New Amazon Glacier Service Keeps Data in Deep Freeze
Aug 21, 2012 12:06 PM PT
In nature, glaciers are slow but steady masses of ice that flow as they melt. They take many years to accumulate and often just as long to deform. In other words, a glacier is typically here for eons, and fittingly "Glacier" is the name of Amazon's new data archive service aimed at enterprise and small businesses.
This Glacier, which Amazon launched on Tuesday, isn't in some remote polar region. It is actually in the cloud -- or more accurately, it's a cloud-based technology that promises an affordable alternative to on-site tape-based storage.
However, those looking for speedy backup should be warned, this service will likely move at a glacier's pace compared to current hard drive backups. But compared to tape, this likely isn't an issue.
"This is a backup service, backups occur typically during the evening or during times of low network usage," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. "This is good because most of us have our upload speeds set far lower than our download speeds anyway."
It also isn't intended for content that needs to be accessed often.
"Restores are infrequent, and a good backup plan likely has a local repository which is backed up to a remote like this service for catastrophic outages -- like a fire or earthquake destroys the building," Enderle told TechNewsWorld. "In this case, slow speeds are acceptable because the alternative is no restoration at all. So this service is designed for those concerned about catastrophic events and either aren't that concerned about rapid recovery or have implemented local backup solution along with Glacier."
Amazon did not respond to our request for further details.
Cold Data in the Cloud
The cloud could change how this data, which is held for those catastrophic outages, is maintained. The biggest push to the cloud could be a far greater cost, along with improved reliability that the data is there when needed. Files stored on Glacier would have an annual durability of 99.999999999 percent, according to Amazon.
"This is deep freeze, cold data," said Chris Silvia, analyst with the Altimeter Group. "This is data that is stored for long-time backups. Not something you need to ... access a lot. It is cheap, it is slow, but it removes an operational cost of running your own on-site backup including tape systems."
Thus, Glacier is aimed at small businesses and enterprises, especially those that produce a lot of data -- data that has to be there when it is needed.
"Glacier mainly focuses on long-term back-up and/or active archiving of data that is no longer used regularly but which needs to be kept available for reference," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "Use cases include long-term medical records, digital media archives, past tax filings and records, long-term database backups and information impacted by regulatory compliance."
Compliance and Regulatory Customers
As speed is not the primary factor, ensuring that the data is available is the greater concern, especially for businesses that have compliance and regulatory considerations. But here is where there could be some issues that Amazon will need to resolve to ensure that the data is maintained in accordance to industry rules and regulations.
"There will be issues for data segregation and privacy," said Vivian Tero, program director for governance, risk and compliance infrastructure at IDC.
Speed is not the biggest factor ,Tero added, but given that compliance is an issue, retrieving the data in a timely fashion will still be important.
"This will need to give the users the ability to search for compliant data in a reasonable amount of time," Tero emphasized.
While this sort of backup is aimed at present at small-business and enterprise corporate users, in time it could pave the way for cloud-based backup options for consumers as well. It could be another layer of archiving data that users consider too important to lose -- so while that could be financial records for a company, it could be wedding photos for an individual.
"This could be a draw for consumers," said Silva. "The Glacier could become a proverbial attic for those things we don't use a lot but don't want to lose."
The cost also makes this an effective option.
"Since there's no minimum cost, small businesses and even individuals could also be potential customers," added King. "If it works as advertised, Glacier should create meaningful long-term revenues for Amazon and bolster their position as a cloud services provider to be reckoned with."