AWS EBS has these Limits:

max size = 16T

max iops = 20k

free tier size limit is 30G

Amazon web services are pretty amazing, and the company has managed to make provisions for the needs of users. One of these cloud solutions is SAN (storage area network). A SAN is simply a high-speed network that provides cloud users with block-level network access to storage. SANs are made up of certain components that are interconnected with the best of technology, topologies, as well as, protocols.

Amazon Web Services is a success story today because it has managed to evolve. There have been regular attempts to improve performance for users. These attempts have often resulted in the development and the scaling of new heights.

Amazon’s EBS got started in 2008, at this time; it was simply a standard form of HDD-based storage. At that time, Amazon offered between 1GB and 1TB in size, and it offered 100 Input/output per second (IOPS). Subsequently, new EBS volumes came up, and the number slowly increased from hundreds into thousands. A result of this constant development has been the growing demand for volume types.

In this article, I will take a look at Amazon’s EBS (Elastic Block Store). With this feature, Amazon can provide users of EC2 instances with guaranteed block storage volumes. EBS volumes are typically durable, and they are designed to outlive instances. They can be used for different instances. EBS volumes serve as a primary source of storage for regularly updated data.

In simpler terms, the EBS is simply the “cloud’s hard drive.” EBS volumes vary in size, and their use depends on the users’ resources and computing power. Users with a database, as well as, throughput-intensive applications (because they perform continuous disk scans) often require EBS as storage.

In the previous article, I wrote about availability zones and regions for Amazon web services. Amazon replicates every EBS volume to other storage devices that are in the same availability zone. This is done in a bid to meet up with Amazon’s 99.99% guarantee.

EBS volumes are quite flexible, and Amazon offers various types of volumes to users. This means that EBS volumes can be used for a lot of things including;

– They can be formatted with the use of specific file systems.

– They can host operating systems, as well as, applications

– They can be made into snapshots or clones

With these limitless uses, you’d agree with me that there is a lot to talk about when it comes to EBS. This article would serve expository purposes and give readers a lowdown of Amazon’s EBS. It is important to look at these things because it helps AWS users to store data in the clouds effectively.

The goal of this article is to ensure that IT professionals are familiar with the proper management and efficient use of EBS volumes, as well as, snapshots. As I always do, I will back up all aspects of my article with facts. This would be done while taking a look at some of the (underutilized) functions of the EBS.

TYPES OF EBS VOLUMES

Today, Amazon’s first EBS volume (magnetic) is somewhat outdated. It is now being referred to as the previous generation volume. Now the types of EBS volumes are determined by the current generation of EBS types. This generation of EBS volumes can either be SSD or HDD backed up.

Most writers talk about both EBS volumes in terms of comparison. These comparisons often put both types of volumes side by side in order to properly analyze its features, as well as, its pros and cons.

To get the proper understanding about EBS, it is important to look at the types of EBS volumes. EBS volumes are divided into two major volume type categories, and they can be subdivided. Let’s proceed and take a look at the various characteristics that make up all categories;

SSD-backed volumes

SSD refers to Solid State Drives. They are often optimized for transactional workloads. The performance of an SSD volume is measured in terms of input/output operations per second (IOPS). SSD-backed volumes are divided into; general purpose SSD and provisioned IOPS SSD

A) General purpose SSD (gp2): This kind of volume can be used to create an environment for applications with low-latency. This is also a great option for boot volumes and applications in the development and testing environment. This kind of SSD is a balance of cost management and performance. The speed offered by this kind of SSD is dependent on the kinds of applications that users (plan to) run.

B) Provisions IOPS SSD (io1): These kinds of volumes are used for high-performance operations. They provide users with high-speed data access, the kind that is needed for high performance. These kinds of volumes often lead to an insignificant loss of performance on a yearly basis.

Even with the provision of SSD based volumes, the demand for cloud storage didn’t stop. Demand has been said to soar since 2016. For this reason, Amazon thought it wise to offer two new EBS storage types. Amazon worked thoroughly to ensure that these new types are used to provide better IOPS. These new offerings or solutions are designed for users who require high performing storage.

HDD BACKED VOLUMES

HDD (Hard disk drive) backed volumes are meant to operate with large sequential workloads. With continued density improvements in HDD tech drive, it is possible to reduce the throughput per gigabyte and cut costs per gigabyte.

HDD-backed volumes are subdivided into; Throughput optimized HDD (ST1) and cold HDD (SC1).

A) Throughput Optimized HDD: This is a high-speed, big data hard drive environment on the cloud. This kind of storage facility supports large sequences such as log analytics. It is tipped by Amazon as the volume type that wors with almost all kind of applications. It is a reliable option for users that don’t particularly need the kind of performance that SSD provides. Experts assert that the Throughput optimized HDD is a great option for applications that require larger storage requirements.

B) COLD HDD: This is a magnetic storage format, and it provides the lowest speed option that Amazon supports. It is a great way to store data at low costs and is especially advisable for items that you do not need constantly. Having a picture database doesn’t necessarily require regular access as you barely need to enter it more than once in a week. This is a great option for users that do not need up to the capacity that throughput optimized HDD provides.

S3 VS EBS

In order to properly understand the difference between the S3 and the EBS, you need to understand the S3.

Amazon S3 is a storage that stores data as objects, and it is suitable for users who want to store user files in large numbers. The objects stored in the S3 are stored on equal grounds, without any form of hierarchy. With the S3, users can host static web content on a highly scalable device. One thing that confuses a lot of people that I have met in the past is the fact that the S3 is not a file system. Rather, it is an object store.

The S3 and the EBS are both file storage services by Amazon. The difference that occurs between both kinds of service lies in the methods with which they are used. The EBS is specifically meant for elastic computing cloud instances. On the other hand, the S3 is not limited to the operations of the EC2.

Another difference is the fact that it is relatively easier to read information on the EBS than it is on the S3. Users need certain software in order to gain access to information with S3. On the other hand, the EBS simply requires you to mount it on an instance, and it would appear.

When it comes to matters regarding storage, capacity is very important. In this regard, S3 has the upper hand. With a 20-volume standard limit and maximum of 1TB of data, the ETB is limited when compared to the limitless storage capabilities of the S3. The standard 100-bucket limit (each with limitless data capacity) shows the difference between the S3 and the EBS.

The inability of the EBS to be used by many instances at the same time is a major turn off for a number of people. With the S3, users can have ‘pictures’ of their content to allow it to be used simultaneously by many people. Also, in term of price, the S3 is much cheaper than the EBS.

These differences are clear and easy to understand. One is basically a mountable volume while the other is operated with the use of certain software. Also, while one can be used with just one instance at a time, the other can be used by multiple instances. These clarifications are important for readers because the cloud is the future and we all need to be aware.

AMAZON cloudwatch

Another great extra provisional feature by Amazon is the CloudWatch. This feature helps to ensure security and active management of your cloud systems and their performance. Data such as volume status, as well as, instance metrics are important when it comes to managing the EBS volumes.

With the CloudWatch, users can monitor vital matrices at no extra costs. The CloudWatch also provides options with which users with certain instance types can seek data at regular intervals. Users can also adjust CloudWatch alarms to trigger during certain events. For example, a user can set the alarm to trigger when there is a change in state. This will mean that AWS users can programmatically establish the alarms to set of triggers during certain events.

ENCRYPTION

The importance of maintaining a key management infrastructure for the cloud cannot be overstated. This is why Amazon offers users the option of having seamless encryption of data volumes, boot volumes, and snapshots. Users can leverage these additional features in order to maximize the performance of the cloud service. It is also a great way to meet up with security requirements for the cloud.

In the process of encrypting data, keys are used. These keys are managed by Amazon, however, users may decide to create and manage keys. This can be done by using Amazon’s Key Management Service. This service makes it easy for users to create the keys that are used to encrypt data. It also gives users the ability to control these keys. This service has been properly integrated with other AWS services.

Encryption occurs on EC2 host servers and moves regularly between EC2 instances and EBS storage. Users can also gain access to logs that contain details about the usage of your keys. These may be necessary for users at one point, or the other and Amazon has made provisions for this through its CloudTrail service.

Encryption works well with other policies that make it possible to increase a company’s defense strategy on the cloud. For every volume that is created, a unique 256-bit AES key is also formed. This means that all keys are actually protected by Amazon’s key management infrastructure. This allows for secured operations due to Amazon’s strong controls that prevent illegal access.

When it comes to encryption, one question that is on everyone’s lips is whether it supports boot volumes. The AWS EBS encryption supports boot volumes; it provides persistent block storage volumes that are used with EC2 instances in the cloud. Another impressive feat is the fact that EBS volumes are automatically replicated within each availability zone. This provides a strong system of sufficient backup for data.

ELASTICITY

The elasticity of the Amazon EBS helps users to modify some aspects of the volume without any difficulties. Aspects such as the size of an instance can be modified by simply taking a snapshot of the volume, creating a new one and subsequently, attaching it.

This feature is much more pronounced because it can be done without any additional charges. However, there are minor charges for higher storage options. This is an amazing feature because it can be done when EBS is in its ‘in-use’ state. Also, it is worthy to note that this feature is only available for current generation instance types

EBS SNAPSHOTS

One of the most pivotal functions of the EBS is the creation of snapshots for EBS volumes. Snapshots are simply another level of backup for EBS volumes. This part of the article will give you a proper understanding of the process and why it is important. I will also consider if it is a full or incremental backup plan. An EBS snapshot is the (point in time) backup for the data on EBS volumes.

Experts often argue as to whether an EBS snapshot is a full or incremental backup.

What do you think it is?

Well, you are right anyway.

This is due to the fact that Snapshots can both serve as both incremental and full back-up plans.

When the snapshot is created, it serves as an incremental backup. This is because it begins to store data from the point where the last snapshot ended.

On the other hand, snapshots can also serve as full backups. When snapshots are restored, all data from previous snapshots are also restored. In this capacity, Snapshots can be said to be full back-up plans.

While it is common to hear complaints about how difficult it is to use snapshots, it thinks it is one of the most amazing features of the EBS. Snapshots may be taken at any time, and a copy of data is written to S3. Subsequently, it is redundantly stored in various availability zones. Snapshots are incremental, and this feature helps to save changes to data.

Users are free to delete old EBS snapshots because the new ones will continue to restore properly. The truth is that not all of these snapshots are totally deleted. Amazon actually consolidates the data on the snapshot by moving valid data to the next snapshot and subsequently discarding invalid data.

Even though snapshots are said to be stored it the S3, it is impossible to get gain access to the via S3 buckets. Amazon simply uses the same infrastructure to store both snapshots and S3. However, you cannot gain access to snapshots via S3 buckets.

How snapshots work

Volumes are divided up into blocks. As soon as the first snapshot of a volume is taken, all blocks of that volume are copied to the S3. Subsequently, a list is written and sent to S3. This list comprises all blocks that have been written. The second snapshot is taken with the same volume but with different blocks. At the time of the second snapshot, only blocks that have changed since the first snapshot will be copied to the S3. Subsequently, the table of content is written, and it gives a comprehensive list of the snapshots to the S3.

With this incremental nature, snapshots give users an added advantage because it saves time and space. This is because it only copies changes and sends it to the S3. Snapshots can be copied to other regions to ensure proper security and access to it at all times. Snapshots can also be shared between AWS user accounts.

Consistency is a crucial factor when it comes to EBS snapshots. The performance of snapshots is determined by the performance of S3. However, there is barely any major concern for users due to the fact that all operations that pertain to the snapshots are background EBS operations. This means that it barely has any major effects of the functionality of EBS instances.

Sharing Snapshots

AWS EBS users have two options when it comes to sharing snapshots. They may either decide to share them privately or publicly. When snapshots are shared publicly, it means that all data in the snapshot is accessible to AWS users. Unencrypted volume snapshots are shared both privately and publicly. However, when it comes to encrypted snapshots, it is a different story.

Encrypted snapshots can only be shared with an approved list of AWS users (these people also need to be using customer managed key).

Encryption of snapshots serves an extra layer of security for cloud users. It helps them to achieve maximum security in the process of sharing and receiving data to the cloud. This is an important step in curbing the compromise of information.

Benefits

Although we have taken a clear look at features and seen how they can impact the functionality of the EBS, this part is supposed to look at other benefits that users of the EBS can gain access to. They include;

RELIABILITY AND SECURITY

Amazon specially designed the EBS for the sake of reliability and availability to users. This is a significant part of the brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction. Volume data are replicated across various servers in an availability zone, and this prevents the loss of data as a result of hardware malfunction. The failure of an individual drive doesn’t cause loss of data (because all data are adequately backed up).

Other factors such as snapshots and other layers of extra secure back-up for data help users to secure data in a reliability cloud environment.

FLEXIBILITY

With several features that allow users to enjoy a lot of extra incentives, the EBS is approved as a very flexible storage service. With support for live configuration changes, users can make numerous important modifications without affecting the service.

OPTIMIZED PERFORMANCE

With the AWS EBS, users can enjoy optimal services as a result of the dedicated network capacity for volumes. Optimal performance can also be ensured for EBS volumes through the minimizing of the network contention. When this is ensured then users can enjoy swift and impressive performances on the EBS.

AVAILABILITY OF DATA

With the immediate replication of EBS volumes within availability zones, data will always be available when needed. This is a great way through which EBS users can leverage the collective powers of availability zones. This is a great feature that is peculiar to the EBS.

Factors That Affect Performance

When it comes to the performance of AWS EBS service, there are certain factors that are responsible for the success or otherwise of the service. Factors such as the size of instances, and workload, affect the outcome of the volume’s performance. Apart from these factors, certain factors also affect the performance of the EBS.

In order to get maximal performance standards, you need to use instances that are EBS-optimized. The reason for doing this is pretty simple; these kinds of instances have a dedicated throughput between EBS and EC2 instances. Another crucial factor that affects performance is the volume configuration. An increase in the size of the general purpose volume will result in better IOPS.

Another determinant factor for the performance of EBS is the choice between HDD and SSD volumes. This choice should be totally dependent on the user’s storage requirements. Availability of funds is another crucial factor that has to be considered. This should be done in order to ensure that the proper choice is made.

Another great way to optimize your cloud system operations is by ensuring that you select the appropriate block size. This is a major determinant when it comes to the amount of data that is processed. Block size may also be increased in order to get more throughputs. This advantage is especially remarkable for applications that perform a large amount of work.

Users need to plan ahead when it comes to the use of EBS. The need to get the right size of volumes is directly tied to the proper performance of the EBS. Another tip that users need is to ensure that they optimize network bandwidth.

SUMMING IT ALL UP…

At the start of this article, the goal was clear. I planned to give an objective overview of AWS EBS. For me, it was a process of learning and understanding, but I am confident that it is worthwhile. This adventure of hours of research is eventually coming to an end. The goal is to expose readers to everything they need to know about Amazon’s elastic BlockStore.

The EBS is one of the most important storage options that Amazon presents to users. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most cost-effective public cloud storage formats out there. This is why I think it is essential to get a full lowdown of all the details about the service. It is crucial to properly understand the capability of a service in order to utilize it properly.

Over time, the EBS had constantly gotten better as opposed to when It began a few years ago. This growth has been as a result of result of the constant urge for customer satisfaction. This is one thing that Amazon web service users are grateful for.

With Amazon, new innovations are normal, and this has led to the rapid growth of AWS. They are a powerhouse when it comes to cloud computing, as well as, storage and they aren’t relenting. At this pace, it is most likely that we will see better performance due to high-IOPS offering EBS volumes

I think it is safe to say that the EBS is a great bargain for cloud users. However, it is important to break down the complexities and get a proper understanding of your options. If you can weigh the effects of these options on your business, then you may consider them. However, not all these options are good for all users. This is why users need to make choices based on their computing requirements.

Performance is guaranteed if you can adhere to the simple rules and follow the tips. You can enjoy a lot of benefits by utilizing this service effectively. There is an endless pool of knowledge for you to gain, keep learning!

Cheers!