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AWS S3 pricing downshifts with new Infrequent Access tier

Amazon Web Services added a new data storage option to its cloud this week. Will it catch on?

AWS S3 pricing took on a new dimension this week with a less expensive tier of storage for long-lived but infrequently accessed data.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Simple Storage Service (S3) users can now choose a new pricing tier, S3 Standard – Infrequent Access (S3 – IA), which costs 1.25 cents per gigabyte (GB) to store data and 1 cent per GB for data access.

Users say S3 – IA will find a niche in their environments between production and archival storage.

The new S3 tier probably wouldn't be used to back up a production system, but for staging and QA environments, it could be a good fit, according to Theodore Kim, senior director of SaaS operations for Jobvite, a talent acquisition software maker in San Mateo, Calif. 

S3 – IA also could be useful for recordings of video interviews, Red Hat Package Manager data repositories, and CloudTrail logs, which would take advantage of the durability of S3 - IA without the need for the full data availability of S3 – Standard, Kim said. "We would then archive to Glacier by lifecycle policy after 30 days," he added.

The new AWS S3 pricing tier also finds the middle ground between S3 – Standard and Glacier, analysts say.

"We know the curve of accessing data drops off rapidly after something's been created," said Mike Matchett, senior analyst and consultant with the Taneja Group in Hopkinton, Mass and a TechTarget contributor. "Having this lower cost storage tier, where the data is still available, is going to be great for the people that store a lot in S3."

Some industry analysts were left wondering about the impetus for the AWS S3 pricing move, however.

"Introducing low-performance storage is an interesting tactic in today's market," said Carl Brooks, analyst with 451 Research based in New York. "I wonder if this isn't AWS trying to manage or amortize obsolete spinning disk before retirement."

AWS S3 pricing tier comparisons

AWS S3 customers can choose from four pricing options for object storage: S3 Standard, which starts at three cents per gigabyte (GB) and is slightly discounted by volume (5000 TB of data costs 2.75 cents per GB); the new S3 – Infrequently Accessed (IA), which costs 1.25 cents per GB to store and 1 cent per GB to retrieve data; Amazon Glacier, which is priced at 0.7 cents per gigabyte, down from1 cent per GB; and S3 – Reduced Redundancy Storage, which is priced starting at 2.4 cents per gigabyte and has no retrieval fee.

While S3 - Reduced Redundancy Storage is still the least expensive of the online storage options, it also has less data durability than the other S3 options. S3 – Standard and S3 – IA have eleven "nines" of durability (99.999999999%), but Reduced Redundancy Storage durability has 99.99% durability, meaning objects may be lost. If a customer stores 10,000 objects using the RRS option, they can expect to lose one object per year, on average, according to AWS documentation.

But data durability is not to be confused with data availability. While objects are not lost with S3 – Standard and S3 – IA, the availability of the data for access is measured at three "nines" (99.9%) for S3 – IA versus four "nines" (99.99%) for S3 – Standard.

Glacier customers, meanwhile, can retrieve up to 5% of their average monthly storage for free each month, but any more than that, and they will be charged a 1 cent per gigabyte retrieval fee. Data can also be migrated between S3 – Standard, S3 – IA and Glacier using AWS S3 lifecycle policies, but must stay in each tier for a minimum time period.

S3 – IA charges are incurred for 30 days even if objects are deleted, overwritten, or transitioned to a different storage class before that time period is up. There is also a pro-rated charge of 2.1 cents per gigabyte for items deleted from Glacier prior to 90 days.

These policies are similar to the early deletion fees customers can incur using a comparable competitive product such as Google Compute Platform's Nearline Storage tier, which became generally available July 23.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.  

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