AWS Spot Instances similarity with spot market concepts


The concept of spot markets in traditional finance and commodities is closely related to how AWS Spot Instances work. Here’s how the analogy applies and why AWS uses the term “spot instances”:

Similarities to Traditional Spot Markets:

  1. On-the-Spot Availability:

    • Traditional Spot Market: Goods or financial instruments are available for immediate delivery based on current demand and supply.
    • AWS Spot Instances: These are extra computing resources that AWS has available at the moment. They are offered on the spot based on the current availability of unused EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) capacity.
  2. Variable Pricing:

    • Traditional Spot Market: Prices fluctuate based on real-time market conditions, reflecting supply and demand.
    • AWS Spot Instances: The pricing of Spot Instances can vary based on the current demand for and supply of EC2 capacity. When there is less demand or more excess capacity, prices drop. Conversely, prices can rise if capacity becomes scarce.
  3. Immediate Utilization:

    • Traditional Spot Market: Transactions are completed immediately, and goods or financial instruments are delivered right away.
    • AWS Spot Instances: When you request a Spot Instance, you can start using it immediately if there is available capacity at your bid price.

Why They Are Called “Spot Instances”:

  1. Market-Based Pricing:

    • The pricing model of Spot Instances is similar to that of a spot market, where prices are dynamic and determined by current supply and demand conditions.
  2. Temporary Nature:

    • Just as goods in a traditional spot market are available for immediate but potentially short-term use, Spot Instances can be reclaimed by AWS with little notice if the capacity is needed for On-Demand or Reserved Instances. This makes them ideal for tasks that can tolerate interruptions.
  3. Cost Efficiency:

    • Similar to how spot market transactions can offer cost advantages due to fluctuating prices, Spot Instances can be much cheaper than On-Demand Instances, providing significant cost savings for users who can handle their intermittent availability.

Practical Application:

Imagine a company running a large-scale data analysis task. They could use Spot Instances to perform the computation at a lower cost. Here’s how it works:

  1. Requesting Spot Instances: The company places a request for Spot Instances, specifying the maximum price they are willing to pay.
  2. Current Availability: If the current spot price is below their bid, AWS allocates the instances immediately.
  3. Interruption: If AWS needs the capacity back or if the spot price rises above the company’s bid, the Spot Instances can be terminated with minimal notice.

By leveraging the surplus capacity of AWS data centers, Spot Instances allow users to benefit from lower costs, much like buyers in a spot market can capitalize on fluctuating prices for immediate purchases.


AWS Spot Instances are named for their similarity to spot markets because they involve dynamic pricing, immediate availability, and the potential for short-term use. They provide a way to access computing resources at potentially lower costs, akin to buying goods or financial instruments on the spot market.