Amazon launches Elastic File System to bring scalable storage to the cloud

The AWS Elastic File System (EFS) is now available in production to create file storage that scales automatically without additional provisioning.

Amazon Web Services' Elastic File System (EFS) storage, a managed service that brings scalable storage to the AWS cloud, has officially moved out of preview and is available in production in certain regions around the globe.

The goal of the EFS system is to make it easier to deploy and scale out file storage systems in the cloud for AWS users. Amazon EFS has the ability to scale automatically without additional provisioning of storage, which could enable "file systems to grow seamlessly to petabyte scale, while supporting thousands of concurrent client connections with consistent performance."

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Using the AWS Management Console, customers can create file systems through Amazon EFS to be utilized by multiple EC2 instances. Amazon EFS can support many different types of file workloads, from big data analytics to simple content management. To maintain availability and redundancy, Amazon EFS stores each system object in multiple Availability Zones.

Existing AWS customers shouldn't find it too difficult to deploy EFS, as it uses a standard file system interface and file system semantics when it is connected to an instance. According to a press release announcing the availability of EFS: "Every file system can burst to at least 100 MB per second, and file systems greater than 1 TB in size can burst to higher throughput as file system capacity grows."

The files systems created in EFS are also POSIX-compliant file systems, to maintain OS compatibility. EFS file systems connect to EC2 via the Network File System (NFS) protocol, and each system can be accessed through a single virtual private cloud (VPC).

There are two performance modes for EFS. The default mode, General Purpose, is designed for "tens, hundreds, or thousands of EC2 instances access the file system concurrently." Max I/O mode, however, is "optimized for higher levels of aggregate throughput and operations per second, but incurs slightly higher latencies for file operations." AWS recommends starting with General Purpose mode and move to Max I/O as needed.

As noted by VentureBeat, EFS won't work with EC2 instances running Windows. Also, users will max out at 10 file systems in a particular AWS region, but an AWS spokesperson said the number is able to be raised if the customer requests it from AWS support. Additionally, only 128 active users from a single instance are allowed access to the same file at the same time, but many more can access it from multiple instances.

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AWS EFS was originally launched in preview back in early 2015. In a blog post announcing the production release, Amazon's Jeff Barr detailed some of the customer feedback that shaped the latest release.

The US East (Northern Virginia) and US West (Oregon) regions along with Europe (Ireland) will get the first crack at the service, in the company's typical pay-per-use pricing model. EFS pricing starts at $0.30 per GB per month, and eligible AWS Free Tier users get up to 5GB of EFS storage per month for free.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. AWS Elastic File System (EFS), a cloud NAS product for AWS users, is now generally available in three regions and could make it easier to deploy and scale file storage in the cloud.
  2. EFS systems mount to EC2 instances via the NFS protocol, and each system is burstable to 100 MB per second.
  3. EFS is available in two modes, General Purpose and Max I/O, but it still doesn't work with EC2 instances running Windows only 128 active users from a single instance can access a file at the same time.

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