Why Amazon's EBS Should Worry Data Centers

Amazon has announced Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), a persistent storage offering that can be used in tandem with applications using the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With this move, it is turning up the heat on everyone from storage area network vendors, server companies and of course data center operators. Don’t be surprised if the company starts attracting corporations using its suite of web services.

Amazon first started talking about this back in April, sharing some details about the service. (More about its road map, here.) With EBS, new storage can be essentially created on the fly, attached to the EC2 instances, and make the cloud services behave more like the traditional machines people are used to. Storage volumes can be backed up to Amazon’s S3 service. Amazon CTO Werner Vogels has penned an excellent summary about the service, on his All Things Distributed Blog.

However Amazon EBS isn’t just a massive volume storage array … We see developers use this feature for long term backup purposes, for use in rollback strategies, for (world-wide) volume re-creation purposes.

RightScale, a company that has received funding from Amazon and works closely with it has a great explainer on how it works — a must read.

With EBS, developers can deploy scalable solutions including relational databases, distributed file systems and Hadoop processing clusters. EBS is more adept for working with databases, as well apps that require a file system. You can now start and stop just like you would on a traditional physical server. This is a play for larger, corporate customers, a move that is long time coming.

First, some facts about the service:

  • EBS volumes can be anwhere from 1 GB up to 1 TB.
  • As a beta customer, you can create 20 EBS volumes with a total of 20 Terabytes.
  • EBS costs storage plus I/O requests: $0.10 per GB per month & $0.10 per million I/O requests.
  • EBS functionality is available via EC2 API using any number of tools, including command line and Elasticfox.

Why this is a big deal? Well in the past, data that was coming off storage that was attached to Amazon EC2 instance was lost once the instance was lost, a problem that became an issue for quite a few app builders. Persistent access is key to many applications. With the release of this service, now you can simply use Amazon as a full-scale virtual data server. Another way to think about it: a storage area network in the cloud. Check out this post about how to run MySQL on Amazon EC2 with EBS.

Think about it this way — Amazon has taken one more step (a big one) toward turning servers into a service, a prospect that should keep the chiefs of big server makers awake at night.

  • Related Post: Check out my interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his views on cloud computing.
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