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Introduction to EBS Volumes

A great feature not available on conventional servers are AWS' EBS disk volumes.

An EBS volume is roughly equal to a simple RAID drive on a conventional server. EBS volumes can range from 1GB to 1000GB large.

Servers can be launched using an EBS volume, in which case the EBS volume acts as the server's drives. So for example, on a simple Linux server, there is an EBS volume instead of a hard disk and the file system is on top of the volume rather than the hard disk. As far as Linux is concerned the EBS volume is a disk drive, or more accurately it is a block device, which can be treated just like a drive. This seamless integration means that none of your apps or even you need to treat EBS differently than a drive. Keep reading however, because EBS is much more flexible that a real drive.

The first cool feature is that you may make as many volumes as you need and manage them easily through the AWS console.

If you need some files of a server just copy its EBS volume. You can even take a copy while the server is running in which case it's called a snapshot backup.

Volumes can be copied from the management console and even shared with other Amazon users. This is how we securely get our image files from Ubuntu.

Need more disk space for a server? Create a new volume. It can be attached while the server is running.

Need a huge amount of space? Create several volumes and use Linux LVM to combine them into a huge one. Need speed? Linux RAID can be used to combine EBS volumes to increase speed and reliability. In fact, you could create a real monster, perhaps just for your busy time of the year. This is possible because the EBS volume is a standard Linux block device. The block device has been a key Linux feature for some time so EBS fits elegantly into the existing architecture.

EBS is also how you clone a server (or restore a backup). First take a snapshot of a server. Second use the create AMI from EBS feature to make a new machine image.

The Amazon system can be scripting via an API. So for the final feature, you can write scripts to automate anything above.