A Look At Alibaba Cloud Pricing For ECS Instances

4 Min Read

Alibaba Cloud pricing for Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instances compares well to other cloud service providers—provided the type and size of instance you want to deploy is supported. Although Alibaba has invested heavily in its Western hemisphere infrastructure, there are still a few gaps in the ECS portfolio.

When you provision an instance in the cloud (with any cloud service provider), the price you are charged is based on the instance size, instance type, operating system, the region the instance is deployed in, and whether or not you require dedicated “bare metal” hosting. You are also charged separately for services such as block storage, data transfers, IP addresses, and monitoring (i.e. AWS Cloudwatch).

Most cloud service providers charge the same basic “On Demand” price for provisioning an instance and its associated services. Where differences can be found between most cloud service providers pricing and Alibaba cloud pricing, these mostly relate to pricing programs for committed use and off-peak utilization. To better explain these differences, let’s first take a look at four service providers’ pricing for a commonly deployed instance.

Prices are for US East region and correct as of January 2020

ProviderVirtual MachinevCPUsMemory (GiB)Price per hour

Alibaba Cloudecs.g5.4xlarge1664$0.7680


Azure CloudD16a V41664$0.7680

Google Cloudn1-standard-161660$0.8560

Note: Although Google Cloud is the most expensive of the four cloud service providers in this example, Sustained Use discounts are applied to On Demand prices once monthly utilization exceeds 25 percent. At the second discount level (>50 percent utilization) the net Google Cloud “On Demand” price is the cheaper of the four; although at this level of utilization, other discount programs may be more viable.

Preemptible pricing, subscriptions, and committed use discounts

The variables that determine Alibaba Cloud pricing for ECS instances are fairly simple to understand. You select the appropriate instance size and instance type for the workload, choose which region you want to deploy the workload in, and decide whether the workload needs dedicated hosting or not. The operating system will be determined by what system you are already using.

Where Alibaba Cloud pricing for ECS Instances gets complicated is choosing between the four types of Alibaba Cloud pricing—On Demand, spot pricing, subscriptions, and committed use discounts. On Demand pricing is fairly straightforward to understand, as you pay an hourly rate for the provisioned instance for as long as it is running; but what about the other options?

Alibaba Cloud preemptible pricing

Alibaba Cloud pricing for preemptible instances works in a similar way to spot instance pricing on AWS. You create a preemptible instance, set the highest hourly price you are willing to pay to use the instance (the “bid” price) and, when the bid price is lower than the current market price, the instance is deployed. Because of the unpredictability of preemptible market prices, there is no way to compare Alibaba Cloud prices for preemptible instances against other providers.

Alibaba Cloud subscriptions

Whereas most cloud service providers offer a choice of On Demand prices, spot prices and committed use discounts, Alibaba Cloud pricing includes a further option—subscriptions. These are effectively short term, monthly committed use discounts which can save businesses up to 40 percent compared to On Demand pricing. As the table below demonstrates, Alibaba Cloud subscriptions are much more cost-effective than Google’s Sustained Use discounts. AWS and Azure offer nothing similar.

Prices are for US East region and correct as of January 2020

ProviderVirtual MachineOn Demand PriceSubscriptionEquivalent Hourly

Alibaba Cloudecs.g5.4xlarge$0.7680$356.24$0.4948

Google Cloudn1-standard-16$0.8560100% Utilization$0.5992

Alibaba Cloud committed use discounts

Alibaba Cloud’s committed use program is called Reserved Instances, and they are practically identical to AWS’ Standard RI and EC2 Instance Saving Plan programs except for higher percentage discounts (up to 79 percent) and the ability to purchase Reserved Instances ahead of when you need them. As you choose between one-year and three-year terms, there are three payment options (all upfront, partial upfront, and no upfront), and you can change instance sizes within the same instance type within the same region.

For the following comparison of Alibaba Cloud pricing for Reserved Instances, the three-year, all-upfront option has been used with the exception of Google Cloud— where there is no all-upfront payment option.

Prices are for US East region and correct as of January 2020

ProviderVirtual Machine3-Year TermEquivalent Hourly% Discount

Alibaba Cloudecs.g5.4xlarge$7,053.55$0.2684~65%


Azure CloudD16a V4$7,747.00$0.2947~62%

Google Cloudn1-standard-16$9,616.68$0.3659~53%

Where Alibaba Cloud pricing for EC2 instances gets further complicated

Alibaba Cloud pricing for ECS instances compares favorably with other cloud service providers. However, the company does not yet provide the same comprehensive range of instance sizes and types as its three competitors, and limitations exist on what types of ECS instances qualify for Reserved Instance discounts and how they can be deployed (i.e. you can only deploy burstable instances in Zonal RIs).

The evidence from our look at Alibaba Cloud pricing suggests there are cost advantages to using the Alibaba Cloud for both short-term and long-term workloads that require a standard configuration, and it could be of benefit to include Alibaba Cloud in a multi-cloud strategy. The only downside to adopting this approach is that it may make the management of your cloud environment more complicated without a multi-cloud management software in place to help maintain control across multiple clouds. 

CloudHealth Tech Staff, Cloud Tech Journalist

The CloudHealth Tech Staff team is made up of industry experts who report on trending cloud news, offer cloud management best practices, and compare products and services across the major cloud providers. As a part of CloudHealth, the CloudHealth Tech Staff come from all different backgrounds making them unique leaders in this industry.

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