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Introduction to AWS EBS

AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) is a scalable, high-performance block storage solution, that seamlessly integrates with Amazon EC2 instances. It offers reliable and persistent storage, making it a crucial asset for a diverse range of applications. AWS EBS volumes provide storage for databases, file systems, or application data that demands frequent updates and rapid access. Its flexibility and reliability ensure that your data is always accessible, supporting your business needs regardless of the scale.

AWS EBS Volume Types, SSD-based volume, HDD-based volume
AWS EBS Volume

What are AWS EBS volume Types? – Advantages and Use Cases

AWS offers a variety of EBS volume types designed to meet the diverse storage needs of various applications. Each EBS Volume type offers different performance characteristics and cost considerations, allowing you to tailor your storage to your specific workload requirements. Here’s a breakdown of the different AWS EBS volume types:

Amazon Elastic Block Store, Amazon EC2, Amaozn EBS volume types, EBS snapshot
AWS EBS Volume Types with EC2 instances

SSD-backed Storage Volumes

SSD-backed storage volumes are perfect for transactional workloads, such as databases and virtual desktops. They are especially suitable for demanding applications like SAP HANA, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2. AWS offers high-performance SSD volumes like io2 Block Express and io1, as well as General Purpose SSDs like gp3 and gp2, to cover a range of common use cases. SSD-backed EBS storage volumes are classified into:

General Purpose SSD

General Purpose SSDs strike a balance between IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) and throughput, making them ideal for applications that need a mix of read/write operations and quick response times. GP2 and GP3 are EBS volume types that provide various price-performance options within the SSD category. The newer GP3 volumes are particularly attractive, offering up to 20% lower cost per GB compared to GP2. They are well-suited for applications that require high performance at a lower cost, such as MySQL, Cassandra, virtual desktops, and Hadoop analytics clusters.

Provisioned IOPS

Provisioned IOPS volumes are tailored for mission-critical applications that demand consistent, high IOPS performance with predictable, sub-millisecond latencies. These EBS volume types deliver the provisioned performance 99.9% of the time, making them ideal for applications like SAP HANA, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2 that require high availability and reliability.

HDD-backed Storage Volumes

HDD-backed storage is ideal for workloads that need high throughput, such as MapReduce tasks and log processing. These volumes are more cost-effective per gigabyte compared to SSDs and are divided into two main categories:

Throughput Optimized HDD Volumes

Throughput Optimized HDD volumes are designed for workloads with high sequential data access patterns. They provide good throughput at a lower cost per gigabyte than SSDs, making them suitable for tasks like Amazon EMR, ETL, data warehouses, and large-scale data processing. These EBS volume types offer a baseline throughput of 40 MB/s per TB and can burst up to 250 MB/s per TB and 500 MB/s per volume, supporting high throughput and I/O-intensive workloads.

Cold HDD

Cold HDD volumes are the most cost-effective option for infrequently accessed data, like archives. They offer the lowest storage cost per gigabyte and have the slowest access times, making them perfect for backups, disaster recovery data, or logs that are rarely accessed. Cold HDD volumes are ideal for workloads with occasional bursts of I/O, providing a baseline throughput of 12 MB/s per TB, with the ability to burst up to 80 MB/s per TB or 250 MB/s per volume. This makes them a budget-friendly choice for workloads with relatively low average I/O needs. Understanding these options is crucial for effective AWS cost optimization.

Here’s a table that compares the various AWS EBS Volume Types based on the given information:

EBS Volume TypeCategoryPerformance CharacteristicsIdeal Use CasesCost Consideration
General Purpose SSD (gp2)SSD-backed– Baseline 3 IOPS per GB
– Burst up to 3,000 IOPS
– Boot volumes
– Small/medium databases
– Development/test environments
Moderate cost, flexible performance
General Purpose SSD (gp3)SSD-backed– Consistent 3,000 IOPS baseline
– Up to 16,000 IOPS
– Max throughput 1,000 MB/s
– MySQL, Cassandra
– Virtual desktops
– Hadoop analytics clusters
Lower cost per GB compared to gp2
Provisioned IOPS (io1)SSD-backed– Up to 64,000 IOPS per volume
– Predictable, low-latency I/O
– Mission-critical databases
– Large-scale transactional applications
Higher cost, very high performance
Provisioned IOPS (io2)SSD-backed– Enhanced durability
– Same IOPS as io1
– SAP HANA, Oracle
Throughput Optimized HDD (st1)HDD-backed– Baseline 40 MB/s per TB
– Burst up to 250 MB/s per TB
– Max throughput 500 MB/s per volume
– Big data, data warehousing
– Log processing
– Streaming large datasets
Lower cost per GB than SSDs
Cold HDD (sc1)HDD-backed– Baseline 12 MB/s per TB
– Burst up to 80 MB/s per TB
– Max throughput 250 MB/s per volume
– Backup and archival
– Disaster recovery data
– Rarely accessed logs
Lowest cost, lowest performance
Table Comparing AWS EBS Volume Types

This table provides a clear comparison of the various AWS EBS volume types, highlighting their key performance characteristics, ideal use cases, and cost considerations.

Best Practices for Amazon EBS Volume Management

Amazon EBS volume management can help you harness the full potential of this powerful storage solution. Some of the best practices to follow are:

Choose the Right EBS Volume Type for Your Workload

Choosing the right EBS volume type is key to striking a balance between cost and performance. For instance, general-purpose SSDs (gp3 or gp2) are great for boot volumes and smaller databases, offering a good mix of price and performance. If you need something more powerful for high-performance applications like databases, go for Provisioned IOPS SSDs (io1 or io2), which are designed for demanding workloads. For tasks involving large, sequential data processing, such as big data or log files, Throughput Optimized HDDs (st1) are a perfect fit. It’s important to evaluate your application’s I/O needs and select the EBS volume type that gives you the best value and efficiency.

Monitor and Optimize EBS Performance

Regularly monitor your EBS volumes using AWS CloudWatch to track key performance metrics such as IOPS, throughput, and latency. Set up alarms to notify you of performance issues or when thresholds are exceeded. Use this data to identify underperforming volumes and take corrective actions, such as resizing volumes or adjusting their IOPS settings, to maintain optimal performance.

Implement Snapshots for Data Backup and Recovery

Use EBS snapshots to create point-in-time backups of your EBS volumes. Snapshots are incremental and stored in Amazon S3, which helps in reducing storage costs. Regularly schedule snapshots to ensure you have up-to-date backups for data recovery in case of failures. Also, consider using snapshot automation tools to manage backup schedules and retention policies effectively.

Enable Encryption for Data Security

Encrypt your EBS volumes to protect sensitive data both at rest and in transit. AWS provides encryption for EBS volumes using AWS Key Management Service (KMS), which ensures that your data is secure. Enable encryption by default for new volumes and use encrypted snapshots for backups to maintain compliance with security policies and regulatory requirements.

Optimize Cost by Regularly Reviewing EBS Volumes

Periodically review your EBS volumes to ensure they are appropriately sized for your workload. Resize or switch to a different volume type if your needs have changed to avoid over-provisioning and reduce costs. Utilize AWS Cost Explorer to analyze your spending patterns and identify opportunities for cost savings, such as consolidating unused volumes or leveraging AWS pricing plans that offer discounts for long-term commitments.


AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS) provides flexible and high-performance storage solutions for a variety of application needs, from startups to enterprises. With different volume types like SSD-backed and HDD-backed options, EBS allows you to choose the best fit for your workloads, whether you need balanced performance, high IOPS, or cost-effective storage. Managing EBS volumes effectively is key to optimizing performance, ensuring data security, and reducing costs. By following best practices such as selecting the right volume type, monitoring performance, and implementing snapshots for backups, you can maintain a secure and efficient storage environment.

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Heera Ravindran

Content Marketer at Economize. An avid writer and a zealous reader who specializes in technical content and has a passion for all things Cloud and FinOps.

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