Amazon Cloud Introduces Solid State Drives For Block Storage Volumes

Amazon Web Services isn’t letting up. The dominant player in the public cloud market unveiled on Tuesday an upgrade to solid state drives for its midlevel block storage volumes, and a price reduction for its premier storage offering.

In a blog post, Jeff Barr, chief evangelist at AWS, said Amazon’s Elastic Block Storage, which complements EC2 compute instances, will offer by default the SSD memory option, now dubbed General Purpose. SSD, measured by the benchmark of IOPS, offers 10 times more input/output operations each second, with one-tenth the latency of magnetic tape drives, as well as greater bandwidth and consistency.

Matt Wood, general manager of data sciences at AWS, told CRN: "The vast majority of workloads are going to benefit from running on SSDs. That's the new default, but Magnetic volume is still there.’

’Magnetic volume’ is Amazon’s new name for the slower, spinning drives that until now were called ’Standard."

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[Related: Amazon Brings SSD Performance To Cloud With New High I/O Instance ]

Amazon also dropped the price 35 percent on its premier storage option, Provisioned IOPS block volumes, by which customers can requisition greater IOPS for intensive workloads.

As Barr wrote in his blog, General Purpose ’should be your first choice when creating new volumes.’

Customers can migrate from Magnetic to General Purpose volumes. Or, if their workloads don’t require frequent access, or they simply care most about securing the lowest price, they can stick with the slower technology, Wood told CRN.

But General Purpose can significantly improve application performance and responsiveness. The new default setting not only allows the benefits of solid state disk drives, but are allocated to ’burst to an extremely high performance that is particularly useful for boot volumes,’ Wood said.

The ability to call for a temporary surge in input/output operations empowers users to rapidly boot Linux or Windows instances. Switching from the older Magnetic volumes will cut the typical boot time of a Windows 2008 R2 machine in half, according to Amazon.

Aaron Ebertowski, lead infrastructure architect at Nimbo, a systems integrator based in New York, told CRN the higher performance that comes with SSD might allow him to transition some customers away from the higher-grade Provisioned IOPS block storage option to the default plan.

As an example, Ebertowski said Nimbo had a customer for whom 28 percent of their monthly AWS bill was spent on the additional fees that come with Provisioned IOPS storage (before the 35 percent price reduction). But the default SSD option just announced might meet that customer’s needs.

’I have the opportunity to save them close to one-third of their total monthly AWS spend without drastically reducing performance. That’s a big deal,’ Ebertowski told CRN.

At the beginning of this year, Amazon reduced prices on its Standard volumes (now Magnetic) from 10 cents to 5 cents per Gigabyte.

Kevin RisonChu, director of systems and infrastructure at Digitaria, a San Diego-based Amazon partner, said most of his clients had already budgeted for 2014 under the first price, so already felt they were getting a great deal.

’Now they can get better performance from their EBS-backed instances that Digitaria manages on their behalf without having to go back to their procurement teams with additional funding requests. A big win all around,’ RisonChu told CRN.

The ’token bucket model’ that enables performance bursting for intermittent occasions when extra IOPS are needed avoids the pricier Provision IOPS for some use cases.

’Simply stated, during nonpeak traffic times, you can build up an I/O credit reserve, and draw from that reserve during your peak traffic times,’ RisonChu said.

The solid state volumes ’are designed to provide more than enough performance for a broad set of workloads all at a low cost,’ Barr wrote.

The offering predictably bursts up to 3,000 IOPS, and reliably delivers three sustained IOPS for every Gigabyte of configured storage. That performance, courtesy of the technology built to support Provisioned IOPS, comes at 99.999 percent availability.

’AWS enables its customers to predictably calculate performance and cost, while not sacrificing one for the other,’ Ebertowski, of Nimbo, told CRN.

SSD-backed EBS volumes will allow IT organizations to improve their provisioning and startup times, and accumulate IOPS for peak periods, he said.