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Amazon Elastic File System roadmap details revealed

AWS officials discussed the features customers can expect at the launch of AWS EFS, as well as what's still on the roadmap.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—AWS officials briefed attendees at an event here this week on what to expect from the Amazon Elastic...

File System once it comes into *new regions this summer.

The Amazon Elastic File System (EFS), introduced at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit event in April, is in preview in the U.S.-West region of the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS EFS is slated to become available in U.S.-East and EU-Ireland in one to two months, it was revealed at the event.

"That's the current planning," said Edward Naim, principal product manager for AWS EFS, who presented at the TechConnect event, a series of lectures designed to educate customers on AWS products.

This month's TechConnect installment included some details on how EFS works in preview; a question-and-answer session revealed details of what's planned after the service becomes available for production use.

AWS EFS can support connections from thousands of EC2 instances concurrently, and its file systems will shrink and grow automatically as files are added or removed. It will also feature such strong consistency that any committed writes are guaranteed to show up before other EC2 nodes next read a file, including those in different Availability Zones. It will be priced at $0.30 per gigabyte per month.

AWS customers say they're eager to deploy the new service.

"Right now we're using EC2 instances attached to [Simple Storage Service (S3)] to share files internally, but S3 isn't really designed for that," said Kevin Felichko, CTO of PropertyRoom.com, an online auction company based in Frederick, Md.

Felichko plans to move to EFS within six to nine months of its release.

Other customers are already running EFS in beta.

“EFS bridges the gap between S3 and EBS,” said Hartman Wagner, principal software engineer for Progress Software, an application development firm based in Bedford, Mass., who attended the TechConnect event and is part of the EFS preview. Currently, to share files among instances in different Availability Zones, Wagner and his team have to pay for two EBS volumes and two EC2 instances, and do scripting work to keep data in sync between them.

“Just the ability to address a volume across more than one EC2 instance in multiple Availability Zones is enough to get us to buy in,” Wagner said.

Amazon Elastic File System roadmap details

In response to TechConnect attendee questions on AWS EFS' capabilities, Naim also revealed what AWS plans for the EFS roadmap.

For example, AWS does not plan to support encryption at launch, but encryption capabilities integrated with the AWS Key Management Service are "a very high priority," Naim said.

AWS EFS automatically replicates data between Availability Zones for durability against failure in the underlying infrastructure, but some attendees asked about file versioning for backups to guard against logical application failures. Naim said versioning is being considered as a follow-on to the wider release this summer. For now, he recommended the use of backup utilities such as Rsync.

All EC2 instances in a given Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), with proper permissions, can access the file system, but this shared access doesn't include endpoints in customers' data centers – yet. VPC peering for the file system is also being considered, and "work needs to be done at the network layer" to make these things happen, according to Naim.

Currently, access can be controlled with VPC Security Groups and Access Control Lists as well as standard Windows and Linux directory and file-level permissions.  Administrative access can be controlled through the Identity and Access Management service. In typical NFS environments it's also possible to export the names and parameters of directories to the appropriate clients.

This last type of NFS share is not how EFS works today, but such a feature, possibly enabled by utilities such as Kerberos, is among things Amazon is looking at on its EFS roadmap, Naim said

Inter-region replication is also something Amazon has heard about from a number of customers, and something they are "looking at," Naim said.

There are many items on the roadmap, but customers say this is par for the course for Amazon's new products.

"I'm familiar with how AWS has been doing things – they kind of give you a tease and then build in the additional functionality," Felichko said. "But there's nothing still on the roadmap that would stop me from deploying the first release."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

*Statement changed following initial publication.

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What features should AWS add to Amazon Elastic File System?
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Some auditing capabilities would be a valuable feature. 
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Some detailed mounting instructions for Windows. The beta has examples for Linux, but I'm having difficulty getting Windows 2012 NFS client to connect to the EFS endpoint.
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Encryption at rest
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Transparent encryption for data at rest, using the AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS).  Similar to what's possible today with EBS.
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1. Inter-region auto-replication.
2. Encryption at rest with key management.
3. Some kind of hybrid SSD caching so that frequently accessed files are available at SSD speeds.
4. Ability to easily move content to/from Glacier for archival and restore.

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It doesn't currently support Windows for NFS, but they say it will soon. I think its nice they'll add NFS support for Windows clients, but for those with mostly Windows environments, I think they should consider adding SMB v3+ support. That's the native version of Windows NFS like system.
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Please add: Access control lists (ACL)
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It would be great if this were available in more regions.  Over a year after initial roll-out and it's still only available in 3 regions.
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