Drilling into Amazon's tape-killing Glacier cloud archive

It could devastate the industry


Blocks and Files Amazon Glacier is a series of cloud vaults holding customer archive data that isn't based on tape libraries. Instead it appears to use object storage and is set to be the largest object storage implementation in history in a very short time.

Amazon Web Services team member James Hamilton blogged about the new product, writing: "Amazon Glacier now offers cloud storage where each object is stored redundantly in multiple, independent data centers at $0.01/GB/month."

And it seems that it's a growing concern – looks like Amazon is looking for storage staffers.

"[If] you are an engineer or engineering leader with an interest in massive scale distributed storage systems, we have big plans for Glacier and are hiring. Send your resume to glacier-jobs@amazon.com."

Conclusion: Glacier is object storage implemented as a massive scale, distributed storage system. It provides multiple copies of objects, regularly checks the integrity of stored data and self-heals if errors are found. The annual average data item durability is 99.999999999 per cent – eleven nines.

We can expect Microsoft Azure to play catch-up quite sharpish with its own on-line archive facility. MS has been chasing Amazon on the cloud front for some time.

When you add in the astonishingly low pricing, then tape storage for archive has just received a kick in the guts. Companies that might be envisaging buying tape systems for storing cold Big Data may well think of Amazon instead. Cloud service providers may effectively resell Amazon Glacier or set up their own object storage infrastructure for archive. Amplidata, Caringo, CleverSafe and Scality will be pleased to advise them.

Tape has already virtually ceded the backup market to disk, with deduplicating disk-to-disk back backup systems and virtual tape libraries taking the backup tape citadel by storm, and tape retreating to the archive market with its better-than-disk-drive-array storage costs for vast volumes of data.

But if Amazon can do it cheaper still, and it is online and not on tape, then it's feasible to suggest, Amazon has just delivered a kiss of object storage archive poison to the tape suppliers – Oracle, IBM, HP, Quantum, SpectraLogic and others – and the effects of this could be devastating on the industry. ®

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