New Amazon Glacier Service Keeps Data in Deep Freeze

In nature, glaciers are slow but steady masses of ice that flow as theymelt. They take many years to accumulate and often just as long todeform. In other words, a glacier is typically here for eons, andfittingly “Glacier” is the name of Amazon’s new data archive service aimed at enterprise and small businesses.

This Glacier, which Amazon launched on Tuesday, isn’t in someremote polar region. It is actually in the cloud — or more accurately,it’s a cloud-based technology that promises an affordable alternative toon-site tape-based storage.

However, those looking for speedy backup should be warned, thisservice will likely move at a glacier’s pace compared to current harddrive backups. But compared to tape, this likely isn’t an issue.

“This is a backup service, backups occur typically during the eveningor during times of low network usage,” Rob Enderle, principalanalyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “This is good because most of us haveour upload speeds set far lower than our download speeds anyway.”

It also isn’t intended for content that needs to be accessed often.

“Restores are infrequent, and a good backup plan likely has a localrepository which is backed up to a remote like this service forcatastrophic outages — like a fire or earthquake destroys thebuilding,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “In this case, slow speeds areacceptable because the alternative is no restoration at all. So thisservice is designed for those concerned about catastrophic events andeither aren’t that concerned about rapid recovery or have implementedlocal backup solution along with Glacier.”

Amazon did not respond to our request for further details.

Cold Data in the Cloud

The cloud could change how this data, which is held for thosecatastrophic outages, is maintained. The biggest push to the cloudcould be a far greater cost, along with improved reliability that thedata is there when needed. Files stored onGlacier would have an annual durability of 99.999999999 percent, according to Amazon.

“This is deep freeze, cold data,” said Chris Silvia, analyst with theAltimeter Group. “This is data that is stored for long-time backups.Not something you need to … access a lot. It is cheap, it isslow, but it removes an operational cost of running your own on-sitebackup including tape systems.”

Thus, Glacier is aimed at small businesses and enterprises, especiallythose that produce a lot of data — data that has to be there when itis needed.

“Glacier mainly focuses on long-term back-up and/or active archivingof data that is no longer used regularly but which needs to be keptavailable for reference,” said Charles King, principal analyst atPund-IT. “Use cases include long-term medical records, digital mediaarchives, past tax filings and records, long-term database backups andinformation impacted by regulatory compliance.”

Compliance and Regulatory Customers

As speed is not the primary factor, ensuring that the data is available is thegreater concern, especially for businesses that have compliance andregulatory considerations. But here is where there could be someissues that Amazon will need to resolve to ensure that the data ismaintained in accordance to industry rules and regulations.

“There will be issues for data segregation and privacy,” said VivianTero, program director for governance, risk and complianceinfrastructure at IDC.

Speed is not the biggest factor ,Tero added, but given that complianceis an issue, retrieving the data in a timely fashion will still be important.

“This will need to give the users the ability to search for compliantdata in a reasonable amount of time,” Tero emphasized.

Consumer Users

While this sort of backup is aimed at present at small-business andenterprise corporate users, in time it could pave the way forcloud-based backup options for consumers as well. It could be anotherlayer of archiving data that users consider too important to lose — sowhile that could be financial records for a company, it could be wedding photosfor an individual.

“This could be a draw for consumers,” said Silva. “The Glacier couldbecome a proverbial attic for those things we don’t use a lot butdon’t want to lose.”

The cost also makes this an effective option.

“Since there’s no minimum cost, small businesses and even individualscould also be potential customers,” added King. “If it works asadvertised, Glacier should create meaningful long-term revenues forAmazon and bolster their position as a cloud services provider to bereckoned with.”

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