AWS Expands Its Elastic File System Offerings With ‘One Zone’ For 47% Less

By Patrick Moorhead - March 28, 2021

Every infrastructure vendor sells against the vision of data as a utility. Data is the lifeblood of any enterprise, they will honestly tell you, and our solution will make sure that your business-critical applications aren’t starved waiting for that data. The storage world has never been as rich with solutions as it is today. 

The latencies and throughput of systems built around NVMe-connected flash memory, with systems connected via NVMe-over-fabric, all accelerated by DPUs and intelligent interfaces, have nearly removed the storage bottleneck for most enterprise applications. If you run an on-prem infrastructure, you simply have to spend the money. Then, of course, you have to put it all together.  At the same time, we continue to see a migration of enterprise workloads to the cloud. 

While enterprise storage vendors will sell you the vision of data as a utility, delivered in impressive and expensive rack-mounted packages, the reality is that AWS provides data as a utility with just the click of a button. And those impressive NVME-fueled latencies and throughput numbers? That’s also available from AWS with the click of a mouse. 

AWS is the undisputed leader in the cloud market. It could easily rest on its laurels or deliver storage and file services with partners. It could easily hold its prices steady. It doesn't do any of these things. Amazon continues to push technology forward while simultaneously delivering price breaks that delight its customers and frustrate its competitors. 

It's done this again, just this week, with its Elastic File System (EFS) offering. Amazon has announced new Amazon EFS One Zone storage classes that reduce storage costs by 47% over existing Amazon EFS storage classes while delivering the same features and benefits. 

Amazon Elastic File System

AWS file services were a relatively late arrival to Amazon’s cloud. Amazon EFS was introduced in 2015, bringing network attached file storage to workloads running in Amazon’s cloud. It also offers file services to workloads attached via AWS Direct Connect and AWS VPN services. 

Amazon offers EFS in a standard access offering and a lower-cost option it calls EFS Standard-Infrequent Access. Amazon EFS life-cycle management lets you define policies to enable intelligent tiering (based on file access patterns) on a per-file basis. Less accessed files can be dynamically moved in and out of lower-cost infrequent-access storage as needed. 

Business-critical applications demand high levels of durability and availability. This is an area where the public cloud excels, leveraging a world-wide infrastructure to keep its customer's data safe and available. Amazon tells us that it designed all Amazon EFS storage classes for "11 9's" of durability. AWS turns that durability into availability by leveraging its multiple availability zones. Amazon EFS, with Multi-Availability Zone redundancy, delivers 99.99% availability. 

Enterprise applications also demand a high degree of scalability. This is another capability that a hyper-scale infrastructure can deliver well beyond anything most on-premises-based solutions can touch. Amazon EFS is designed for massively parallel access, handling thousands of simultaneous connections to a single file system. Amazon EFS today supports tens-of-thousands of simultaneous connections to EFS from nearly all of its compute types, ranging from traditional EC2 compute instances to its AWS Lambda serverless offerings. 

EFS One Zone 

Not all enterprise workloads are created equal. While business-critical applications may require the availability guarantees I’ve described, many do not. DevOps capabilities such as build and staging servers, for example, don’t need multi-zone availability. Other workloads such as media transcoding, simulation, and analytics could also function with less restrictive availability constraints. 

Amazon this week announced its Amazon EFS One Zone storage class to satisfy the lesser needs of non-business-critical workloads. It also dramatically lowered the price of these offerings relative to other EFS storage classes. Amazon has dropped the price by 47%.

Amazon EFS One Zone keeps all data within a single availability zone. This naturally reduces the overall performance guarantees. Amazon promises "3 9's" of availability for the new offering, dropping its SLA to 99.9%. Amazon supplements this availability guarantee with automatic integration with AWS Backup. 

Beyond reducing the availability SLA, there are no other significant differences with the existing EFS offerings. Amazon EFS One Zone has the same Infrequent-Access storage class. It also has the same impressive scalability and performance. Nothing changes here. 

The Analyst Take 

On-premises infrastructure isn't going away. Some workloads need to be located close to home. At the same time, both CIOs and CFOs like the consumption-based and CapEx-friendly model pioneered by Amazon AWS. The industry has noticed. It’s no coincidence that the hottest trend in IT today is consumption-based, on-prem, as-a-service IT infrastructure. AWS has expanded its footprint into this arena with its AWS Outposts, Local Zones,  Wavelength, and Snowball offerings. 

At the same time, the public cloud delivers on the vision of utility computing. AWS provides this with an infrastructure designed from the ground up to make data available where it is most needed. As a storage analyst, I spend time with almost every company working in the storage industry. I can tell you that some of the most exciting engineering in the storage industry is happening inside Amazon's data centers. 

Amazon redefined data center architecture with AWS. It has been impressive in its ability to drive continuous innovation into the ecosystem.  Amazon AWS is not a business that stands still. This is unusual for a leader of its size, but, at the same time, it is that continued momentum that keeps Amazon in the public cloud driver's seat. 

Note: This analysis contains contributions from Patrick Moorhead, Moor Insights & Strategy founder and president.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.