Amazon Glacier Review
Cloud Conversations: AWS Glacier Overview


PART I

For those not familiar, Simple Storage Services (S3), Glacier and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) are part of the AWS cloud storage portfolio of services. There are several other storage and data related service for little data database (SQL and NoSql based) other offerings include compute, data management, application and networking for different needs shown in the following image.

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AWS Services Console via www.amazon.com

AWS basics

AWS consists of multiple regions that contain multiple availability zones where data and applications are supported from.

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Note that objects stored in a region never leave that region, such as data stored in the EU west never leave Ireland, or data in the US East never leaves Virginia.

AWS does support the ability for user controlled movement of data between regions for business continuance (BC), high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR). Read more here at the AWS Security and Compliance site.

PART II

For those not familiar, Simple Storage Services (S3), Glacier and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) are part of the AWS cloud storage portfolio of services. 

Note that I sometimes use other AWS regions outside the US for testing purposes, for compliance purpose my production, business or personal data is only in the US regions.

The following figure is a generic example of how cloud and object storage are accessed using different tools, hardware, software and API’s along with gateways. AWS is an example of what is shown in the following figure as a Cloud Service and S3, EBS or Glacier as cloud storage. Common example API commands are also shown which will vary by different vendors, products or solution definitions or implementations. While Amazon S3 API which is REST HTTP based has become an industry de facto standard, there are other API’s including CDMI (Cloud Data Management Interface) developed by SNIA which has gained ISO accreditation.

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Cloud and object storage access example via Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking

In addition to using Jungle Disk which manages my AWS keys and objects that it creates, I can also access my S3 objects via the AWS management console and web tools, also via third-party tools including Cyberduck.

PART III

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Cloud and object storage access example via Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking

AWS cloud storage gateway

In 2012 AWS released their Storage Gateway that you can use and try for free here using either an EC2 Amazon Machine Instance (AMI), or deployed locally on a hypervisor such as VMware vSphere/ESXi. 

In general, the gateway is an AWS alternative to using third product gateway, appliances of software tools for accessing AWS storage.

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Image courtesy of www.amazon.com

What about Glacier'

I like Glacier and its prospects for doing some various things, particular for inactive data including deep archives that will seldom if every be accessed, yet need to be retained. The business value proposition of Glacier is that it has a very high durability and low-cost assuming that you do not need to frequently access your data, and when you do, that you can wait three to five hours before retrieving it from your S3 buckets.

Access to Glacier is via API or AWS console so getting things into and out of it can be a challenge. For example I wanted to see if I could use AWS storage gateway to more easily bulk move things into Glacier via S3, however no luck, or at least today. Speaking of S3, by setting your policies you determine when objects get moved into Glacier as well as how long they will stay there.

How much do these AWS services cost'

Fees vary depending on which region is selected, amount of space capacity, level or durability and availability, performance along with type of service. Fees/pricing for Glacier here are located here.

Note that there is a myth that cloud vendors have hidden fees which may be the case for some, however so far I have not seen that to be the case with AWS. However, as a consumer, designer or architect, doing your homework and looking at the above links among others you can be ready and understand the various fees and options. Hence like procuring traditional hardware, software or services, do your due diligence and be an informed shopper.

Some more service cost notes include:

There is a prorated charge per GB of Glacier objects removed prior to 90 days. Glacier also allows up to 5% of your average monthly storage usage (prorated daily) to be restored with no charge, other fees apply for restoring larger amounts in a given period. Thus if you are planning on accessing and using data, analyze what your activity and usage will be as part of calculating your costs with Glacier. 

As with Standard volumes, volume storage for Provisioned IOPS volumes is charged by the amount you provision in GB per month. With Provisioned IOPS volumes, you are also charged by the amount you provision in IOPS prorated as a percentage of days you have it in use for the month.

Thus important for cloud storage planning to know not only your space requirements, also IOP’s, bandwidth, and level of availability as well as durability. so for standard volumes, you will likely see a lower number of I/O requests on your bill than is seen by your application unless you sync all of your I/Os to disk. Thus pay attention to what your needs are in terms of availability (accessibility), durability (resiliency or survivability), space capacity, and performance.

Leverage AWS CloudWatch tools and API’s to monitoring that matter for timely insight and situational awareness into how EBS, EC2, S3, Glacier, Storage Gateway and other services are being used (or costing you). Also visit the AWS service health status dashboard to gain insight into how things are running to help gain confidence with cloud services and solutions.

When it comes to Cloud, Virtualization, Data and Storage Networking along with AWS among other services, tools and technologies including object storage, we are just scratching the surface here.

Hopefully this helps to fill in some gaps giving more information addressing questions, along with generating new ones to prepare for your journey with clouds. After all, don’t be scared of clouds. Be prepared, do your homework, identify your concerns and then address those to gain cloud confidence.

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

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