Amazon AWS Review

EFS is NFS version 4 based however it does not support Windows SMB/CIFS, HDFS or other NAS access protocols.

Cloud Conversations: AWS EFS Elastic File System (Cloud NAS) First Preview Look

Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently announced new Elastic File System (EFS) providing Network File System (NFS) NAS (Network Attached Storage) capabilities for AWS Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) instances. EFS AWS compliments other AWS storage offerings including Simple Storage Service (S3) along with Elastic Block Storage (EBS), Glacier and Relational Data Services (RDS) among others.

Ok, that’s a lot of buzzwords and acronyms so lets break this down a bit.

AWS EFS and Cloud Storage, Beyond Buzzword Bingo

  • EC2 – Instances exist in various Availability Zones (AZ’s) in different AWS Regions. Compute instance with various operating systems including Windows and Ubuntu among others that also can be pre-configured with applications such as SQL Server or web services among others. EC2 instances vary from low-cost to high-performance compute, memory, GPU, storage or general purposed optimized. For example, some EC2 instances rely solely on EBS, S3, RDS or other AWS storage offerings while others include on-board Solid State Disk (SSD) like DAS SSD found on traditional servers. EC2 instances on EBS volumes can be snapshot to S3 storage which in turn can be replicated to another region.
  • EBS – Scalable block accessible storage for EC2 instances that can be configured for performance or bulk storage, as well as for persistent images for EC2 instances (if you choose to configure your instance to be persistent)
  • EFS – New file (aka NAS) accessible storage service accessible from EC2 instances in various AZ’s in a given AWS region
  • Glacier – Cloud based near-line (or by some comparisons off-line) cold-storage archives.
  • RDS – Relational Database Services for SQL and other data repositories
  • S3 – Provides durable, scalable low-cost bulk (aka object) storage accessible from inside AWS as well as via externally. S3 can be used by EC2 instances for bulk durable storage as well as being used as a target for EBS snapshots.
  • Learn more about EC2, EBS, S3, Glacier, Regions, AZ’s and other AWS topics in this primer here

What is EFS

Implements NFS V4 (SNIA NFS V4 primer) providing network attached storage (NAS) meaning data sharing. AWS is indicating initial pricing for EFS at $0.30 per GByte per month. EFS is designed for storage and data sharing from multiple EC2 instances in different AZ’s in the same AWS region with scalability into the PBs.

What EFS is not

Currently it seems that EFS has an end-point inside AWS accessible via an EC2 instance like EBS. This appears to be like EBS where the storage service is accessible only to AWS EC2 instances unlike S3 which can be accessible from the out-side world as well as via EC2 instances.

Note however, that depending on how you configure your EC2 instance with different software, as well as configure a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and other settings, it is possible to have an application, software tool or operating system running on EC2 accessible from the outside world. For example, NAS software such as those from SoftNAS and NetApp among many others can be installed on an EC2 instance and with proper configuration, as well as being accessible to other EC2 instances, they can also be accessed from outside of AWS (with proper settings and security).

AWS EFS at this time is NFS version 4 based however does not support Windows SMB/CIFS, HDFS or other NAS access protocols. In addition AWS EFS is accessible from multiple AZ’s within a region. To share NAS data across regions some other software would be required.

EFS is not yet as of this writing released and AWS is currently accepting requests to join the EFS preview here.

Where to learn more

Here are some links to learn more about AWS S3 and related topics

What this all means and wrap-up

AWS continues to extend its cloud platform include both compute and storage offerings. EFS compliments EBS along with S3, Glacier and RDS. For many environments NFS support will be welcome while for others CIFS/SMB would be appreciated and others are starting to find that value in HDFS accessible NAS. In addition, AWS has also added a new tier for inactive data in S3 for nearline storage as opposed to having to use Glacier.

Overall I like this announcement and look forward to moving beyond the preview.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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