Warning: If you don't have a data center, or if all of your IT infrastructure is already in the cloud, you may not need to read this post! But feel free to pass it along to your friends and colleagues.
The Storage Gateway
Our new AWS Storage Gateway service connects an on-premise software appliance with cloud-based storage to integrate your existing on-premises applications with the AWS storage infrastructure in a seamless, secure, and transparent fashion. Watch this video for an introduction:
Data stored in your current data center can be backed up to Amazon S3, where it is stored as Amazon EBS snapshots. Once there, you will benefit from S3's low cost and intrinsic redundancy. In the event you need to retrieve a backup of your data, you can easily restore these snapshots locally to your on-premises hardware. You can also access them as Amazon EBS volumes, enabling you to easily mirror data between your on-premises and Amazon EC2-based applications.
You can install the AWS Storage Gateway's software appliance on a host machine in your data center. Here's how all of the pieces fit together:
The AWS Storage Gateway allows you to create storage volumes and attach these volumes as iSCSI devices to your on-premises application servers. The volumes can be Gateway-Stored (right now) or Gateway-Cached (soon) volumes. Gateway-Stored volumes retain a complete copy of the volume on the local storage attached to the on-premises host, while uploading backup snapshots to Amazon S3. This provides low-latency access to your entire data set while providing durable off-site backups. Gateway-Cached volumes will use the local storage as a cache for frequently-accessed data; the definitive copy of the data will live in the cloud. This will allow you to offload your storage to Amazon S3 while preserving low-latency access to your active data.
Gateways can connect to AWS directly or through a local proxy. You can connect through AWS Direct Connect if you would like, and you can also control the amount of inbound and outbound bandwidth consumed by each gateway. All data is compressed prior to upload.
Each gateway can support up to 12 volumes and a total of 12 TB of storage. You can have multiple gateways per account and you can choose to store data in our US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Northern California), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore), or Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.
The first release of the AWS Storage Gateway takes the form of a VM image for VMware ESXi 4.1 (we plan on supporting other virtual environments in the future). Adequate local disk storage, either Direct Attached or SAN (Storage Area Network), is needed for your application storage (used by your iSCSI storage volumes) and working storage (data queued up for writing to AWS). We currently support mounting of our iSCSI storage volumes using the Microsoft Windows and Red Hat iSCSI Initiators.
Up and Running
During the installation and configuration process you will be able to create up to 12 iSCSI storage volumes per gateway. Once installed, each gateway will automatically download, install, and deploy updates and patches. This activity takes place during a maintenance window that you can set on a per-gateway basis.
The AWS Management Console includes complete support for the AWS Storage Gateway. You can create volumes, create and restore snapshots, and establish a schedule for snapshots. Snapshots can be scheduled at 1, 2, 4, 8, 12, or 24 hour intervals. Each gateway reports a number of metrics to Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring.
The snapshots are stored as Amazon EBS (Elastic Block Store) snapshots. You can create an EBS volume using a snapshot of one of your local gateway volumes, or vice versa. Does this give you any interesting ideas?
The Gateway in Action
I expect the AWS Storage Gateway will be put to use in all sorts of ways. Some that come to mind are:
- Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity - You can reduce your investment in hardware set aside for Disaster Recovery using a cloud-based approach. You can send snapshots of your precious data to the cloud on a regular and frequent basis and you can use our VM Import service to move your virtual machine images to the cloud.
- Backup - You can back up local data to the cloud without worrying about running out of storage space. It is easy to schedule the backups, and you don't have to arrange to ship tapes off-site or manage your own infrastructure in a second data center.
- Data Migration - You can now move data from your data center to the cloud, and back, with ease.
We believe that the AWS Storage Gateway will be at home in the enterprise, so I'll cover the inevitable security questions up front. Here are the facts:
- Data traveling between AWS and each gateway is protected via SSL.
- Data at rest (stored in Amazon S3) is encrypted using AES-256.
- The iSCSI initiator authenticates itself to the target using CHAP (Challenge-Handshake Authentication protocol).
All AWS users are eligible for a free trial of the AWS Storage Gateway. After that, there is a charge of $125 per month for each activated gateway. The usual EBS snapshot storage rates apply ($0.14 per Gigabyte-month in the US-East Region), as do the usual AWS prices for outbound data transfer (there's no charge for inbound data transfer). More pricing information can be found on the Storage Gateway Home Page. If you are eligible for the AWS Free Usage Tier, you get up to 1 GB of free EBS snapshot storage per month as well as 15 GB of outbound data transfer.
On the Horizon
As I mentioned earlier, the first release of the AWS Storage Gateway supports Gateway-Stored volumes. We plan to add support for Gateway-Cached volumes in the coming months.
We'll add more features to our roadmap as soon as our users (this means you) start to use the AWS Storage Gateway and send feedback our way.
We will be hosting a Storage Gateway webinar on Thursday, February 23rd. Please attend if you would like to learn more about the Storage Gateway and how it can be used for backup, disaster recover, and data mirroring scenarios. The webinar is free and open to all, but space is limited and you need to register!