AWS EBS Volume Types & What to Use Them For

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AWS offers several EBS volume types that you can use for your storage needs. Here’s a quick overview of what options are available and how they differ.

What is EBS?

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) is AWS’s block-level, persistent local storage solution for Amazon EC2. For example, for relational and NoSQL databases, data warehousing, Big Data processing, and/or backup and recovery.

Each network-attached block is presented as a simple volume. Since they are distributed, EBS is easily scaled (hence the “elastic”.) They are also easily backed up with snapshots.

It is just one of many AWS storage options, which also include:

Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) – scalable elastic file system for Linux-based workloads for use with AWS cloud services and on-premises resources. It can scale on demand automatically as you add and remove files.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) – general purpose object store for user-generated content, active archive, serverless, etc.
Amazon S3 Glacier & Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive – inexpensive long term storage for infrequently accessed data, and assists with compliance in highly regulated fields.

Types of EBS Volumes

Amazon EBS volume types are broken into two main categories:

SSD-backed volumes are optimized for IOPS, which are best for workloads involving frequent read/write operations with small I/O size.
HDD-backed volumes are optimized for throughput (measured in MiB/s) for large streaming workloads. Cannot include boot volumes.

Within each of those groups are two options. The default type is General Purpose SSD (gp2), and there are 3 others available:

General Purpose SSD (gp2) – general purpose, balances price and performance.

Use cases: Most workloads such as virtual desktops, dev and test environments, and low-latency interactive apps.

Provisioned IOPS SSD (io1) – highest-performance SSD volume for mission-critical low-latency or high-throughput workloads that require sustained IOPS performance, or more than 16,000 IOPS or 250 MiB/s of throughout per volume.

Use cases: Mission-critical applications, large database workloads such as MongoDB, Microsoft SQL Server, Cassandra, Oracle, MySQL, and PostgreSQL

Throughput Optimized HDD (st1) – low-cost HDD volume for frequently accessed workloads with high throughput.

Use cases: Streaming workloads, big data, data warehouses, log processing.

Cold HDD (sc1) – lowest cost HDD volume for less-frequently accessed workloads

Use cases: Throughput-oriented storage for large volumes of data that is infrequently accessed

You may see references to Magnetic HDD type volumes in older articles about types of volumes in EBS – those are now considered a “previous generation”.

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Robert F
Author: Robert F


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