July 20, 2012

Amazon Debuts Flash-Based Instance Type

Tiffany Trader

This week cloud giant Amazon Web Services announced a new high-capacity instance type for applications that need low-latency access to high-speed solid-state disks (SSDs).

Details were revealed Wednesday by Jeff Barr on the AWS blog:

Modern web and mobile applications are often highly I/O dependent. They need to store and retrieve lots of data in order to deliver a rich, personalized experience, and they need to do it as fast as possible in order to respond to clicks and gestures in real time.

In order to meet this need, we are introducing a new family of EC2 instances that are designed to run low-latency, I/O-intensive applications, and are an exceptionally good host for NoSQL databases such as Cassandra and MongoDB.

The first member of the new family is the High I/O Quadruple Extra Large (hi1.4xlarge) instance, and it comes outfitted with 8 virtual cores, 2 TB of local SSD-backed storage, and 60.5 GB of RAM with 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. According to Amazon, each instance is capable of delivering at least 120,000 read input and output operations (IOPS) and 80,000 write IOPS, which makes them a good fit for applications that require low latency access to storage, for example, transaction processing, time series analysis, and mobile or streaming apps.

In a related video, Jeff Barr and EC2 Product Manager Deepak Singh note that the SSD-backed instance is well-tuned for running databases, particularly NoSQL databases such as Cassandra and MongoDB, but also relational.

Amazon is not the only cloud provider with SSD on the menu. Switzerland-based CloudSigma offers it and so does SoftLayer. Despite being more expensive, SSD can create major improvements in the right instances. According to CloudSigma’s Michael Higgins, an Oracle database running on SSD got over a 300 percent performance improvement on I/O compared with magnetic storage. He says you don’t need to put the entire database on SSD, just moving the index and caching points to solid state provides a big boost.

The new instance will initially be restricted to the US-East (N. Virginia) and EU-West (Ireland) regions, but the company plans to expand this availability in the coming months. On-demand instances are offered at $3.10 per hour in the US.

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