Amazon launches high-performance SSD instances

 Updated: A new type of compute instance just added to Amazon’s EC2(s AMZN) menu targets high I/O jobs, including NoSQL database applications. The new “High I/O Quadruple Extra Large”  instances store and retrieve lots of data very fast — a characteristic required by interactive web and mobile applications in which real-time response to user clicks and gestures is key.

As described in a post to the the AWS blog late Wednesday, each “hi1.4xlarge” instance can access two 1 TB volumes of fast solid state disk (SSD) storage to enable that speed.

According to the blog:

The SSD storage is local to the instance. Using PVM virtualization, you can expect 120,000 random read IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) and between 10,000 and 85,000 random write IOPS, both with 4K blocks. For HVM and Windows AMIs, you can expect 90,000 random read IOPS and 9,000 to 75,000 random write IOPS. By way of comparison, a high-performance disk drive spinning at 15,000 RPM will deliver 175 to 210 IOPS.

Netflix(s nflx), a huge Amazon customer, has already benchmarked the new SSD-enabled instances running a Cassandra test suite. Adrian Cockcroft posted a blog outlining the benchmark is here, but the short version is that Netflix validated Amazon’s raw performance claims for this Cassandra workload. Cockroft is director of architecture for Netflix.

The availability of solid state storage, which is faster and more expensive than more traditional spinning disks, has become a battleground with more companies adding the option as the price for SSDs falls.

Update: One Amazon user, Robert Shears, president of Greystone Solutions, a Boston developer of e-commerce sites, is generally impressed with the speed at which Amazon makes new features available. This news is more exciting than usual, he said, even though only a few of his customers really need this capability. “For those who do need it, it will be a real lifesaver,” he wrote.

“Our expected use cases are first: SQL Servers that need to scale up in a big hurry due to volume demands and second: clients who are stuck with legacy DBMS systems (relational or pre-relational) who have important line-of-business apps that are running out of steam at the same time DBMS vendors are also running out of steam.”

The specs for the new instances, which initially will be available from Amazon’s US East in Northern Virginia and EU West regions, are:

  • 8 virtual cores, clocking in at a total of 35 ECU (EC2 Compute Units)
  • HVM and PVM virtualization
  • 60.5 GB of RAM
  • 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity with support for cluster placement groups
  • 2 TB of local SSD-backed storage, visible to you as a pair of 1 TB volumes

Early comments to the post were positive. Wrote one commenter:

Excellent! But please consider adding a wider range of instance types with SSD storage. Not every server needs 60GB ram and 1TB ssd. Ideally every current instance type should be available with the choice of SSD storage instead(or at least a selection of the most popular ones).

Oh and it would be very nice being able to spin up some Amazon RDS MySQL instances backed by SSDs.

Amazon continues to add new features and functionality to EC2 at a fast clip. It will probably have to keep doing so as Microsoft(s msft) and Google(s goog) and other well-funded players appear intent on challenging its dominance in massive cloud infrastructure.

For more on the new high I/O instances, check out the video.