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Amazon Announces Persistent Storage for EC2

Posted by Bob Warfield on April 14, 2008

This is big, big news for Cloud Computing.  A whole new layer of robustness and convenience has been added to Amazon’s EC2 service.

One of the biggest obstacles users of Amazon’s EC2 cloud machine instances have to overcome is persistent storage.  Amazon refers to storage on EC2, at least in the past, as “ephemeral“.

If something happens to your EC2 instance, the data is lost.  You can’t simply reboot like a real physical machine and get back to where you were.  This is a real problem when hosting your MySQL or other database.  It’s a really bad thing if the EC2 instance goes down and you lose all your database data.  Developers have been working around it, and there is even a startup or two focused on such problems, but it has been a real thorny issue.

Now Amazon has announced that you can simply mount some S3 storage on your EC2 instance and run with that.  Simple.  To the point.  Powerful.

To quote Amazon:

These volumes can be thought of as raw, unformatted disk drives which can be formatted and then used as desired (or even used as raw storage if you’d like). Volumes can range in size from 1 GB on up to 1 TB; you can create and attach several of them to each EC2 instance. They are designed for low latency, high throughput access from Amazon EC2. Needless to say, you can use these volumes to host a relational database.

To quote one of the commenters:

“Needless to say, you can use these volumes to host a relational database.”

… and that’s the line we’ve been waiting for. w00t!

Needless to say, it is the line the vast community of AWS users have been waiting for.  Well done Amazon!

Also pay attention that this is a “low latency, high throughput” connection.  That’s also big.  S3 is wonderfully robust, but it has had latency and performance issues that somewhat slow its use for a high performance case like relational DB table space.  It appears that Amazon has opened up a special channel for this purpose that overcomes these issues.

So far this is just an announcement, and the service is not yet available for general consumption.  One wonders a bit whether the announcement isn’t a slight bit of response to Google’s AppEngine rollout, but who could blame Amazon?

One of the big back and forths in the Cloud Wars is going to be the use of standard relational databases like MySQL versus specialized “Cloud” databases like SimpleDB and BigTable.  Amazon just made it easier not to have to choose.  With AWS, you can go either way.

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