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Amazon Glacier – Archive in the Clouds

Anytime Amazon makes a big announcement relating to their cloud offering you can bet it will create a buzz in the storage industry. Last week Amazon introduced Glacier – and there was quite a bit of buzz! They describe it as:

“Amazon Glacier is an extremely low-cost storage service that provides secure and durable storage for data archiving and backup.”

Anyone who has been following Nasuni knows we are primary storage – not backup, and especially not archiving. Nonetheless, Glacier is 10x cheaper than S3 so it’s bound to pique the interest of the storage admins out there and generate some questions. Here’s what everyone needs to know:

  • Glacier is designed for long-term archive storage
  • Retrieving a file from Glacier takes upwards of 3-5 hours
  • If you retrieve more than 5% of your data in any month you are charged an as-of-yet-to-be-clearly-determined fee from Amazon

What is Glacier Good for?
Archive. Archive. And did we mention Archive? Amazon’s Glacier is an archive product and one designed to be a cheap storage ground for long-term, infrequently accessed data. For organizations seeking a repository to tier archive data – think NPR with their decades of audio recordings or the New York Times preserving digital assets – Glacier’s unchanging, durable architecture makes perfect sense. But for most organizations seeking a cheap place to offload backups, it is not likely to be a practical solution.

How Will Glacier Affect the Cloud Storage Industry?
No backup administrator in an enterprise is going to be willing to wait 3+ hours to restore a backup. As such, Glacier will only be deployed as a true archive tier. Although some may believe that this is the death knell for backup or archive focused gateways, I personally disagree. Customers will need an interface to access Glacier just as they need one to access S3. It will just be a matter of picking (or staying with) your favorite provider and using that particular technology as the front end.

In the end, the debut of Amazon’s Glacier is sure to be welcome news for the unique set of organizations looking for a stable, inexpensive place to store their unchanging archive data. As for Nasuni, while we are always looking for cheaper, better storage for our customers, we will not be supporting any sort of cold or archive storage, simply because it does not fit in with our services offering. Our customers demand fast access to their active data sets 24/7, and while inexpensive, Glacier is not primary storage and does not belong as a component of any system delivering primary storage.

Questions? Comments? Don’t hesitate to contact us.