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Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) is one of the core storage services in AWS, along with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS). EBS provides extra block-level storage for your EC2 instances, with each storage unit called an EBS volume. These volumes can be attached to any EC2 instance.

One of the key advantages of using EBS volumes over the instance store, which is temporary block-level storage that comes with your EC2 instance, is data persistence. Data stored in the instance store is lost if you terminate the instance, whereas data on an EBS volume is preserved and can be reattached to another EC2 instance if needed.

AWS offers various types of EBS volumes, but the two main types of General Purpose SSD volumes are GP2 and GP3. GP3 volumes, introduced in December 2020, are the latest generation and offer several improvements over the older GP2 volumes.

This article will provide a clear and detailed comparison of GP2 and GP3 volumes, focusing on their pricing, performance, and use cases. We will also explain how to easily migrate your existing GP2 volumes to GP3 if you decide to upgrade.


What is AWS EBS?

Amazon EBS provides block-level storage volumes that can be used as primary storage for data that requires frequent updates, such as the system drive of an EC2 instance or for data-heavy applications like databases or enterprise applications. EBS volumes are flexible, offering different volume types to balance performance and cost for various workloads.

EBS volumes are essentially virtual hard drives that can be attached to your EC2 instances to store data persistently. Let’s dive into how it works, and its key functionalities.

AWS EBS, GP2 vs GP3, Migration Guide

How Does AWS EBS Work?

Here is the 9 step method that ensures data persistence in Amazon EBS volumes, making it a competitive pick for Ec2 instances.

Creating an EBS Volume

To start using EBS, you first create an EBS volume in a specific Availability Zone. You define its size and choose a volume type based on your performance requirements. AWS offers several types of EBS volumes, including:

  • General Purpose SSD (GP2, GP3): Balanced for price and performance.
  • Provisioned IOPS SSD (IO1, IO2): Designed for I/O-intensive applications requiring high performance.
  • Throughput Optimized HDD (ST1): Ideal for large, sequential workloads.
  • Cold HDD (SC1): Best for infrequently accessed data.

For the purpose of brevity, this article will compare only General Purpose SSD volumes (GP2, GP3).

Attaching the Volume to an EC2 Instance

Once created, an EBS volume can be attached to any EC2 instance within the same Availability Zone. When attached, the volume appears as a block device, just like a physical hard drive. The EC2 instance can read from and write to the EBS volume, allowing it to be used for storage needs.

Data Storage and Access

EBS volumes store data in fixed-size blocks, making them suitable for applications that require low-latency access to frequently updated data. The block storage model ensures that data is organized and accessed efficiently, similar to traditional hard drives.

Replication and Durability

AWS automatically replicates EBS volumes within the same Availability Zone to ensure high availability and durability. This replication protects against hardware failures, ensuring your data remains safe and accessible.

Snapshots for Backup

EBS supports creating snapshots, which are point-in-time backups of your volumes. Snapshots are incremental, meaning only the changes made since the last snapshot are saved, which saves time and storage costs. These snapshots are stored in Amazon S3, providing an additional layer of durability and security.

Performance Optimization

EBS volumes are designed to provide consistent and predictable performance. For instance, GP3 volumes offer higher baseline performance and allow you to scale IOPS independently of storage size, providing more flexibility and cost efficiency.

Encryption and Security

EBS provides built-in encryption for data at rest and in transit. You can enable encryption when creating a volume, ensuring that your data is protected using AWS Key Management Service (KMS) keys. This encryption helps meet regulatory and compliance requirements without additional setup.

Monitoring and Management

You can manage and monitor EBS volumes using the AWS Management Console, AWS CLI, or AWS SDKs. AWS CloudWatch provides metrics and alarms for monitoring volume performance and usage, helping you optimize your storage configuration and quickly address issues.

Functionalities and Benefits of EBS Volumes

Here is a summarized list of the capabilities unlocked by using EBS volumes:

  • Persistent Storage: Data remains intact even after the EC2 instance is terminated.
  • High Availability: Automatic replication within an Availability Zone ensures data durability.
  • Scalability: Easily resize volumes and adjust performance settings.
  • Snapshots: Create incremental backups for disaster recovery and cloning.
  • Performance: Multiple volume types to match performance requirements.
  • Security: Built-in encryption for data at rest and in transit.
  • Flexibility: Attach and detach volumes as needed, across different EC2 instances.

Comparing EBS GP2 vs GP3 Performance

Performance Overview

Amazon EBS GP2 and GP3 volumes are designed to provide general-purpose SSD storage for a wide range of applications. However, there are significant differences in how they deliver performance:

FeatureGP2GP3
Max IOPS per volume16,00016,000
Max throughput per volume250 MB/s1,000 MB/s
Performance scalingLinear, 3 IOPS per GBBaseline of 3,000 IOPS
Volume size for max IOPS5.33 TiB32 GiB
Volume size for max throughput334 GiB8 GiB

Key Performance Differences

  • Baseline Performance: GP3 volumes provide a consistent baseline performance of 3,000 IOPS and 125 MB/s throughput regardless of the volume size, whereas GP2 volumes’ performance is tied to their size, requiring larger volumes to achieve higher IOPS and throughput.
  • Scalability: GP3 allows you to provision additional IOPS and throughput without needing to increase the volume size, providing more flexibility and cost-efficiency.
  • Maximum Performance: Both GP2 and GP3 can achieve up to 16,000 IOPS. However, GP3 offers a higher maximum throughput (1,000 MB/s) compared to GP2’s 250 MB/s, making GP3 suitable for more demanding workloads.

Comparing EBS GP2 vs GP3 Cost

Cost is a critical factor when choosing between GP2 and GP3 volumes. Here’s a breakdown of the cost structure for each:

Cost ComponentGP2GP3
Price per GB-month$0.10$0.08
Baseline IOPSIncluded with volume size3,000 IOPS free
Additional IOPS costN/A$0.005/provisioned IOPS-month over 3,000
Throughput costN/A125 MB/s free, $0.04/provisioned MB/s-month over 125

Cost Efficiency

  • Storage Costs: GP3 volumes are 20% cheaper per GB-month compared to GP2 volumes, offering significant cost savings for the same amount of storage space.
  • Performance Costs: GP3 allows you to decouple storage performance from capacity, meaning you can pay only for the performance you need without provisioning additional storage. This is not possible with GP2, where performance is tied to volume size.

Amazon EBS GP2 vs GP3 Performance and Cost Comparison Sheet

FeatureGP2GP3
Volume TypeGeneral Purpose SSDGeneral Purpose SSD
DescriptionBalances price and performance for a wide variety of transactional workloadsLowest cost SSD volume that balances price and performance for a wide variety of transactional workloads
Durability99.8% – 99.9%99.8% – 99.9%
Use CasesVirtual desktops, databases, boot volumes, interactive applications, dev/test environmentsVirtual desktops, databases, boot volumes, interactive applications, dev/test environments
API Namegp2gp3
Volume Size1 GB – 16 TB1 GB – 16 TB
Baseline IOPSPerformance scales with volume size (3 IOPS per GB)3,000 IOPS
Max IOPS per volume16,00016,000
Max Throughput per volume250 MB/s1,000 MB/s
Max IOPS per instance260,000260,000
Max Throughput per instance7,500 MB/s12,500 MB/s
Price per GB-month$0.10$0.08
IOPS CostN/A$0.005/provisioned IOPS-month over 3,000
Throughput CostN/A125 MB/s free, $0.04/provisioned MB/s-month over 125

Based on the performance and cost comparison, GP3 volumes offer significant advantages over GP2 volumes, including better baseline performance, more flexibility in scaling IOPS and throughput, and lower costs. For most applications, especially those requiring high performance at a lower cost, GP3 is the superior choice.


How to Migrate EBS GP2 to GP3 Volumes

Migrating your existing GP2 volumes to GP3 is a straightforward process that can be done via the EC2 console or the AWS CLI. This section will guide you through both methods to ensure a seamless transition.

Migrating from GP2 to GP3 Using the EC2 Console

Follow these steps to migrate a GP2 volume to GP3 using the EC2 console:

Open the EC2 Console

    • Log in to the AWS Management Console.
    • Navigate to the EC2 Dashboard.

    Access Volumes

      • In the left-hand pane under “Elastic Block Store,” select “Volumes.”
      AWS EBS, GP2 vs GP3, Migration Guide, Amazon

      Select the Volume

        • Find and select the volume ID of the GP2 volume you want to migrate.

        Modify the Volume

          • Click the “Actions” button at the top of the page.
          • Select “Modify Volume” from the dropdown menu.
          Volume Type, EBS GP2 Migration to GP3

          Change Volume Type

            • In the “Modify Volume” interface, change the “Volume Type” to “General Purpose SSD (GP3).”
            • Here, you can also adjust the volume’s size, IOPS, and throughput if needed.

            Confirm Changes

              • Click “Modify” to apply the changes.
              • A confirmation pop-up will appear; click “Modify” again to confirm.

              Your volume will now be converted to GP3. The migration process typically completes within a few minutes, during which the volume remains available for use.


              Migrating from GP2 to GP3 Using the AWS CLI

              For those who prefer using the command line, the AWS CLI provides an efficient way to migrate volumes. Follow these steps:

              Open your Terminal or Command Prompt

                • Ensure you have the AWS CLI installed and configured with your AWS credentials.

                Modify the Volume

                  • Use the following command to modify your volume:
                    bash aws ec2 modify-volume --volume-id vol-0123456789abcdef0 --volume-type gp3
                  • Replace vol-0123456789abcdef0 with the actual volume ID of your GP2 volume.

                  Confirm the Change

                    • The CLI will output the status of the modification request. You can monitor the progress by checking the volume status in the EC2 console or using the describe-volumes command. aws ec2 describe-volumes --volume-ids vol-0123456789abcdef0

                    By following these steps, you can easily upgrade your existing GP2 volumes to the more cost-effective and performance-optimized GP3 volumes without downtime.


                    Conclusion

                    Amazon EBS GP3 volumes offer significant advantages over their GP2 predecessors, making them the superior choice for many use cases. With GP3, users benefit from enhanced performance, greater flexibility, and cost savings.

                    Migrating from GP2 to GP3 volumes is a simple process that offers numerous benefits, including improved performance and lower costs. Whether you choose to use the EC2 console or the AWS CLI, the migration steps are straightforward and can be completed quickly, ensuring your applications continue to run smoothly while taking advantage of the enhanced capabilities of GP3 volumes.

                    Additionally, using AWS’s cloud observability and monitoring tools, such as AWS CloudWatch and AWS Cost Explorer, can further enhance your cost management efforts. These tools provide valuable insights into your usage patterns and help identify areas for further EBS Cost Optimization.

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                    Adarsh Rai

                    Adarsh Rai, author and growth specialist at Economize. He holds a FinOps Certified Practitioner License (FOCP), and has a passion for explaining complex topics to a rapt audience.

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