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InfoQ Homepage News AWS Announces the General Availability of Amazon EBS io2 Block Express Volumes

AWS Announces the General Availability of Amazon EBS io2 Block Express Volumes

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Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes are a key Elastic Compute (EC2) component with several HDD and SSD volumes, each designed for a particular use case. And recently, AWS announced the general availability of its cloud-based storage area network (SAN) offering, Amazon EBS io2 Block Express volumes – providing 4x higher throughput, IOPS, and capacity than io2 volumes.

Last year at re:Invent 2020, the company previewed Amazon EBS io2 Block Express volumes as a SAN offering. It is designed according to AWS to meet the requirements of the largest, most I/O-intensive, mission-critical deployments of Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, SAP HANA, and SAS Analytics on AWS. The volumes are now generally available first with Amazon EC2 R5b instances powered by the AWS Nitro System, which delivers the highest EBS-optimized performance. Support for other instances besides R5b is coming soon. In addition, with the GA release, the io2 Block Express volumes now also support io2 features such as Multi-Attach and Elastic Volumes.

Channy Yun, a principal developer advocate for AWS, explains in an AWS News blog post on the GA release:

The new Block Express architecture delivers the highest levels of performance with sub-millisecond latency by communicating with an AWS Nitro System-based instance using the Scalable Reliable Datagrams (SRD) protocol, which is implemented in the Nitro Card dedicated for EBS I/O function on the host hardware of the instance. Block Express also offers modular software and hardware building blocks that can be assembled in many ways, giving you the flexibility to design and deliver improved performance and new features at a faster rate.

Users can create io2 Block Express volumes in the Amazon EC2 console, AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI), or an SDK with the Amazon EC2 API when creating R5b instances. Next, after selecting the EC2 R5b instance type, on the Add Storage page, under Volume Type, users can choose Provisioned IOPS SSD (io2) – and the new volumes will be created in the Block Express format.


Amazon EBS io2 Block Express volumes can be an alternative to enterprises for their on-premise solution. In an AWS press release on the GA release, the company states:

io2 Block Express volumes reinvent block storage and give customers the performance they expect from a SAN, but with the elasticity of AWS, unlimited scale, and flexibility of pay-as-you-go pricing—at as low as half the cost of a typical SAN. io2 Block Express volumes are designed for applications that benefit from high-volume IOPS, high throughput, high durability, high storage capacity, and low latency.

tweet by Igor Nemy, technologist at labSpaceSys, says:

Public clouds are getting closer and closer to be identified as large mainframes. SAN volume with 256k IOps, 4GB/s throughput, and 99.999% of durability. I won't be surprised if this is powered by bespoke ARM-based Nitro (!side-) project.

Currently, io2 Block Express volumes are available in all regions where R5b is available - which include US East (Ohio), US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), and Europe (Frankfurt). In addition, the company announced that support for more regions is coming soon. 

Note that AWS bills the io2- and io2 Express volumes the same way and recommends using tags to identify costs associated with io2 Block Express volumes. Pricing details of io2 volumes are available on the Amazon EBS pricing page.

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