster data processing, improving the overall efficiency of data-intensive workloads.
  • Machine Learning Inference: Graviton processors can also enhance machine learning inference workloads. With their performance capabilities and cost-efficiency, they are well-suited for running inference workloads at scale, allowing businesses to derive insights and make real-time predictions.

Utilizing Graviton processors can lead to significant cost savings for businesses. Some ways in which cost savings are achieved include:

  • Lower Compute Costs: Graviton processors offer a price-performance advantage over traditional x86 processors. By leveraging Graviton-based instances, users can achieve cost savings due to the lower hourly rates associated with these instances while maintaining performance levels.
  • Reduced Licensing Fees: Graviton processors are designed by AWS and utilize the Arm architecture, which often eliminates the need for additional licensing fees associated with certain software and tools. This reduction in licensing costs can contribute to significant savings, especially for applications with large-scale deployments.
  • Enhanced Resource Efficiency: Graviton processors are known for their energy efficiency and optimized power consumption. By utilizing Graviton-based instances, businesses can reduce operational costs related to power consumption and cooling requirements, resulting in long-term cost savings.

Numerous real-world use cases demonstrate the performance and cost benefits of Graviton processors. Here are a few examples:

  • Web Applications: Organizations running web applications with high traffic volumes have witnessed improved response times and reduced infrastructure costs by leveraging Graviton processors. The optimized architecture and efficient resource utilization contribute to better user experiences and lower operational expenses.
  • Data Analytics: Businesses dealing with large-scale data analytics workloads, such as real-time data processing and data warehousing, have experienced significant cost savings and improved performance with Graviton processors. The combination of efficient compute power and lower hourly rates translates into enhanced cost-effectiveness.
  • Containerized Environments: Companies leveraging containerization for their applications have found Graviton processors to be an excellent fit. Graviton-based instances offer cost savings while ensuring reliable performance for containerized workloads, making them an attractive choice for organizations adopting container orchestration platforms like Amazon ECS or Kubernetes.

These real-world use cases highlight how organizations across different industries have achieved notable performance improvements and cost savings by utilizing Graviton processors in their AWS environments. By aligning workload requirements with the strengths of Graviton processors, businesses can optimize their infrastructure for efficient operations and better financial outcomes.

How much can you save by making the switch to Graviton?

The potential cost savings you can achieve vary based on the RDS instance you are currently using. However, as a general guideline, migrating from a previous generation x86 processor to one of the newer generation Graviton processors can result in approximately a 10% reduction in your cloud bill.  
Let’s look of the following comparison table as a reference:

Please note that this table provides an example of pricing comparison for common RDS instance types, but there are many other instance types available with different performance characteristics and pricing. The prices can also vary depending on the region, storage requirements, and other factors.

Migrating to Graviton-Based RDS Instances

In most cases transitioning to AWS Graviton is as simple as updating your infrastructure-as-code (IaC) to select new instance type and associated Operating System (OS) Amazon Machine Image (AMI). However, because AWS Graviton processors implement the Arm64 instruction set, there can be additional software implications.
Therefore migrating existing database instances requires careful evaluation and planning. Here are some key considerations, evaluation criteria, and best practices for a successful migration:

Evaluation Criteria for Migrating to Graviton-Based RDS Instances:

  • Workload Analysis: Assess your database workload characteristics to determine if they align with the performance advantages offered by Graviton processors. Consider factors such as concurrency, data processing requirements, and resource utilization patterns.
  • Database Engine Support: Check the compatibility of your database engine and version with Graviton-based instances. AWS provides documentation that outlines the supported database engines for Graviton processors, ensuring your chosen database is compatible.
  • Performance and Cost Analysis: Compare the performance and cost implications of migrating to Graviton-based instances. Evaluate the potential performance gains and cost savings based on your workload profile and projected usage patterns.
  • Application Compatibility: Consider the compatibility of your applications and tools with Arm-based architecture. Ensure that your applications, client libraries, and management tools are compatible with Graviton processors.

Steps to Assess Compatibility and Feasibility:

  • Identify Target Databases: Determine which databases within your environment are suitable candidates for migration. Start with non-production or test databases to evaluate compatibility and performance before migrating critical production databases.
  • Create a Test Environment: Set up a separate test environment to replicate your database infrastructure using Graviton-based RDS instances. This allows you to perform compatibility tests, benchmark performance, and validate the feasibility of migration without impacting your production environment.
  • Compatibility Testing: Test the compatibility of your applications, queries, and scripts with the Graviton-based instances. Verify that your database schema, stored procedures, and functions work as expected.
  • Performance Benchmarking: Execute performance benchmark tests on the Graviton-based instances to assess the impact on query execution times, throughput, and resource utilization. Compare the results with your existing x86-based instances to determine if the performance gains justify the migration.

Best Practices for Migrating Existing Databases to Graviton-Based Instances:

  • Plan a Phased Approach: Start with a phased migration strategy, gradually moving databases to Graviton-based instances. Begin with databases that have lower criticality and complexity, and gradually expand the migration to more critical workloads as confidence and compatibility are established.
  • Monitor and Optimize: Continuously monitor the performance of your migrated databases on Graviton-based instances. Optimize resource allocation, query performance, and indexing to fully leverage the benefits of the Graviton architecture.
  • Utilize Migration Tools: AWS provides migration tools and services, such as AWS Database Migration Service (DMS), to simplify the migration process. Leverage these tools to streamline the migration, minimize downtime, and ensure data consistency.
  • Backup and Recovery: Before migrating critical databases, ensure you have a robust backup and recovery strategy in place. Perform regular backups and validate the restore process to mitigate any potential risks during the migration.
  • Test and Validate: Thoroughly test the migrated databases and applications in the new Graviton environment. Validate functionality, performance, and data integrity to ensure a seamless transition.

AWS provides a comprehensive step-by-step transition guide to assess your workload and to identify and address any potential software changes that might be needed.
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How Stream.Security can help find where to make the switch to Graviton

  • Stream.Security Cost feature helps you understand your RDS costs more clearly than native tools and/or other legacy FinOps vendors, by providing you with a complete context of your resources cost-wise. With the Cost feature you can review costs trends, direct and indirect costs, data transfer costs,  so you could instantly detect saving opportunities, troubleshoot and prioritize actions to reduce costs.
    When understanding how your RDS cost is built up, you can optimize and implement cost best practices.
  • In addition, Stream.Security Architectural Standards can easily help you detect all RDS instances that are not using Graviton processors, so you can consider migrating them.


Migrating from x86 processors to Graviton processors presents a promising opportunity for organizations to reduce their RDS costs without compromising performance. By leveraging the power of Arm-based architecture, AWS Graviton processors offer a cost-effective alternative that can deliver significant savings in the long run.

Throughout this article, we have explored the benefits and considerations associated with transitioning to Graviton processors for Amazon RDS. While the exact cost savings may vary depending on workload characteristics and specific instance types, it is clear that organizations stand to gain substantial financial advantages.

The cost savings achieved through this migration can be attributed to the competitive pricing structure of Graviton-based instances. With comparable performance to their x86 counterparts and an attractive price point, Graviton processors offer a compelling value proposition for organizations seeking to optimize their RDS expenses.

However, it's important to note that successful migration requires careful evaluation of workload compatibility and thorough testing. Not all workloads may be suitable for Graviton processors, so it's essential to assess the performance requirements and conduct benchmarking to ensure a smooth transition.

Furthermore, organizations should stay informed about the evolving landscape of AWS instance types and pricing options. As AWS continues to innovate and introduce new offerings, regularly reassessing your RDS infrastructure and exploring opportunities to optimize costs becomes crucial.

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