Amazon Elastic File System (Amazon EFS) – Definitions and Usage on Windows

Amazon EFS provides scalable file storage for use with Amazon EC2 cloud instances, and multiple EC2 instances can access Amazon EFS simultaneously. What this means for your business is high-performance data workloads in a simple system.

Below you’ll find out about the main use cases for Amazon EFS and some of the drawbacks of using this service, making you better positioned to decide if it’s the right solution for your data needs.

Amazon EFS Use Cases

Amazon EFS is fully managed, meaning AWS handles the infrastructure for you and you avoid the complexity of deploying and maintaining complicated file systems.

As a result, you can focus on what Amazon EFS is best at, which is providing a highly available and high-performance file system for large workloads. For example, EFS supports up to 7,000 file system operations per second, and data is replicated across multiple zones in a region.

Some of the most important use cases for Amazon EFS include:

  • Big data analytics—companies of all sizes collect vast amounts of data which can be sueful when analyzed. With over 85 percent of companies attempting to become data-driven, a platform such as Amazon EFS that can handle large analytic workloads is essential.
  • Content management—websites must gather, store, manage, and publish lots of digital content, including text and multimedia files—Amazon EFS allows you to do all of this.
  • Web serving—you can set up a web server and serve files using EFS.
  • On-premise integration—you can access EFS from on-premise servers, allowing you to migrate data to the cloud, offload heavier application workloads to leverage the power of EC2 instances, and periodically copy data to EFS for backup and disaster recovery.

Amazon EFS Drawbacks

Despite its undeniable usefulness for larger workloads, there are some drawbacks to Amazon EFS that you need to consider. Firstly, Amazon EFS does not suit small general purpose workloads—its appeal is in the use cases outlined above, and using it for smaller workloads is not cost-efficient.

Another drawback of EFS is its cost, which is almost ten times more expensive than the Amazon EBS service, which offers block storage on EC2 cloud instances. However, the cost factor is counterbalanced by the fact that only one instance at a time can access EBS, while thousands can access EFS.

Lack of Windows Support

One of the main drawbacks that deserves a special mention is that there is no Windows support for Amazon EFS, meaning you can’t natively mount the file system on Windows EC2 instances. The lack of Windows support is a real drawback considering many companies use Windows instances to run applications.

There is a workaround to map EFS to Windows instances (more details), but since Windows instances are not officially supported, the performance and effectiveness of this workaround are debatable. There are alternatives to Amazon EFS that provide a similar service with Windows support, such as Storage Gateway or NetApp Cloud OnTap.

Mounting EFS on an EC2 Instance

The following steps provide an overview of how to mount the Amazon EFS file system on an EC2 instance.

  • Gather relevant information, including the public DNS name of your EC2 instance and the DNS of your file system.
  • Connect to your EC2 instance using any computer running Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, or other Unix variant. For Windows, connect with PuTTY, while other operating systems you use SSH and specify a .pem file
  • Install the NFS client on your Linux EC2 instance using the following command: $ sudo yum -y install nfs-utils
  • Create a new directory on the EC2 instance and then mount the Amazon EFS file system to this directory.
  • You are now ready to use Amazon EFS and change the directory, list its contents, change permissions, and add files to it.

Closing Thoughts

Amazon EFS is an excellent solution for your business if your main data use cases involve intensive, high-performance workloads and lots of data. EFS has no limit on the size of the file system, and the fact that it is fully managed makes it convenient and simple to use.

The main drawback of AWS Amazon EFS is its lack of support for Windows EC2 instances, which may be a deal breaker for your business.

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