Amazon Gets Persistent With Cloud Storage

Storage in the Amazon cloud will get a bit more persistent thanks to planned enhancements that will let users keep data loads ranging from 1GB to 1TB in the retailer’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) hosted environment.

The EC2 service, which launched in mid 2006, provides online compute capacity for developers seeking a place to build applications away from potential failure events. In the virtual computing environment, users tap Web service interfaces to requisition machines, upload custom application environments and manage network access permissions.

One drawback, however, is that anything stored is “ephemeral,” meaning it’s only there as long as the instance created is running, unless a user relies on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) environment. But that option even has drawbacks as users can’t access either S3 or Amazon’s SimpleDB option as an actual file system.

The EC2 enhancement, expected later this year, will let users create storage volumes that can behave as raw, unformatted hard drives.

Amazon was not immediately available to comment. However, in an Amazon Web Services Blog posting, Amazon’s Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr wrote that the persistent storage feature “will give the ability to create reliable, persistent storage volumes for use with EC2… and will have a lifetime independent of any particular EC2 instance.”

An additional feature, “snapshot” backups which can be stored in the S3 environment, will also be enticing to enterprise-level customers, said Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at Illuminata. The snapshots let users roll back to earlier stored data.

“Now, with EC2, users will also be able to create disk volumes that essentially are just like normal disk storage,” Haff told “From the enterprise point of view this is more a traditional type of storage in that it’s not only for Web services-based applications but for more traditional application storage,” he said.

Although the snapshot feature is nice, larger enterprises will still likely stick to typical hardware and software storage and backup approaches, he added. “It’s a more natural fit for the small to mid size traditional enterprise.”

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