On Tuesday, Amazon unveiled a new online storage service known as Glacier. Unlike Amazon S3, which is designed for cheap but accessible file storage, Glacier is, as the name implies “cold storage”, playing the long, slow game. Glacier is intended for data you don’t need to get to often — database and media backups, archives, digital preservation etc. In the press release Amazon also says that Glacier data is intended to last, as in “centuries.”
Here’s how it works:
To store data in Glacier, you start by creating a named vault. You can have up to 1000 vaults per region in your AWS account. Once you have created the vault, you simply upload your data (an archive in Glacier terminology). Each archive can contain up to 40 Terabytes of data and you can use multipart uploading or AWS Import/Export to optimize the upload process. Glacier will encrypt your data using AES-256 and will store it durably in an immutable form.
Amazon has long offered other storage services as part of an ever-growing “cloud” empire — the company’s S3 storage service was actually the first of the Amazon Web Services — but Glacier aims to tackle a very different problem. It’s much cheaper than other storage services, but it’s also much slower. Essentially Glacier can be considered as a replacement for tape. It runs on inexpensive commodity hardware components. This suggests the system will be based on very large storage arrays consisting of a multitude of high-capacity low-cost discs.
In addition to low-cost storage, Amazon Glacier has several other features that might be of interest to businesses looking for a cloud-based data archiving solution, including:
- Customers can offload administrative burdens such as operating and scaling archival storage to AWS, which the company stated removes the need for hardware provisioning, data replication across multiple facilities and hardware failure detection and repair.
- It has an average annual durability of 99.999999999 percent for each item stored. (How Amazon came up this number ???)
- Glacier automatically replicates all data across multiple facilities and performs ongoing data integrity checks, using redundant data to perform automatic repairs if hardware failure or data corruption is discovered.
- AWS also promises a safe and secure data storage environment that requires no additional effort from customers.
Upon launch Amazon Glacier is being made available through five service areas — U.S.-East (northern Virginia), U.S.-West (northern California), U.S.-West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Tokyo) and EU-West (Ireland) regions. It’s likely there will be others available in time as the service grows.