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What is AWS EBS (Elastic Block Store)?

In this blog, you will get in-depth understanding of AWS EBS Volume service. You will learn what EBS Volume service is and what are its various features & benefits. You will also learn about the different types of EBS Volumes.

To successfully meet the challenges related to storing data in the cloud, Amazon provides a storage service to be used with your EC2 instances, called Amazon Elastic Block Storage or Amazon EBS. This service provides highly available block level storage volumes. In this what is AWS EBS in Amazon tutorial, you will get an in-depth understanding of AWS Amazon EBS Volume.
In this blog on AWS EBS, we will learn all about EBS and cover the following topics in the same order:

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So without any further delays, let’s get started with our first topic, what is Amazon EBS in AWS Volume?

What is AWS EBS in Amazon?

what is EBS Volume

Let me explain what is AWS EBS in laymen terms with the help of an example. Suppose, you have a system with 120GB of storage. You run out of space and you need more space, so you get an external disk and attach it to your system. Life is good, you are happy again. The Amazon EBS is equivalent to that external disk, with the only difference that it is supposed to be used with your EC2 instances (virtual systems) on AWS cloud.

Now let’s understand what is AWS EBS Volume in technical terms.
Although Amazon does offer local storage for every EC2 Instance that you can use while you run the instance but as soon as the instance is shut down, the data in that local storage is also lost. Therefore, if you need to save the data, you would need Amazon EBS with your EC2 instance.

Since we have already understood what EBS is, in Laymen terms, let’s now focus on more technical definition of Amazon EBS.

AWS EBS is largely defined as a raw block level storage service, designed to be used with Amazon EC2 instances. Each block acts like a hard drive, where any type of file can be stored or even a whole operating system can be installed on it. Each EBS volume that you attach with your EC2 instance is automatically replicated within its availability zone to prevent data loss and component failure. With EBS, one can easily scale their usage up or down in a matter of few minutes.

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AWS EBS Volume Types

AWS EBS or Amazon Elastic Block Store, provides continuous block storage volumes for EC2 instances. Four main types of EBS volumes serve different use cases:

  • General Purpose SSD (gp2): The gp2 volumes offer cost-effective storage that balances price and performance. They can be used for a broad range of workloads, like boot volumes, enterprise applications, dev/test environments, etc. The gp2 volumes come with the ability to burst to 3,000 IOPS for extended periods of time.
  • Provisioned IOPS SSD (io1): The io1 volumes are high-performance SSD volumes designed for I/O-intensive applications like large databases and other transactional workloads. These volumes allow provisioning of up to 64,000 IOPS per volume. This leads to consistent low latency, helping deliver fast performance.
  • Throughput Optimized HDD (st1): The st1 volumes offer low-cost HDD volumes ideal for frequently accessed, throughput-intensive workloads. These work well for big data, data warehouses, log processing, etc. The st1 volumes can deliver up to 500MB/s of throughput for large volumes.
  • Cold HDD (sc1): The sc1 volumes provide the lowest cost storage from AWS and are best suited for less frequently accessed data. These can be used to store data that is infrequently accessed and require lower storage costs like backups, DR recovery, etc. Sc1 volumes allow a maximum of 250 IOPS per volume.

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Amazon EBS Security

Amazon EBS provides robust encryption, access control, and backup capabilities to keep data secure. Encryption allows the protection of sensitive EBS data either using the AWS Key Management Service, AWS managed keys, or customer-managed keys. Granular access controls can be enabled with IAM policies to restrict actions users can perform on EBS volumes. Regular snapshots allow backing up critical EBS volume data incrementally without stopping applications. 

Following this defense-in-depth approach to security enables securely utilizing the benefits of Amazon EBS storage across a wide variety of workloads. The layers of protection give assurance that organizations can defend their data against unauthorized access or loss by taking advantage of security best practices.

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Amazon EBS Pricing

Amazon EBS follows a pay-as-you-go model based on volume size, I/O requests, storage media type, data transfer, and snapshot storage consumption. Larger EBS volumes have a lower effective price per GB. SSD-backed volumes like io1 and gp2 cost more than HDD-backed volumes like st1 and sc1 per GB. 

Additional charges apply for provisioned IOPS and per GB of data transfer. Incremental EBS snapshot storage and data transfer also lead to charges. Right-sizing volumes, using lower-cost storage options like st1/sc1, automating snapshots, and monitoring usage can help minimize spend. The elasticity and flexibility of Amazon EBS allow for optimizing storage costs for diverse workloads.

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Use of AWS EBS Database Applications

Amazon EBS provides highly reliable and scalable block storage that delivers great performance for database workloads. Some examples include:

  • Oracle Databases: Provisioned IOPS volumes can support the extreme I/O requirements of high throughput Oracle databases at scale. The low latency helps ensure fast response times.
  • MySQL Databases: General-purpose SSD volumes offer a cost-effective storage option for MySQL databases underpinning web applications, e-commerce sites, and SaaS applications.
  • Cassandra NoSQL: Throughput-optimized HDD helps sustain the read/write throughput demands of big data NoSQL systems like Cassandra while lowering costs.
  • Microsoft SQL Server: SQL server database instances can leverage point-in-time EBS snapshots to quickly restore production databases in case of failures or corruption.
  • PostgreSQL: Highly available RDS PostgreSQL deployment runs efficiently on EBS, delivering persistent storage for the underlying EC2 instances.

Benefits of AWS EBS 

benefits of EBS volume - what is AWS EBS

Reliability: To prevent component failures, EBS Volume can automatically respond to its respective availability Zone.

Secure: There are various access control policies that Amazon provides that can be used to specify who can access which EBS Volumes.

Flexibility: EBS Volumes can be scaled up and down as required and they support live configuration changes. Modifications such as volume type, volume size, and IOPS capacity without any service interruptions

Easy Data Backup: Data backup can be easily taken by taking point-in-time snapshots of Amazon EBS volumes that are stored redundantly in multiple availability zones. Taking a snapshot does not depend whether the EBS Volume is connected to any instance or not.

Properties of Amazon Elastic Block Store

  1. An EBS Volume can only be assigned to a single EC2 instance at a time.
  2. Volumes other than the root volumes can be encrypted but the root volume cannot be encrypted without using any of their party tools
  3. The root volumes are deleted by default when the EC2 instance is terminated.
  4. The size of an EBS volume can go up to 16 TiB.
  5. The copy of screenshots can be created between AWS regions so as to create volumes in different regions.

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