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Amazon cuts prices, expands cold storage options

Amazon cut prices on its cold storage service Glacier, a move that also gives customers faster access to data -- if they're willing to pay for it.

Amazon added retrieval capabilities and lowered its storage costs to match moves by competitors, giving customers more choices for how to use stored data on AWS.

Amazon Glacier has been a popular option for cold storage, but one of the major drawbacks was slow retrieval times, which can take several hours. Rival cloud provider Google exacerbated that shortcoming when it developed Nearline, its own cool storage service with retrieval times of several seconds. Google recently added Coldline, a cold storage option with the same access time.

Amazon expanded its retrieval options for Glacier. The standard rate provides data typically within three to five hours at $0.01 per Gigabyte (GB) and $0.05 per 1,000 requests. New options include expedited retrievals that take up to five minutes at $0.03 per GB and $0.01 per request, as well as bulk retrievals that take five to 12 hours at $0.0025 per GB and $0.025 per 1,000 requests.

The expedited option targets customers with more than 100 terabyte of stored data that require emergency retrieval, while the bulk option is recommended for large requests that aren't as time-sensitive.

Expedited retrievals on Glacier, while not faster, are cheaper than Google's Coldline, which charges $0.05 per GB. New storage rates for Glacier also undercut Coldline, which is at the same price point as Glacier at $0.007 per GB per month -- Glacier storage pricing will be dropped to $0.004 per GB per month starting Dec. 1.

There are only a few differentiators among storage products -- durability, availability, performance and cost, said Arun Chandrasekaran, research vice president at Gartner. Customers won't compromise on durability, but they may be willing to make tradeoffs.

Amazon is reaching a point where customers are looking for more flexible options because there are use cases where they don't want to wait three to five hours," he said.

REAN Cloud, an AWS consulting partner, has customers using Glacier primarily for compliance reasons where archived data isn't needed right away. The new retrieval options cost extra, but that may be acceptable because of the infrequency of those retrievals, said Ben Butler, REAN Cloud vice president of business development and solutions architecture.

"I'm glad that they see the innovation there to be able to expedite the process," Butler said. "It seems to make sense because you may store a lot of data you may never touch, but when you do touch it you want it fast."

CloudTrail adds some capabilities

Another storage update that could benefit customers is a new feature in CloudTrail that enables customers to capture object-level API activity in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). In the context of running compliant workloads in AWS, data staging or intake requires some level of control over access, said Jason McKay, senior vice president and CTO at Logicworks, an AWS managed cloud provider.

The lack of automation around CloudTrail has been a complaint from customers, so the ability to set alerts around access to a particular file or archive object in an S3 bucket will be helpful for customers with sensitive data, he said.

Amazon also cut prices and streamlined its pricing tiers for S3 by more than 20% in most regions. S3 pricing starts at $0.023 per GB per month in the U.S.-East (Northern Virginia and Ohio), U.S.-West (Oregon) and EU (Ireland). Prices vary, but are higher in the remaining regions, including U.S.-West (North California). These price changes also will go into effect Dec. 1.

Price cuts only go so far

Price cuts are always appreciated, but it never moves the needle with customers, especially since there's not much disparity between providers' pricing, McKay said.

"What customers do care about is they want to make sure -- within a given pricing framework -- that they're using resources in a sensible manner," he said.

Cost at a certain scale does matter, but capacity pricing won't be the major driver of the total cost of ownership over time, Chandrasekaran said.

"Egress and request and support costs add up as well," he said. "Customers should not and do not choose providers purely on capacity cost."

As providers continue to diversify their offerings, choices about cloud providers are based more off the range of products offered, the automation of the platform and the API capabilities to support to a partner ecosystem, Chandrasekaran said.

More moves leading up to AWS re:Invent

Amazon has made a number of updates to AWS ahead of re:Invent, it's annual user conference that will be held later this month. The company also made its data visualization tool QuickSight generally available; reduced Elastic Compute Cloud pricing for the C4, M4 and T2 instances; added first-in, first-out support for Simple Queue Service; added environment variables and a new serverless application model to Lambda; and stated that MXNet will be its deep learning framework of choice for machine learning.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Contact him at [email protected].

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