Powerful New Amazon EC2 Boot Features – Introduction


Today a powerful new feature is available for our Amazon EC2 customers: the ability to boot their instances from Amazon EBS (Elastic Block Store).

Customers like the simplicity of the AMI (Amazon Machine Image) model where they either choose a preconfigured AMI or upload their own AMI into Amazon S3. A wide variety of operating systems and software configurations is available for use. But customers have also asked us for more flexibility and control in the way that Amazon EC2 instances are booted such that they have finer grained control over for example what software configurations and data sets are available to the instance at boot time.


The ability to boot from Amazon EBS gives customers very powerful control over the boot configuration of the Amazon EC2 instances. In the traditional boot process, the root partition of the image will be the local disk, which is created and populated at boot time. In the new Amazon EBS boot process, the root partition is an Amazon EBS volume, which is created at boot time from an Amazon EBS snapshot. Other Amazon EBS volumes beyond the root disk can also made part of the instance before it is booted. This allows for a very fine-grain control of software and data configuration. An additional advantage of using the Amazon EBS boot process is that root partitions are no longer constrained by the size of the local disk and can be up to 1TB in size. And the new boot process is significantly faster because a local disk no longer needs to be populated.

With this new boot process another powerful feature is available to our Amazon EC2 customers: the ability to stop an instance and restart it at a later time with the disk configuration intact. When an instance is restarted, the customer can choose to use a different instance type (e.g., with more memory or CPU), a different operating system (e.g., with new security patches installed), or add new user data. While the instance is stopped it does not accrue any usage hours and customers are only charged for the storage associated with the Amazon EBS volume. The ability to stop and restart an instance is a very powerful mechanism that makes management of instances much easier; many scenarios related to adaptive instance sizing and software management have now become much simpler.

The new boot from Amazon EBS feature is an important step in our continuing quest to remove more and more of the heavy lifting that comes with today’s computer environments.

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Cloud Tools now supports Amazon Elastic Block Store


One of the exciting new features of Amazon EC2 is Elastic Block Store, which provides truly durable storage for your instances. Prior to EBS, the contents of the file system disappeared once an instance was terminated. This meant that if you wanted to run a database server on EC2 you had to use MySql master-slave replication with frequent backups to Amazon S3. With EBS running a database on EC2 is a lot easier. You can simply create an EBS volume, attach it to an instance, and create a filesystem that gives you long-lived disk storage for your database. Moreover, you can easily back up an EBS volume by creating a snapshot (stored in S3). And, if you ever need to restore your data, you can create a volume from a snapshot.

Cloud tools now supports Amazon EBS. You can launch an application with a database stored on a brand new volume; on an existing volume; or on a volume created from a snapshot. You can also convert an already running application to use elastic block storage. Finally, you can create an EBS snapshot of the database. Currently, only the Maven plugin supports this functionality but I plan to update the Grails plugin shortly.

Please check out the project’s home page for more information and send me feedback.

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