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4 New AWS Storage Services Every Cloud Pro Should Know

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Published on January 11, 2022

Every year AWS Re:Invent ups the status quo in terms of cloud storage innovation and design. It was no different in 2021 with the announcement of four new cloud storage services. Each new service focuses on giving users more control of their data — while reducing costs of storage. In this post, we will go through each new AWS service in detail and real-world examples.

Amazon S3 Glacier Storage—Instant Retrieval

If an acorn is stuck in a glacier, then it will be stuck there for thousands of years. One may even say it is in long-term storage, which is exactly what Amazon S3 Glacier is all about. Amazon S3 Glacier—Instant Retrieval (IR) offers lightning-quick retrieval of archived data at the lowest possible cost. 

You may be wondering how S3 Glacier Storage—IR is different from the other Glacier services AWS provides. Currently, an AWS client can either use S3 Glacier or S3 Standard—Infrequent Access. S3 Glacier is for rarely accessed data with retrieval times from a few minutes to several hours. S3 Standard—Infrequent Access is for data that is accessed once per month, but still requires rapid retrieval time. Like the acorn stuck in the glacier, it will stay safe for a long time. But it's gonna cost you to drill it out.

These solutions are great, but some customers need the low cost of Glacier and instant access to S3 Standard—IA. This is where S3 Glacier Storage—IA comes into place. Let's take a quick look at some use cases.

S3 Glacier Storage—IA Use Case

Lawyers often need to keep various records of transactions in case their organization is subject to litigation. Important financial documents and contracts have decade-long retention records, however, the records would be needed at a moment’s notice. After all, it may be the difference between a conviction or exoneration. 

S3 Glacier Storage—IR would be perfect for records that only need to be accessed a few times a year at the very most. In fact, customers can save 70% on data storage by transferring from S3 Standard—IA to S3 Glacier. 

If this hypothetical situation does not suffice, then let's look at how the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc (NASCAR) uses S3 Glacier Storage—IR. Chris Wolford, the Senior Director of Media & Event Technology is quoted as saying: 

"The new Amazon S3 Glacier Instant Retrieval storage class provides low storage cost for the NASCAR Library, which houses our growing media archives and enables our content creators to interact with data of any age in near real-time. We manage one of the largest racing media archives in the world." He continues, "Our customers, who range from the NASCAR Cup series teams to producers, editors, and engineers, generate video, audio, and images, many of which are stored in perpetuity. The new storage class will help us save on our storage cost while greatly improving on our restore performance. Now, we can benefit from lower storage cost, with the resiliency of multi-AZ storage, and with immediate retrievals for any media asset!"

Glacier is great for archiving, but new innovations are to be had on the file server-side as well. Let's walk through how Amazon is trailblazing on-premise-to-cloud migration strategies.

Amazon FSx for OpenZFS

It is a fact of life that sensitive data is far more secure in the cloud than on-premise. It is the difference between storing your gold in Fort Knox, or storing it in a woodshed. This is why it's such great news that Amazon released FSx for OpenZFS.

FSx for OpenZFS gives customers the power to move their on-premise data into the cloud without changing how the code is written or managed. Let's talk about how this new service merges the usability of OpenZFS with the security, agility, and cost benefits of AWS.

What is OpenZFS?

OpenZFS is both a file system and volume manager maintained by Oracle. OpenZFS manages both the physical drives and the logical volumes that sit on top of them. It is an intricate system that inhibits data migration, which is why Amazon FSx for OpenZFS was invented.

Many IT experts have come to rely on the various features offered by OpenZFS, which is why the data migration to the cloud is often a jagged pill to swallow. With this new service, customers can simulate an OpenZFS environment while still possessing the hallmark reliability of AWS. This feature is already available in other file systems, such as Amazon FSx for Windows File System.

FSx for OpenZFS in the Real World

Let's say you were operating a factory that mass-produced widgets. The factory itself is fine and full of capable experts. Unfortunately, the foundation is sinking into the ground. Everyone knows you need to switch to higher ground before the entire factory sinks. Instead of moving into a new factory with different tools and procedures, you simply build an exact replica of the factory on higher ground. 

That way, the experts don't have to waste time re-learning how to do the same things they did before. In this analogy, the factory is OpenZFS and the higher ground is AWS. And of course, the sinking foundation is your on-premise RAID.

FSx for OpenZFS is great for on-prem migration, but what about users who have data on Elastic Block Storage (EBS)? Amazon has a great new solution to facilitate their needs as well, and it's called Amazon EBS Snapshot Archive.

Amazon EBS Snapshot Archive

If you like saving money, then you will love Amazon EBS Snapshot Archive. Proper utilization of Amazon's new service will reduce the cost of snapshot archival by 75%. Amazon EBS Snapshot Archive allows customers to easily move EBS snapshots using one single application programming interface (API). This is way, way better than the current method. However, for the uninitiated, let's provide a broad definition of EBS.

Amazon EBS is a storage service tightly coupled to Amazon EC2 instances. It holds boot volumes, EBS volumes, and anything that needs to be persisted through the life of the associated EC2 instance. For example, let's say you have a word document stored on an EC2 instance, it's actually stored on the EC2's EBS.

Benefits of Using Amazon EBS Snapshot Archive 

An EBS snapshot captures how the data looks at the exact moment the snapshot is taken. It retains only the data that had been altered since the previous snapshot. It is a safe and easy way to revert an application to a previous state when things go awry. 

However, retention policies or audit compliance often require snapshots to be archived. Sometimes, these snapshots need to be retained for months or even years. There is no good way to accomplish this. Customers usually have to use third-party tools to move their snapshot to AWS glacier or S3 Standard—IA. This is a cumbersome and expensive process. Luckily, Amazon EBS Snapshot Archive remediates this issue. Let's see how a real organization uses EBS Archive to satisfy compliance.

Many organizations are eager to adopt these new services. One organization is STEMCELL Technologies. STEMCELL is a global biotechnology company that provides research into reagents, tools, and services. Hikaru Mathieson, a Senior Systems Engineer explains how STEMCELL uses EBS Storage Archive:

"Many of our departments, including quality and finance, have a need for long-term data retention to meet regulatory requirements for our products and services," said Hikaru Mathieson, Senior Systems Engineer at STEMCELL Technologies. "We have a large inventory of EBS Snapshots supporting our use of services like AWS Storage Gateway and Amazon EC2. Maintaining this inventory is an important piece of our regulatory compliance and an easy transition of snapshots over to archival-tier storage has been a long-desired dream. We are excited about EBS Snapshots Archive for its ease-of-use and low cost for long-term retention of our snapshots. In the future, we plan to consolidate more of our long-term backups, such as general department file backups, into EBS Snapshots Archive."

Regulatory compliance is a part of life — and EBS Snapshot Archive will alleviate a lot of stress in that department. However, our final service really helps customers in that department. 

AWS Backup for S3 and VMWare

For AWS veterans, AWS Backup is nothing new. However, Amazon has breathed new life into the service by allowing its auditing capabilities to extend into S3 and VMWare. Let's talk briefly about what AWS Backup can do for your organization.

AWS Backup is a fully managed service that provides a centralized solution to automate AWS Resource backups. AWS Backup currently supports the following resources:

  • Amazon EC2

  • Amazon EBS

  • Amazon RDS

  • Amazon Aurora

  • Amazon DocumentDB

  • Amazon Neptune

  • Among FSx

  • Amazon EFS

  • AWS Storage Gateway

What Problem does AWS Backup For S3 Solve?

Previously, AWS admins had to write scripts that span multiple regions to obtain a consolidated view of their S3 backups. It was often a compliance requirement that took many man-hours to accomplish. Then they would have to parse the records to achieve a point-in-time recovery.

Now, thanks to AWS Backup with S3, this can be done in a far easier manner. On the VMWare side of things, organizations had to rely on third-party tools for their backup needs.

Final Thoughts

According to Amazon, 90% of their innovation roadmap is derived from customer feedback. This assumption is clearly evident considering how quickly organizations such as NASCAR and STEMCELL are adopting their new technology.

In this article, we discussed four new services from AWS. Amazon Glacier—IA, Amazon FSx for Open ZFS, AWS EBS Snapshot Archive, and AWS Backup for S3 and VMWare. Each one of these tools reduces the amount of work that developers and admin have to do. This allows them to work on truly innovative solutions for their organization, instead of worrying about supporting infrastructure.


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