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How to select the right Amazon EBS volumes

Our enterprise wants low-latency performance and durable block-level storage. What types of Amazon Elastic Block Store volumes are available?

AWS provides four distinct types of Elastic Block Store volumes, and AWS customers can select the one that best...

fits their capacity and performance requirements. Two Amazon EBS volumes rely on traditional magnetic storage media, while the other two types use solid-state storage.

Cold HDD storage (SC1), Amazon's high-capacity Elastic Block Store (EBS) volume type, is intended for cold data that is accessed infrequently at a lower cost and performance. Of the different Amazon EBS volumes, this type includes snapshots, backups and other occasionally accessed data. SC1 uses conventional magnetic hard drives; typical volume sizes range anywhere from 500 GB to 16 terabytes (TB), but a maximum I/O performance of just 250 IOPS limits the throughput to just 250 MB/s. This is a good data access rate, but slow I/O to and from the disks. An SC1 volume can burst for somewhat faster performance, if necessary.

EBS General Purpose SSD is the default option for Amazon EBS volumes.

Throughput Optimized HDD (ST1) is very different than cold HHD storage in that it uses conventional hard drives to provide low-cost, high-capacity and high-performance Amazon EBS volumes. ST1 volumes are well-suited for active workloads that require frequent access and higher throughput. Typical volume sizes also range from 500 GB to 16 TB, but 500 IOPS and 500 Mbps throughput provide noticeably higher I/O performance and better data throughput compared to SC1. ST1 is suited for supporting working storage, including data warehouses, processing log data and handling the data sets for big data projects, such as Elastic MapReduce tasks.

EBS General Purpose SSD (GP2) is the default option for Amazon EBS volumes. GP2 uses solid-state drives to support applications that depend on high IOPS but do not require huge data transfers -- an application doesn't need a lot of data, but the data it needs must be delivered extremely fast. GP2 storage volumes generally range from 1 GB to 16 TB and offer just 160 Mbps throughput, but are rated for 10,000 IOPS. This makes GP2 best suited for storing data that transactional applications and golden images use. This includes generic VM image files that can be duplicated to new Elastic Compute Cloud instances and quickly placed into service. The speed and flexibility of GP2 instances also find use in software development tasks.

Finally, EBS Provisioned IOPS SSD (IO1) provides high-performance solid-state drive volumes that require the highest level of I/O performance. IO1 volumes range in size from 4 GB to 16 TB, but the fast 320 MB/s throughput is complemented by 20,000 IOPS. IO1 volumes are typically provisioned to support transactional low-latency workloads. IO1 best suits busy data warehouses and other I/O-intensive applications, like NoSQL or relational databases.

Next Steps

Resize an Amazon EBS volume

Recover EBS snapshots automatically

Incremental backups protect EBS volumes

Dig Deeper on AWS database management