Posts Tagged 'Amazon S3'

Amazon S3 Storage: A Flexible Cloud Storage Solution

Amazon S3 storage is one of the AWS services that has been around the longest and is one of the most widely used. For those unfamiliar with S3, it enables individual data items, ranging in size from one byte to five terabytes to be stored in scalable storage. There is no limit to the number of items, referred to as objects, that can be stored in S3. Amazon have recently published the usage statistics for the end of Q1 2012 for this service. At this time there are 905 billion objects stored in S3 with Amazon routinely handling 650,000 requests per second for access to these objects. The number of objects is growing daily by more than one million. This is an incredible amount of data.

These results motivated me to write about the different ways in which users access S3 and the kind of ways they are using it. For those unfamiliar with S3, then storage buckets, which are URL addressable entities are created in S3 and the data objects placed in these. A simple usage scenario is storing Web application assets in S3. For example, a typical Web application has many images and handling the delivery of these images to remote clients, even when cached, places an unnecessary load on the applications servers. A cost-effective way to offload this work is to place the images on S3. Since these are URL addressable, the HTML pages can link to the images here. This means as pages are requested, the images are delivered from S3 storage, freeing the servers the Web application runs on from this workload.

Another way that S3 is being used is via the AWS Storage Gateway. This service, still in beta mode, enables a cost effective, secure, off-premise data backup and disaster recovery mechanism. On-premise storage appliances connect to the storage gateway, providing a secure communication channel to S3 storage. Data stored using the Storage Gateway is automatically encrypted. For disaster recovery, point-in-time snapshots can be taken of on-premise data and sent to S3 providing secure and immediate access to backups should the need arise.

What is interesting is the number of different ways Amazon AWS provides for accessing S3. The simplest is via the Web management console, but this is only really practical for small amounts of data. Other ways include a Web Services API, command line tools, AWS Import/Export developed for large data sets, the above mentioned storage gateway, direct connect pipes for performance as well as many third party backup services.

With a range of security settings on S3 buckets, controlling who has read/write/update access, S3 offers an incredibly safe and cost effective scalable storage solution. If you have a storage requirement that can be off-premise, needs to be low latency yet scale and be secure, I urge you to seriously consider Amazon S3. In my experience over the last two years its a fantastic service. The usage statistics are strong evidence that I am not the only one who thinks so.

For related course information check out Learning Tree’s course entitled Cloud Computing with Amazon Web Services™.

Chris Czarnecki

Get a New File Server in 15 Minutes

Last week, a customer sent me an email that included the following. “The file server is full and slowing everyone down, and I’m tired of having to clean files off of it. Maybe we should get a new one.”

So, I went to Dell’s Web site and found the cheapest file server they had. It cost $1395, which doesn’t include the charge for installing it.

I quoted her the price, and then showed her my file server in the cloud. I demonstrated how to create drives and folders. I explained how we could map cloud drives as drives in Windows Explorer. I showed her what software had to be installed on everyone’s computers. I also showed her how to access files from a Web browser.

The cost for this server is $4 per account, which includes 10 GB of storage. Additional storage is charged at the rate of 15 cents per GB per month. We figured it will be about $20 per month given the number of accounts we need and the amount of storage required. Plus, the first 2 weeks are a free trial. If for some reason they don’t like it, they just have to cancel the account. So, the risk is $0.

Do the math. $2000 for a server that they have to backup and administer, or $20 a month and someone else even pays the electric bill.

Where do you get this file server you may be wondering? Go to Sign up for a business account and choose either the Workgroup or Server edition. We used the Workgroup edition.

Once you have the account, you can create drives. Drives can be created using Amazon S3 storage or using RackSpace. The cost is the same either way.

Finally, install the Jungle Disk client software. This is not strictly required, as the files can be accessed through the browser. However, the software provides three useful features. First, cloud drives can be mapped as a drives in Explorer. Second, local folders can be synchronized with cloud storage. Third, scheduled backups to the cloud can be set up. The client software runs on Mac and Windows. There is even an iPhone app.

The whole process takes about fifteen minutes.

This is an example of the cloud not only making computing cheaper, but also easier and better. If you would like to learn how to use the cloud to benefit your users, take one of the courses in Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing curriculum.

Doug Rehnstrom

Amazon S3 Durability

When adopting cloud computing services, reliability availability and durability are key concerns. It is important to determine what level the cloud provider is offering for the above parameters. Lets take Amazon S3 as an example. S3 is described by Amazon as a highly durable storage infrastructure designed for mission critical and primary data storage. Amazon then highlight the following facts:

  • Backed with the Amazon S3 Service Level Agreement.
  • Designed to provide 99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability of objects over a given year.
  • Designed to sustain the concurrent loss of data in two facilities.

The above, quoted by Amazon, give us a feeling that durability is incredibly high. However, the wording is clever. It states that S3 is designed to provide 99.999999999% durability and 99.99% availability of objects over a given year. This is potentially very different to what is actually provided. Reading the Service Level Agreement highlights that the S3 SLA offers no guarantee of durability, just availability. Further, this availability is not at 99.99% but 99.9%. I quote the SLA below.

AWS will use commercially reasonable efforts to make Amazon S3 available with a Monthly Uptime Percentage (defined below) of at least 99.9% during any monthly billing cycle (the “Service Commitment”)

If the availability falls between >=99% and < 99.9% customers will receive 10% of the monthly charge in credit. Availability < 99% and customers receive a credit of 25% of the monthly charge.

The reason I write about this is not as a criticism of Amazon – I think their services are first class and use them widely. I write to highlight the fact that when considering moving to the cloud, the SLA's need to be read in detail so that there is no misunderstanding between what is actually being provided and what you think is being provided.

Chris Czarnecki

Cost Effective Hosting of Static Web Sites on Amazon S3

Many organisations have simple Web sites that are built totally from static content. Hosting such an application is something that is not readily catered for by hosting providers. They typically provide solutions for dynamic Web sites that make use of scripts written in languages such as Java, C#, PHP or similar languages and use a database. Static sites do not require this functionality yet often the only hosting option is a dynamic Web site package that is more expensive than necessary.

Amazon AWS have a solution for static Web sites that is both simple and cost effective. This solution is built around the Amazon AWS Simple Storage Service (S3). S3 is a highly durable storage infrastructure designed for mission critical and primary data storage. Storage is charged per GB of storage per month and averages around $0.12 per GB per month – it varies slightly per region. Requests for read and write are then charged around $0.01 per 1000 requests.

S3 storage can be configured as a Web site. The domain name of the Web site has the CNAME mapped to the URL to the root of the S3 storage and the storage returns the home page of the Web site. This is very simple cost effective way of hosting a static Web site. Consider a site that requires 10GB of storage and has on average 100,000 requests per month. The AWS hosting costs approximate to $2.2 per month ! The other costs involved are the bandwidth costs that approximate to $0.100 per GB in and $0.15 per GB out although the first 1GB of data out per month has no charge.

So summarising, Amazon S3 is a highly attractive solution for static Web site hosting. In addition to the low cost, it also will scale transparently with variations in load, storage is replicated for reliability and availability and cost is proportional to usage. If you are interested in how you or your organisation can potentially benefit from Cloud Computing and the products offered by the major vendors such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, amongst others, why not consider attending Learning Trees Cloud Computing course.


Amazon AWS and Amazon EC2

One of the questions that is often raised on the Learning Trees Cloud Computing course is what is the difference between Amazon AWS and Amazon EC2. Both words are widely used when describing Amazons Cloud Computing offerings, but often the difference is not clear. The aim of this post is to explain the differences.

Starting with Amazon Web Services (AWS), these are a set of remote computing services (Web Services) that together make up a computing cloud delivered, on demand over the Internet. There are a wide range of services provided, such as:

  • Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) providing block storage devices
  • Amazon Relational Data Service (RDS) providing MySQL and Oracle databases
  • Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) providing bulk email sending facilities
  • Amazon Route 53 providing a scalable Domain Name System

The above list is just a small fragment of the total services that together enable an organisation to provision Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) on demand from Amazon.

So where does Amazon EC2 fit in ? Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is one of the services provided by Amazon Web Services and provides access to server instances on demand as a service. EC2 is a core part of AWS providing the compute facility for organisations. Amazon provide various server images that users can provision as well as the ability for users to create their own virtual machine images for use on EC2.

So summarising, AWS is a set of services that form Amazons IaaS offering. These can be used individually or integrated to form a coherent whole. EC2 is one of the services that make up AWS – probably the most important one. If you would like to know more about AWS and EC2 and how they compare with offerings from other vendors, why not consider attending Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing course where we explain and contrast the Cloud Computing products from major vendors such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.


Amazon AWS New Storage Features

The rate at which Amazon has been adding to and improving its cloud computing services is impressive. If we just consider some of the announcements made to the storage services in June 2010. Firstly consider the Relational Database Service (RDS). This is now available in all AWS regions.The RDS can now be managed from the AWS management console, allowing MySQL instances to be launched, take real-time snapshots of instances and monitor key database statistics. A superb feature now available is the ability to create a MySQL instance that is synchronously replicated across availability zones to provide enhanced data protection and availability due to both planned and un-planned outages.

Another new feature is the Amazon S3 management console. This enables the management of S3 resources from a simple console with tasks such as bucket creation and data object upload available from the console. Offsite backup and disaster recovery planning have also been enhanced with the addition of the Amazon Import/Export feature. Data can easily be imported and exported from/to portable storage devices into S3 storage.

Another new storage related feature is the Reduced Redundancy Storage(RRS) facility just announced. RRS allows customers to store their non-critical data at lower levels of redundancy and therefore at a lower cost to S3 storage. Both S3 and RRS store data in multiple facilities and on multiple devices. S3 is designed to provide 99.999999999% durability. RRS is designed to provide 99.99% durability and both are backed by Amazon’s S3 service level agreement.

There have been other enhancements to services such as CloudFront and MapReduce too and all this month. It is this continuous rapid development and enhancement of the AWS services that is convincing more and more organisations to move to using EC2. The rapid growth in the AWS business has lead to recent predictions that within 5 years, the Amazon AWS business will be larger than its e-commerce business. Such a rapid growth provides concrete evidence that cloud computing is not just the current computing buzzword but is a serious technology being rapidly adopted by a large number of organisations.

If you are interested in how Amazon AWS can be leveraged for your projects in a risk minimal manner, why not take a look at the following overview, or for a more detailed insight why not take the Learning Tree class – it will really fast track you into exploiting the benefits of the cloud.


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