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Amazon EC2 Entices Innovative Uses With Persistent Storage

Amazon greatly expanded the use cases for its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) utility computing service Thursday by adding a persistent storage feature called Elastic Block Store or EBS, making EC2 more reliable and scalable to entice new customers and a broader range of applications.

Before the release of EBS, storage in an EC2 instance was deleted the second that instance shut down, unless the EC2 user had created a manual workaround to tie EC2 to Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3). That meant that hardware failures caused data loss, and people couldn't scale down their EC2 usage temporarily for risk of losing data or increase use greatly because of storage limitations.

Now, however, users can mount a persistent virtual storage "device" that acts much like an unformatted hard drive and then create a file system on top of it or use it as raw, unstructured storage that runs independently but related to EC2 instances. "As an EC2 instance is to a traditional server, an EBS instance is to a traditional disk," Adam Selipsky, VP of product management and developer relations for Amazon Web Services. Users can store up to 1 TB of data in a single instance of EBS and can scale to as many EBS instances as they need.

The new feature also instantly makes EC2 more reliable, since the storage is now decoupled from the computing resources and is automatically replicated to prevent data loss if hardware fails. Amazon estimates EBS volumes will be 10 times more reliable than commodity hard drives.

Customers will likely use EBS for a variety of things, including as a cloud-based database for an app running on EC2, storage area networking as a service via EBS' distributed file system possibilities, a reliable test bed for Web applications, and Web hosting. In an early example, developer Eric Hammond has created a guide for those looking to run MySQL on Amazon EC2. Applications like that could make corporations take a harder look at the service for business use.

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