Storage Architecture Selection - Performance Efficiency Pillar

Storage Architecture Selection

The optimal storage solution for a particular system varies based on the kind of access method (block, file, or object), patterns of access (random or sequential), throughput required, frequency of access (online, offline, archival), frequency of update (WORM, dynamic), and availability and durability constraints. Well-architected systems use multiple storage solutions and enable different features to improve performance.

In AWS, storage is virtualized and is available in a number of different types. This makes it easier to match your storage methods with your needs, and offers storage options that are not easily achievable with on-premises infrastructure. For example, Amazon S3 is designed for 11 nines of durability. You can also change from using magnetic hard disk drives (HDDs) to SSDs, and easily move virtual drives from one instance to another in seconds.

Performance can be measured by looking at throughput, input/output operations per second (IOPS), and latency. Understanding the relationship between those measurements will help you select the most appropriate storage solution.







Amazon EBS,

EC2 instance store

Lowest, consistent


Mounted on EC2 instance, copies via snapshots

File system

Amazon EFS, Amazon FSx

Low, consistent


Many clients


Amazon S3


Web scale

Many clients


Amazon S3 Glacier

Minutes to hours



From a latency perspective, if your data is only accessed by one instance, then you should use block storage, such as Amazon EBS. Distributed file systems such as Amazon EFS generally have a small latency overhead for each file operation, so they should be used where multiple instances need access.

Amazon S3 has features than can reduce latency and increase throughput. You can use cross-region replication (CRR) to provide lower-latency data access to different geographic regions.

From a throughput perspective, Amazon EFS supports highly parallelized workloads (for example, using concurrent operations from multiple threads and multiple EC2 instances), which enables high levels of aggregate throughput and operations per second. For Amazon EFS, use a benchmark or load test to select the appropriate performance mode.

Understand storage characteristics and requirements: Understand the different characteristics (for example, shareable, file size, cache size, access patterns, latency, throughput, and persistence of data) that are required to select the services that best fit your workload, such as object storage, block storage, file storage, or instance storage.

Determine the expected growth rate for your workload and choose a storage solution that will meet those rates. Object and file storage solutions, such as Amazon S3 and Amazon Elastic File System, enable unlimited storage; Amazon EBS have pre-determined storage sizes. Elastic volumes allow you to dynamically increase capacity, tune performance, and change the type of any new or existing current generation volume with no downtime or performance impact, but it requires OS filesystem changes.

Evaluate available configuration options: Evaluate the various characteristics and configuration options and how they relate to storage. Understand where and how to use provisioned IOPS, SSDs, magnetic storage, object storage, archival storage, or ephemeral storage to optimize storage space and performance for your workload.

Amazon EBS provides a range of options that allow you to optimize storage performance and cost for your workload. These options are divided into two major categories: SSD-backed storage for transactional workloads, such as databases and boot volumes (performance depends primarily on IOPS), and HDD-backed storage for throughput-intensive workloads, such as MapReduce and log processing (performance depends primarily on MB/s).

SSD-backed volumes include the highest performance provisioned IOPS SSD for latency-sensitive transactional workloads and general purpose SSD that balance price and performance for a wide variety of transactional data.

Amazon S3 transfer acceleration enables fast transfer of files over long distances between your client and your S3 bucket. Transfer acceleration leverages Amazon CloudFront globally distributed edge locations to route data over an optimized network path. For a workload in an S3 bucket that has intensive GET requests, use Amazon S3 with CloudFront. When uploading large files, use multi-part uploads with multiple parts uploading at the same time to help maximize network throughput.

Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) provides a simple, scalable, fully managed elastic NFS file system for use with AWS Cloud services and on-premises resources. To support a wide variety of cloud storage workloads, Amazon EFS offers two performance modes: general purpose performance mode, and max I/O performance mode. There are also two throughput modes to choose from for your file system, Bursting Throughput, and Provisioned Throughput. To determine which settings to use for your workload, see the Amazon EFS User Guide.

Amazon FSx provides two file systems to choose from: Amazon FSx for Windows File Server for enterprise workloads and Amazon FSx for Lustre for high-performance workloads. FSx is SSD-backed and is designed to deliver fast, predictable, scalable, and consistent performance. Amazon FSx file systems deliver sustained high read and write speeds and consistent low latency data access. You can choose the throughput level you need to match your workload’s needs.

Make decisions based on access patterns and metrics: Choose storage systems based on your workload's access patterns and configure them by determining how the workload accesses data. Increase storage efficiency by choosing object storage over block storage. Configure the storage options you choose to match your data access patterns.

How you access data impacts how the storage solution performs. Select the storage solution that aligns best to your access patterns, or consider changing your access patterns to align with the storage solution to maximize performance.

Creating a RAID 0 (zero) array allows you to achieve a higher level of performance for a file system than what you can provision on a single volume. Consider using RAID 0 when I/O performance is more important than fault tolerance. For example, you could use it with a heavily used database where data replication is already set up separately.

Select appropriate storage metrics for your workload across all of the storage options consumed for the workload. When utilizing filesystems that use burst credits, create alarms to let you know when you are approaching those credit limits. You must create storage dashboards to show the overall workload storage health.

For storage systems that are a fixed sized, such as Amazon EBS or Amazon FSx, ensure that you are monitoring the amount of storage used versus the overall storage size and create automation if possible to increase the storage size when reaching a threshold