What Is Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)?

Have you ever wondered how data can be made easily accessible along with long lasting assurance? Isn’t it wonderful to […]

Have you ever wondered how data can be made easily accessible along with long lasting assurance? Isn’t it wonderful to have a storage system that can be used as the primary storage for file systems, databases, or any other application that is in need of refined granular updates and access to raw, unstructured, block-level storage. Well, everything can be available in one plate with Amazon Elastic Block Store, popularly known as Amazon EBS. Amazon EBS is basically a cloud-based block level data storage system provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

According to research, there are 212 companies that use Amazon EBS and most of these companies are from the Information Technology and Services Industry in the United States.

Amazon Elastic Block Store is regarded as one of the best storage systems used for storing persistent data. This article diligently attempts to understand the following the aspects,

  • What is Amazon EBS?
  • Features of Amazon EBS
  • What is Amazon S3?
  • Amazon EBS vs S3
  • Comparison between Amazon EBS and Amazon EFS

What is Amazon EBS?

As already discussed, Amazon Elastic Block Store is a block-level data storage offered by AWS. This block storage solution is used with EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) to store persistent data. This implies that the data is stored on the AWS EBS servers even when the EC2 instances are not at work. EBS volumes act like raw, unformatted block devices and provide similar high availability and low-latency performance within the selected range of availability. This enables users to escalate storage capacity at a low subscription-based pricing model. EBS volumes can be dynamically attached, detached, and ascended with any EC2 instance, just as a physical block storage appears. Being an extremely dependable cloud-based service, Amazon EBS offering guarantees 99.999% availability.

Amazon EBS is appropriate for both database-style applications that depend on random reads and writes, and throughput-intensive applications that operate long, continuous reads and writes. The most advantageous option with Amazon EBS is that you only get to pay what you use.

Features of Amazon EBS

Now we will place our focus on the features of Amazon EBS to understand the storage system more carefully.

  1. You will be able to establish an EBS volume in a particular Availability Zone, and later connect it to an instance within the same Availability Zone. In order to make a volume accessible or available outside the Availability Zone, you can build a snapshot and reinstate that snapshot to a new volume anywhere in that Region. You can create copies of the snapshots to other Regions and then restore those to new volumes making it easily possible to leverage multiple AWS Regions for extension to other geographical locations, data center migration, and disaster recovery.
  2. Amazon EBS offers a broad range of options that enables you to optimize storage performance and cost for your work operations.  The volume types offered by Amazon EBS are General Purpose SSD, Provisioned IOPS SSD, Throughput Optimized HDD, and Cold HDD.

Let us now analyze the summary of performance and use cases for each volume type mentioned here.

  • General Purpose SSD volumes (gp2 and gp3) look after the balancing of price and performance for a wide range of transactional workloads. These volumes provide appropriate solutions for use cases such as boot volumes, medium-size single instance databases, and development and examining environments.
  • Provisioned IOPS SSD volumes (io1 and io2) have been developed to meet the requirements of I/O-intensive workloads that are very delicate to storage performance as well as consistency. They offer a consistent IOPS rate that is described when you design the volume. Such a situation allows you to anticipate scaling to tens of thousands of IOPS per instance. Besides, io2 volumes ensure the highest levels of volume durability.
  • Throughput Optimized HDD volumes (st1) is another crucial volume type that offers low-cost magnetic storage. This refers to the performance in terms of throughput rather than IOPS. These volumes are suitable for large, sequential work operations such as Amazon EMR, ETL, data warehouses, and log processing.
  • Last but not least, now we will concentrate on Cold HDD volumes (sc1) that offer low-cost magnetic storage. This again defines performance with respect to throughput rather than IOPS. These volumes provide appropriate solutions for large, sequential, and cold-data workloads. If you want an exceptional access to your data and figuring out ways to save costs, these volumes are what you need because they offer an affordable block storage.
  1. In order to prevent the need of creating and managing a secured key infrastructure, you can build your EBS volumes as encrypted volumes. With Amazon EBS encryption, encryption of EBS data volumes, boot volumes, and snapshots can be done efficiently. This encryption process takes place on the servers that conduct EC2 instances, providing encryption of data-in-transit from EC2 instances to EBS storage. Amazon EC2 is supplemented with AWS Identity and Access Management that allows control access to the Amazon EBS volumes for security purposes.
  2. Keys managed by Amazon as well as the keys created by the user to protect the data EBS encryption allows data at rest security by encrypting your data volumes, boot volumes, and snapshots. Access management is handled with IAM, another option available within AWS account which is offered at no additional charges. The user will charge only for accessing other AWS services by your users.
  3. You will be able to establish point-in-time snapshots of EBS volumes, which are inclined to Amazon S3. Snapshots secure data for long-term durability, and can be used as the breeding grounds for letting in new EBS volumes. This is how the same snapshot can be utilized to form as many volumes as required. These snapshots can be copied through AWS Regions.
  4. Performance metrics like bandwidth, throughput, latency, and average queue length can be accessible across the AWS Management Console. These metrics given by Amazon CloudWatch, enable you to track the performance of your volumes to let you know that you are working to provide enough performance for your applications without wasting on unwanted resources.

What is Amazon S3?

Amazon S3 is a simple object storage service provided by Amazon. Amazon S3 offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. It is extremely beneficial to customers belonging to all sizes and industries because it is used to store and protect any quantity of data for a number of use cases, such as data lakes, websites, mobile applications, backup and restore, archive, enterprise applications, IoT devices, and big data analytics.

Amazon S3 also offers management features which allows you to optimize, organize, and configure access to your data to fulfill your specific business, organizational, and compliance demands. Most interestingly, S3 distributes the data objects through various machines and enables the users to access storage with internet support from any location of the world.

Now we need to understand the differences between Amazon EBS and Amazon S3.

Amazon EBS vs S3

To analyze the debate, Amazon EBS vs S3, we can start the comparative analysis based on the difference in characteristics and some of the use cases.

Although there are many differences, the prime ones can be noticed in the storage type, accessibility, availability, durability, data size, etc., in terms of characteristics. To justify the points of differences while talking about Amazon EBS vs S3, we will start with the differences in characteristics of both the system and then move on to the differences in use cases.

Differences in characteristics

  1. Types of Storage

Amazon S3 is a simple storage service directed to object storage developed for storing large numbers of user files and backups while Amazon Elastic Block Store is a block storage based on Amazon EC2 compute instances and it acts like hard drives connected to your computer or laptop but the only difference lies in the fact that it is used for the purposes of virtualized instances.

  1. Accessibility varies

The files present in an S3 domain are often found not properly formatted and can be recovered using HTTP protocols and also with BitTorrent but the data stored in Amazon EBS can be only utilized by the instance to which it is attached to.

  1. Difference in Availability

Both the storage systems assure 99.99% availability but the main difference is that S3 is accessed through the internet using API’s and EBS can be accessed by the single instance connected to it.

  1. Variations in Durability

Amazon S3 offers durability by carefully storing the data through multiple Availability Zones while EBS exhibits durability by essentially storing the data in one Availability Zone.

  1. Differences in Security measures, compliance rules, and Audit features

Amazon S3 can efficiently remove unauthorized access to data with the help of its access management tools and encryption policies but this option is absent in EBS. In EBS, if a user detects unknown access to the instance, then the person can easily use the attached EBS. Also, S3 is designed with some more features which make it convenient to comply with regulatory requirements.

  1. Data size varies

In terms of data size, Amazon S3 has the capability to store large amounts than Amazon EBS. Amazon S3 has a standard limit of 100 buckets and each bucket is equipped with unlimited data capacity whereas EBS has got a standard limit of 20 volumes and each volume can capture up to 1TB of data. In EBS there is also an upper limit on data storage.

  1. Usability differs

One major limitation of Amazon EBS is that all EBS types cannot be utilized by multiple instances at a single time. Multi-attach EBS volume option can be found in provisioned IPOPs SSD io1 and io2 volume types whereas S3 can contain multiple images of its contents so it can be used by multiple instances at the same time.

  1. Pricing Differences

In Amazon S3 storage system, you can follow the utility-based model and prices as per your usage but within Elastic block storage, you will have to pay if you want to use the provisioned capacity.

Amazon S3 cost parameters are:

  • Free Tier – 5 GB
  • First 50 TB/month – $0.023/GB
  • 450 TB/month – $0.022/GB

Amazon EBS cost parameters are:

  • Free Tier – 30 GB
  • General Purpose – $0.045/GB (for 1 month)
  • Provisioned SSD – $0.125/GB (for 1 month)
  1. Difference in Scalability options

Amazon S3 storage provides faster scalability service to its users where resources can be provisioned as well as de-provisioned in run time but this scalability feature is present in Amazon EBS. In the EBS storage system, the increasing or decreasing of storage resources have to be controlled manually.

Variations in Use Cases

The Use Cases of Amazon S3 are,

  • Data lake and big data analytics: Amazon S3 closely works hand-in-hand with AWS Lake Formation to build data lakes that are basically used to capture raw data in its vernacular form and then supports big data analytics by using some machine learning tools, query-in-place, etc., and gathers some valuable insights from the raw data.
  • Backup and restoration: Amazon S3 when combined with other AWS services such as EBS, EFS, etc., can offer a protected as well as stronger backup solution.
  • Reliable disaster recovery: Amazon S3 storage service can provide useful data after recovering from any type of disaster such as power cut, system failure, human error, etc.
  • Other use cases of Amazon S3 include entertainment, media, content management purposes, and some more.

The Use Cases of Amazon EBS are,

  • Software Testing and development: Amazon EBS is attached to a particular instance only. This is why it is appropriate for testing and development purposes.
  • Business continuity: Amazon EBS has the ability to offer a good standard of business consistency as users can operate applications from different AWS regions and all need is the EBS Snapshots and Amazon machine images.
  • Enterprise-wide applications: EBS, as already mentioned is a block-level storage system, this is why it allows users to operate on a wide variety of applications including Microsoft Exchange, Oracle, etc.
  • Transactional and NoSQL databases: As EBS has a low level of latency to give its users, it offers an optimum level of performance for transactional and NO SQL databases. It is also useful for database management.

This is how the Amazon EBS vs S3 discussion can be presented. Now we will understand the Amazon EFS and how it differs from Amazon EBS.

Comparison between Amazon EBS and Amazon EFS

By now, we already know what an Amazon EBS is and how it works as compared to Amazon S3. Now we need to understand what an Amazon EFS is and how can the EBS vs EFS debate be addressed.

AWS Elastic File System, popularly known as EFS is a file-level-storage service that provides a shared elastic file system with a virtual unlimited scalability support. It is a superior storage system that can be utilized by multiple servers at the same time. AWS EFS is completely managed by amazon and it provides scalability on the fly which implies that the user don’t need to worry about their increasing or decreasing workload. If the workload suddenly increases then the storage will automatically adjust and scale itself. On the contrary, if the workload decreases then also the storage will scale itself down.

Just like the previous discussion of Amazon EBS vs S3, we will analyze the EBS vs EFS discussion, by comparing the both the services from the perception of characteristics and usage.

  1. Storage Type

As the name suggests, EBS is a block-level-storage service whereas EFS is a file-level-storage service. So, their storage kinds differ.

  1. Durability

EBS performs quite similar to hard disks but the crucial difference lies in the fact that EBS is attached to virtual EC2 instances and it is almost 20 times more than normal hard disks. EFS, on the other hand, is a superior durable storage.

  1. Performance

EBS exhibits a Baseline performance of 3 IOPS per GB for General Purpose volume and moreover, we can use Provisioned IOPS for increased performance but EFS can handle up to 7000 file system operations per second.

  1. The type of Data stored

The data stored in EBS system tends to remain in the same availability zone and many replicas are formed within the same availability zone. But in EFS, the data stored stays in the same region in place of a zone and multiple replicas are formed within the same region.

  1. Service Management

EFS is entirely a managed service, which indicates that your firm will never have to patch, deploy, or maintain your file system, but the same does not happen with EBS.

  1. Data Access

Although, EBS is an extremely important system but it has a major drawback which is it cannot be accessed directly via the internet, it can only be used by a single EC2 instance to which it is connected. On the other hand, EFS storage allows a user an access of 1 to 1000s of EC2 instances concurrently via the internet but these instances should remain in the same region only.

  1. File Size Capabilities

As EBS is directly connected to the EC2 instance so there is no limitation on file size whereas in EFS there is a limitation and the maximum size of a single file can be up to 47.9TiB.

  1. Cost Savings

EFS is the only storage where you need to pay for what you will be using since there is no advance provisioning, up-front fees, or commitments but in EBS you must attach a fixed amount of volume, and you will be charged for the same.

EBS vs EFS: when to choose what?

We all are aware that both the services offer many useful features but the two storage solutions have been designed completely for different purposes. EBS volumes are restricted to a single instance, and, to be more precise these can only be accessed by one instance at a time. While EFS can have hundreds or thousands of instances accessing the file system at the same time. This qualifies Amazon EFS as perfect fit for any use that deserves a superior performing unified shared storage, such as uses in the media processing or shared code repositories.

Amazon EFS can also be used to managed web content, store various backups, and reduce storage spending. But it should be kept in mind that EFS is expensive than EBS and requires $0.30 per GB while $0.10 per GB is required for EBS. You can only pay once per EFS file system. This means that if you connect a dozen instances to it, you still need to pay the same amount as if you had only one instance attached to it. With EBS volumes, you need to pay for each volume. This is why, sometimes EFS is used in place of EBS to save costs.

EFS scales performance hand-in hand with capacity, and this can be useful in some cases but it can also exhibit a prominent drawback. You might not use profusely to reach the desired throughput of the file system. Just because AWS EBS offers you with steady and predictable performance, EBS can be called an ideal solution, unless you need the multiple instances access at the same time.

Wrapping Up

AWS offers a broad range of storage services and Amazon EBS is indeed one of the best and most popularly used solutions for persistent storage that can be connected to EC2 instances for accessing additional storage. It is advantageous over EC2 instance storage volumes because EBS volumes are a great fit for holding essential and long-term data where the former is appropriate for keeping temporary data. EBS can be built using the EC2 dashboard in the console and in in Step 4 of the EC2 launch. Moreover, EBS is a staple storage system that is extensively utilized by AWS EC2 instances and also offers multiple types to fulfil the user demands.

So, are you interested in using Amazon EBS or any other Amazon Web Services? Then hurry up and get in touch with us at Webuters.

Webuters is one of the leading and trusted AWS cloud solutions companies providing high-quality services both in India and the US. We help businesses of any size in leveraging the potential of AWS cloud. Get in touch with us today!

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