Amazon Introduces New Storage Tier That Walks The Line Between High-Performance And Cold Storage

Amazon Web Services on Thursday gave its partners another option for potentially reducing their customers' cloud spends by introducing a storage class that walks the line between standard and cold storage.

The new S3 Standard-Infrequent Access class is a solution that makes economic sense for some common use cases requiring data that is rarely touched to be rapidly accessible, Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for the industry-leading cloud, explained on the AWS blog.

The offering resulted from feedback Amazon received from customers, as well as an analysis of access patterns that revealed a market opportunity in storing infrequently accessed data in a new way, according to Barr.

[Related: Google Vs. Amazon: How Do Their Cloud Compute Prices Stack Up?]

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"We believe that this pricing model will make this new storage class very economical for long-term storage, backups, and disaster recovery, while still allowing you to quickly retrieve older data if necessary," Barr wrote.

Amazon also on Thursday dropped the price of Glacier, its cold storage offering, retroactively from the start of this month. That archival service, which typically requires a three- to five-hour wait for accessing data, goes down from a penny per gigabyte per month to 0.7 cents.

The new S3 Standard-IA class offers a middle ground between Glacier and the standard S3 service. It costs 1.25 cents per gigabyte per month -- compared with somewhere between 3 and 2.75 cents for standard S3.

While Standard-IA offers the same high-performance latency of S3, it comes with a slightly lower availability SLA and also dings users with a 1-cent-per-gigabyte retrieval charge.

Jamie Begin, CEO of RightBrain Networks, an Amazon Premier Partner based in Ann Arbor, Mich., said solution providers should ask their customers a simple question before choosing a storage option: "How frequently do you need to access the data?"

If the answer is less than once a year, that data should probably go into Glacier, which AWS introduced to replace indefinite offsite tape.

"It's cheap to write to, but cumbersome and slow to restore -- just like tape," Begin told CRN.

If they access the data frequently, S3 is still the way to go.

But the new option, which is fast and easy to use, offers "a great compromise" in both speed and cost, he said.

For users that access their data every month, it is probably the most cost-effective approach, Begin said.

Ali Hussain, chief technology officer of Flux7, an Amazon Advanced Consulting Partner based in Austin, Texas, told CRN the new class will be beneficial to users turning to S3 for saving content, rather than serving content. That means archiving data, creating backups, saving logs and similar goals.

"It covers the case for when access is infrequent but is still urgent," Hussain said.

A storage service like Dropbox, which cannot tolerate multi-hour latency but holds data that's mostly left idle, can benefit from that type of storage.

As can a solution provider like Flux7. "We expect to take advantage of these price cuts in handling customers' log and backup data," Hussain told CRN.

Barr noted that many users need to access certain types of data often when first created -- files such as shared documents or raw data requiring immediate analysis. After that, the data keeps its importance, but mostly just sits around untouched.

For that reason, he said, Amazon allows them to set up Lifecycle Rules that transition the data between various storage classes to automate the process of achieving cost-efficiency. Data can be set to transition from S3 to the new class after a month, or into Glacier.

Hussain told CRN the price drop for Glacier was long overdue when considering Amazon lowered its S3 standard price in early 2014.

"This drop puts the Glacier pricing back in line with the overall S3 pricing, encouraging the use for S3 for storing data for long-term archiving without needing immediate retrieval," Hussain said.