Amazon has just released a new data backup service for enterprise called Glacier. Compared to AWS and other corporate archive solutions, Glacier is priced much lower. The catch is that Glacier is designed for long term storage that won’t need to be accessed very often, much like the old photo albums my mom insists I come over to look at.
Currently, most corporations use tape backup for archiving large amounts of data. However, tape backup usually requires an expensive upfront cost that makes it unattractive to small and medium size businesses. And because the service isn’t dynamic, it would force companies to purchase larger amounts of storage space than you actually need to be sure you never run out.
Glacier works differently. Instead of using tape, Glacier relies on large networks of storage arrays made up of inexpensive high-storage disks. And then there’s the price, which is inordinately cheaper than similar services. Amazon is charging $0.01 per GB / month for storage on a pay-as-you-go system, and it’s free to transfer data in. Taking data back out, however, is the tricky part.
Because Glacier is designed for long-term storage, Amazon doesn’t expect enterprises to retrieve data very often. It’s providing 5% of data per month accessible for free, and after that the cost is tiered based on the amount accessed. There’s also an early termination fee if data is deleted within 3 months of uploading it. Uploaded data can take several hours to obtain once the retrieval request has been made through REST API, so that is another thing to consider. There is no fee for transferring data between Amazon EC2 and Glacier in the same region.
For those worried about outages, Amazon guarantees a 99.999999999% durability rating by redundantly storing data in multiple server farms across multiple devices. Amazon refers to the organization structure of data as individual “vaults”. That’s a great term because all data uploaded is encrypted with AES-256 security.
Back in 2007 IBM Technical Strategy Director and researcher, Dave Russel, predicted that recovery solutions would move to the cloud. If Amazon has anything to say about it, he wasn’t far off on his prediction.