Amazon Opens ‘Block Store’ in the Cloud

Cloud storage

Amazon Web Services is more “persistent” than ever today after officially launching its Elastic Block Store (EBS) as part of its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) environment to let users create large volumes that can behave as raw, unformatted hard drives.

Pricing for EBS is based on storage provisioned monthly starting at 10 cents per gigabyte monthly and 10 cents per 1 million input/out (I/O) requests. For example a 100-gigabyte database averaging 100 I/O operations per second during a month would cost $10 in storage and $26 in “request” fees.

Common EBS applications range from providing a block interface for running databases, processing large datasets and hosting Web sites, according to an Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Web Services spokesperson.

The launch comes as cloud storage gains momentum given it’s proving to be efficient in terms of cost and operations, especially for small and midtier enterprises aiming to safely house data away from traditional costly datacenters.

As one pundit noted, it’s not a new concept but the flexibility provided by EBS will prove useful to a wide variety of organizations.

“This isn’t really anything new,” Dave Russell, an analyst covering storage technologies and strategies for Gartner (NYSE: IT), told

“The real impact is that organizations of all sizes now may choose work loads (that is portions of their data or certain office locations) where cloud storage is appropriate from a cost/availability/risk perspective,” Russell said, adding “choice is always good for the industry.”

Before EBS was developed, data activity initiated a backup instance in the EC2 environment, but that backup was only available if the data was available. Once that initial data set went away, so did the backup.

With EBS, users get a backup volume for storing that ‘instance’ so its not tied to the original data action.

“Many applications will benefit from the use of Amazon EBS. Any application that can benefit from reliable block storage can benefit from Amazon EBS,” the company spokesperson said.

The EC2 service, launched two years ago, provides users an environment to build applications in a safe venue, away from potential failure events. Earlier this year the cloud storage provider began a beta of the EBS system.

The EBS also provides a “snapshot” backup feature in which data loads can be stored in Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) environment. Before EBS, though, anything stored was “ephemeral,” which meant the data only existed as long as the data instance was live and running. The new service eliminates that issue, according to Amazon.

“For over two years, we’ve focused on delivering a cost-effective, Web scale infrastructure to developers, giving them complete flexibility in the kinds of solutions they deliver,” Peter De Santis, general manager for Amazon EC2, said in a statement.