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Amazon Launches ‘Glacier’ Cloud Archival Facility

by Naresh Sarwan on August 21, 2012

Amazon Web Services (AWS) have released a new storage system: ‘Glacier’, which is being marketed as an alternative to tape storage for anyone who needs to archive large quantities of data.  The name appears to be some ironic joke about the speed with which you can get your data back (probably not that much slower than a typical IT department):

Glacier will store your data with high durability (the service is designed to provide average annual durability of 99.999999999% per archive). Behind the scenes, Glacier performs systematic data integrity checks and heals itself as necessary with no intervention on your part. There’s plenty of redundancy and Glacier can sustain the concurrent loss of data in two facilities….With Glacier, your retrieval requests are queued up and honored at a somewhat leisurely pace. Your archive will be available for downloading in 3 to 5 hours.” [Read More]

The exceptionally low cost of this service is probably the key benefit for most.  For third party vendors it offers some options for providing an archival facility to add on to their DAM systems and is likely to cause some concern for physical secure storage facilities.  Whether AWS are still trustworthy enough to be relied upon as a sole supplier for this service remains to be seen, however.

It would be interesting to know how this is actually implemented and if the slow performance is because the storage points have  to be manually re-connected to enable them to be accessed, or if it’s just S3 really and they’ve slowed it down to create points of differentiation between S3 and Glacier.  If the former, I would be concerned that a ‘run’ on archival retrieval requests in the future (such as Amazon issuing a profit warning) might create a backlog that they wouldn’t be able to handle.  All that said, as an ‘archive on demand’ it does look potentially interesting – certainly as a secondary backup.

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