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Amazon tries to freeze out tape with cheap 'n' cloudy Glacier

Cloud giant rolls over earthly archives

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Amazon is digging deeper into the enterprise with a data back-up and archival service designed to help kill off tape.

The cloud provider has just launched Glacier, which it says takes the headache out of digital archiving and delivers “extremely low” cost storage.

Glacier has been built on the Amazon storage, management and security infrastructure and is being offered as a low-cost cloudy alternative to building or paying for expensive services using traditional storage technologies – particularly tape.

Amazon chief technology officer Werner Vogels blogged here about the new product, arguing that archival is a major challenge for most as it means picking the “right” technology and then investing in either building new, off-site facilities or paying a service supplier.

“It requires substantial upfront capital investments in cold data storage systems such as tape robots and tape libraries, then there’s the expensive support contracts and don’t forget the ongoing operational expenditures such as rent and power,” Vogels blogged.

In Glacier's FAQ here, Amazon labours the point that while tape can seem like a cheap – ahem, “cost effective” – option, the costs can mount in the long term as it takes up more storage space and the media needs careful management.

Enter Amazon, with its disk and server-based system and pay-as-you-go consumption. Glacier starts at $0.01 per gigabyte for a month, with further charges for data requests and transfers. Amazon says customers get 5 per cent of retrievals free each month.

The new product builds not just on Amazon’s S3 for cloud storage system, but also the AWS Storage Gateway that connects on-premise SANs and ports their contents to S3. Storage Gateway was launched by Amazon in January this year.

Glacier introduces an API that lets you create archives on S3, in which you build data vaults. The API also allows you to upload and download data and monitor your service, and includes the ability to create alerts. Access to the service is via AWS Identity Management and the AWS Access Management Service, with SSL and 256-bit encryption. Amazon reckons it will take three to five hours to complete data transfer.

The system targets large organisations tasked with regulatory compliance, and media and entertainment companies with large amounts of digital storage.

Amazon said that in "coming months" it will allow customers to "seamlessly" move data between S3 and Glacier based on data lifecycle policies. ®

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