AWS EBS: How to Enhance Performance and Reduce Costs


AWS EBS: How to Enhance Performance and Reduce Costs

In the digital age, data is the new currency. Everyone wants to use it, save it and analyze it. Some even want to steal data, delete it or hold it for ransom. In each case, the goal is often using data for advancement, and for creating money-generating opportunities. However, like any currency, it costs money to store, protect and manage data properly.

In this article, we’ll explain how to get the most out of your EBS block storage solution, without the overhead associated with the storage of large volumes of data. 

What Is Amazon EBS?

Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) is a cloud computing service that offers block storage on-demand. EBS is available through the AWS (Amazon Web Services) platform, which provides features for controlling and optimizing the performance and costs of storage volumes.


Amazon EBS supports data types such as applications and Docker containers in either a structured or  unstructured form. You can use EBS to store volumes from big data engines, as well as file systems. It’s most commonly used for storing data from Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which is a Virtual Machine (VM) service offered by AWS. Other functions of AWS EBS are covered in this blog.

How Block Storage Works in EBS

Block storage models enable the storage of huge volumes of data in the form of blocks. Each block operated as a separate physical storage unit, with its own read-write capacity, speed, and performance capability. 


A server-based operating systems, which is operated by AWS, controls the block volumes, and EBS customers can control some aspects of the storage through the AWS platform. To prevent data loss, the EBS system replicated volumes into Availability Zone (AZ). 


Keep in mind: there are a number of ways to change the default AZ or region allocated by AWS, but AWS retains the right to restrict or change locations.

EBS Volumes Types

Amazon EBS offers block storage in four types of data volumes. Each classified according to the physical storage mechanism it uses.


Solid State Drives (SSD) Storage

SSD storage uses integrated circuit assemblies mechanisms for persistent data storage, providing fast read-write capabilities. Here are the two SSD volume types offered by EBS:

  • EBS General Purpose SSD (GP2)—the default EBS volume type. It optimizes performance with price, which is why it’s recommended for low-latency interactive apps, boot volumes, and dev & test operations. 

  • EBS Provisioned IOPS SSD (IO1)—prioritizes fast performance, which is why it’s recommended for I/O-intensive databases and application workloads. 


Hard Disk Drives (HDD) Storage

HDD storage uses a magnetic read-write mechanism to store and retrieve data, providing a high level of throughput for large sequential workloads. Here are the two HDD volume types offered by EBS:

  • Throughput Optimized HDD (ST1)—defines performance in terms of throughput, which is why it’s recommended for for large, sequential workloads.

  • Cold HDD (SC1)—runs on a burst model, which allows users to adjust volume capacity at scale. SC1 is the cheapest magnetic storage option, which is why it’s recommended for for your cold (infrequently accessed) workloads. 

How to Enhance Performance and Optimize Costs in EBS

Cost Optimization in AWS EBS

EBS offers an on-demand pricing model that charges customers only for their monthly storage usage. Prices vary between different volume types and regions. Here are a few tips to help you reduce the costs of EBS storage:

  1. Choose the right volume type—each volume comes with different costs and optimization options. For example, IO1 prioritizes speed, and is generally known as the most expensive volume type. If you don’t need this level of performance, you could lower the costs by choosing GP2.

  2. Tag your volumes—EBS enables the use of tags within the AWS system. You can create tags  for EBS volumes, EBS snapshots, EC2 instances, and other AWS resources. Use the tags to create an organizational system that helps you keep track of volumes. Once you set it up, you’ll be able to sort, search, and filter accordingly.  

  3. Leverage EBS snapshots—EBS offers incremental backups, which snap a shot of the latest version of the volume. Use your tags to locate orphaned (unused) volumes, take a snapshot of the volume, and then delete the block. The snapshot is a compressed version of the volume, and billed at a lower cost. 

  4. Delete redundant resources—once your volumes turn cold, there’s no need to keep them as a block volume. If you need to retain the data, you can take a snapshot and store it for a lower cost. If you don’t need the data, simply delete the volume. You can do the same for orphaned EBS snapshots. 


How to Enhance Performance in AWS EBS

EBS offers a variety of features for improving the performance of EBS volumes. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Use EBS-optimized instances to improve bandwidth—this features provide EBS users with an additional control over the traffic of instances. If you have a sudden peak, use this to right-size your instances. This burst capability allows you to adjust the resources and ensure the performance isn’t hurt by the spike.

  2. Use Amazon CloudWatch to monitor burst usage—CloudWatch is an AWS monitoring service that provides visibility for all AWS resources. It has a free tier, and a paid tier which charges per metrics and/or APIs. Metrics represent data points, which you can use to collect, analyze, and optimize certain aspects of your data performance.

  3. Use the Logical Volume Manager (LVM) to optimize volumes performance—LVM is a disk management mechanism that enables the virtualization of disk drives. You can use the LVM feature to resize and optimize EBS volumes according to their performance. To reduce the space each EBS volume uses, LVM lets you create, shrink, and move virtual disk partitions.

It’s a Wrap!

EBS can be a valuable resource for those of you in need of a storage solution for large volumes of data. AWS is responsible for the infrastructure, and you get a robust set of features for controlling the block storage operation. 


It’s up to you how to optimize the bandwidth, latency, and que depth of the volumes. Be sure to choose the right data types for your operation, and use as many of the built-in features. Remember that visibility is key for controlling the budget, and tag your volumes. With the right system in place, you’ll be able to get a great Return On Investment (ROI).

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