DEV Community

Cover image for An AWS Hero reacts to the io2 Block Express announcement
Dave Stauffacher for AWS Heroes

Posted on

An AWS Hero reacts to the io2 Block Express announcement

Hi there, I'm Dave. I'm an AWS Community Hero, Cloud Engineer, and have built a career focused on data storage and protection.

I want to talk about the elegance that is io2 Block Express and why it truly is the first "Cloud SAN". In a traditional high performance and highly available Storage Area Network, data traffic between a storage array and the consuming server rides on a dedicated network. Storage traffic is kept separate from typical server IP type communications. Dedicated cards on each server (HBAs) handle all storage communications, typically over a fibre optic (fc) connection.

SAN administrators paid close attention to their networks and storage arrays to make sure they were operating efficiently. They knew how to tweak volumes and network settings to make sure they weren't the bottleneck in a system's design. They understood port zoning to reduce network chatter and kept controller impact balanced. Most storage admins could tell you more than you'd ever want to know about how fast they could move data to a server. I know I could - I published that report weekly.

The simplicity of building in the cloud - specifically AWS - made it so anyone can provision storage. After creating a volume, it attaches to a host and just works. Initially, performance was a function of volume size. Then, new volume types made performance a configurable parameter. As long as the instance type matches the storage performance needs, things run well. But the performance wasn't what I'd call extreme. 30,000 IOPS is fast, and some workloads need that kind of performance. To a datacenter storage guy, maxing out at 30,000 IOPS was indicative of entry-level storage.

AWS Nitro changed the game. To over-simplify, it shifts the various communications and security workloads to dedicated processors. To the consumer, Nitro improves instance efficiency and performance, which translates to lower costs to run workloads. Since launching, Nitro has evolved to support storage communications on a dedicated chip. Baking this same technology into the storage controllers at work in the Elastic Block Storage environment meant AWS could embrace protocol disaggregation. If you draw this on a whiteboard, it's going to look exactly like the datacenter SANs, with a dedicated data plane capable of high-speed highly-available communication. That's why AWS is calling this the first SAN in the Cloud - because it is the first legitimate SAN in the Cloud. With their ability to hit 260,000 IOPS in a single volume, AWS is delivering the kind of performance about which any storage admin would brag.

Here's why I'm so excited about IO2 Block Express: AWS has built SAN in the Cloud with the simplicity of EBS. There are no port zones to curate. There are no fibre components to maintain. There are no storage pools to optimize. Now anyone can be a SAN admin with a few easy clicks of the mouse.

You can connect with Dave on Twitter @DaveBuildsCloud

Discussion (0)