Ankur Mandal

March 11, 2024

AWS EBS Cost Optimization Guide


Ankur Mandal

4 min read
March 11, 2024

Amazon EBS is pivotal in assisting organizations in supporting the applications running on the cloud. It offers a durable block storage solution for a wide range of workloads. 

However, not monitoring and keeping it in control can lead to the EBS cost spiraling out. Without knowing, you might be paying a high cost due to an unattached and underutilized volume or a stale snapshot. This is why it is essential to optimize the EBS cost.

In this article, we will review the aspects that impact EBS cost and what measures you can take to ensure effective EBS cost optimization.

A Brief Introduction To AWS EBS & Its Cost Implications

Amazon EBS is a high-performing block storage option AWS offers for use with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances. It works with Amazon EC2 instances for most transaction-heavy, IOPS-intensive workloads. There are two types of AWS EBS volumes:

  • Solid State Drives: They are suitable for transactional workloads where the volume is expected to perform small read and write operations in high numbers.
  • Hard Disk Drives: These are designed for large sequential workloads with significant throughput.

To optimize AWS storage usage, it is essential to understand which one applies to your workload. For example, a provisioned IOPS SSD is suitable for applications that demand high performance but are relatively more expensive than an HDD. On the other hand, Cold HDD, one of the least expensive options, is unsuitable for intensive workloads.

Now that we have discussed the basics of AWS EBS volumes, let us dive into their cost implications.

EBS storage costs are determined by the amount of storage provisioned in an account, measured in gigabytes per month. The charges for provisioned volumes are determined by the size of the allocated volumes rather than the actual data content. Hence, you will still be charged for the 1000 GB volume, even if you have used only 100 GB of the allocated 1000 GB. As a result, the larger the allocated volume, the greater the associated cost.

EBS offers a variety of volume types, each with different performance characteristics. The IOPS and throughput capabilities of different EBS types differ. If you require high performance, you might need a certain number of IOPS and throughput, which could increase your costs.

Moreover, in contrast to EC2 instances, which only incur charges when running, EBS volumes attached to instances maintain data and accumulate charges even when stopped. 

Factors That Impact EBS Cost

There is an exponential increase in the application demand, which means more cloud storage will be consumed. According to a report published by IDC, public storage will consume half of 175 zettabytes of data worldwide, signifying more EBS storage usage. Moreover, The State of Hybrid Cloud Storage by Virtana pointed out that 94% of the cloud decision makers confirmed that their cloud storage cost was increasing, with over 54% saying that storage cost was growing relatively higher than the overall cloud bill. This makes understanding the impact of increasing EBS costs all the more important. Let us take a look at those impacts:

  • Increased direct costs: The immediate impact is a direct increase in total AWS billing. EBS costs tend to be a larger portion of the total bill for users who rely on high storage capacity, especially for applications that require large amounts of data storage.
  • Volume cost of storage: Different types of EBS blocks have different costs. If the cost of specific volumes increases, users will see higher costs for the storage they use.
  • Snapshot cost: If an organization frequently creates EBS snapshots for backup and disaster recovery purposes, any increase in EBS costs will also include the cost of these images. Snapshot EBS volumes create incremental backups, and their costs can contribute to the overall cost.
  • Data transfer charges: Depending on the region and volume characteristics, data migration costs may be associated with EBS, especially when data is moved between EC2 instances and multiple EBSs in different locations. Any changes in EBS costs can affect these data migration costs.
  • Impact on Reserved Instances (RIs): Organizations using reserve instances or saving pan to save on costs may need to reconsider their commitments if EBS costs increase significantly. These commitments are based on usage estimates, and cost changes may affect the total savings generated through this method.

To further understand the impact of EBS cost on overall Cloud cost, we did research, which led us to the revelation that EBS accounts for 15% of the total cloud cost, and disk utilization was at a mere 25%. This means the organizations were paying for the storage they were not using, resulting in wasted costs. These staggering statistics and the pointers mentioned above clearly specify the potential of EBS to impact the overall cloud cost. 

This is why it is important to enforce effective capacity planning management. To optimize EBS costs, capacity planning management is essential since it balances performance, cost control, scalability, and resource utilization. If you accurately assess your application's needs and evolving requirements, you can ensure that you only pay for what you need and use AWS resources effectively.

Despite this, organizations resort to a less-than-ideal practice when simplifying capacity planning management. They choose to overprovision storage to mitigate any risk and ensure enhanced performance. This is typically the process where the infrastructure team chooses resources larger than what is required by the workload. Upon further investigation, we found that organizations consider overprovisioning a safer choice for the following reasons: 

  • Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) offer limited features to optimize storage requirements, making creating custom tools necessary. Developing custom tools, however, can substantially increase DevOps teams' workload and delay achieving optimal storage efficiency.
  • Conversely, when used exclusively, the CSPs provide inefficient, labor-intensive, and highly manual tools. As they lack the automation and sophistication required for consistent and streamlined storage management, these methods may not be sustainable for ongoing, day-to-day operations.
  • Correctly sizing and managing your cloud storage can be a laborious and resource-intensive endeavor, which becomes especially troublesome when considering the financial and reputational risks associated with operational downtime.

Strategies for Effective EBS Cost Optimization

The aforementioned financial repercussions make it imperative to optimize the AWS EBS for cost. Listed below are some of the strategies that you can implement for effective EBS cost optimization.

Analyzing EBS Usage and Identifying Cost Optimization Opportunities

The first and most critical step to ensuring effective EBS cost optimization is analyzing EBS usage. This can include information such as the EBS volume you have, their sizes, performance characteristics, and the instances they are attached to. 

Check how effectively your EBS resources are utilized and eliminate one of the unattached and marked available. Before you decide to terminate it, carefully examine when it was attached. You don't need it any longer if it was a few months ago. 

A relatively cautious approach to terminate them would be taking a snapshot of the EBS volume and then terminating it. We recommend this process because taking a snapshot of the volume compresses the data and moves it to S3 at a relatively lower rate.

Talking about EBS Snapshots- while you can leverage them since they have low access volume and will be billed at a relatively lower rate than the active EBS volume, we suggest deleting old snapshots. Yes, the individual snapshots are relatively inexpensive; however, if left unmonitored, the outdated backups can quickly increase the cost when provisioned. 

You can ensure no stale snapshots by limiting how many snapshots should be retained per volume. Another best practice would be to periodically review the old snapshots and delete the ones you will no longer need in the future.

You can also automate AWS snapshot management with Amazon Data Lifecycle Manager. By harnessing resource tags for EBS volumes or EC2 instances, Amazon DLM streamlines EBS snapshot management with automation, removing the requirement for intricate tools and custom scripts. In addition to reducing operational complexity, this simplification results in significant cost and time savings for your team.

Using manual assessment or tools for identifying cost opportunities can be challenging due to the labor-intensive nature of DevOps efforts or the additional costs associated with tool deployment. Moreover, with the storage environments becoming increasingly complex, there is a real risk of costs escalating rapidly.

This is where Lucidity Storage Audit can be of help. Using Lucidity Storage Audit, you can automate the entire process with a user-friendly, easily deployable tool. Our detailed report will highlight the areas that need improvement and identify where you are wasting money. Our comprehensive Luciidty Storage Audit report takes only 1 week to give insight into:

  • Overall disk expenditure: Obtain knowledge of your present disk spending, identify potential areas for cost optimization, and find ways to decrease overall expenses by up to 70%. 
  • Disk resource efficiency: Determine factors leading to unused resources and excessive provisioning and take measures to eliminate waste while ensuring efficient allocation of disk resources. 
  • Reducing the risk of disk downtime: Take proactive steps to prevent financial losses and damage to your reputation by detecting and addressing downtime risks before they manifest.

Right-Sizing EBS Volumes & Choosing The Appropriate Storage Type

Another effective way to optimize AWS EBS cost is right-sizing the EBS volumes. Analyze your application's actual storage requirements in comparison to the provisioned capacity. Resizing overprovisioned volumes can lead to cost savings without sacrificing performance. The factors you need to consider when right-sizing the EBS volumes are capacity, IOPS, and throughput of the application. You can reduce the EBS cost by downgrading the EBS blocks when the throughput is low. Moreover, you need to periodically monitor the read-write access of all the EBS volumes.

Another crucial factor to consider in your pursuit of EBS cost optimization is the type of EBS volume. For instance, General-purpose SSDs would be suitable for general applications where balancing performance and cost-effectiveness is easy. On the other hand, if the applications and databases in question are critical and require high and consistent I/O performance, we suggest going with Provisioned IOPS SSD.

AWS Cost Optimizer can also help you with right-sizing the EBS volume. It uses artificial intelligence and machine-based learning to prevent overprovisioning and underprovisioning of the following AWS resources- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance types, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes, and Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) services on AWS Fargate.

Your provisioned IOPS and RDS volume could also use the right sizing. When you use high-performing io1 EBS volume, you need to look beyond capacity optimization. You will have to adjust the amount of IOPS provisioned to match the application requirement. Similarly, you should adjust the RDS volume based on the application's performance, as they often use overprovisioned EBS resources since the database is sensitive to latency.

While right-sizing has benefits, it is essential to note that live shrinking of EBS volume is impossible, so you must manually shrink the EBS volume. This will lead to downtime since you must detach the original volume from the instance during the operation. 

To reduce the size of an EBS volume, the typical process involves creating a snapshot, creating a new smaller volume from that snapshot, and then detaching the volume and reattaching it to the instance. This process can result in costly overhead.

When you resize an EBS volume, both the original and the new volumes may exist at the same time. Remember that during this transition period, you'll be paying for the storage of both volumes. Hence, it's essential to be aware that storage costs could be temporarily increased.

Regular Monitoring And Optimization Of EBS Costs

Maintaining ongoing monitoring and optimization of EBS costs is essential to managing cloud expenses effectively. However, manual monitoring and optimization of EBS costs are tedious processes that lead to downtime and significantly waste time and DevOps efforts. As mentioned above, keeping a check on and ensuring that the storage remains optimized can be a challenging process. It is not possible to do it for every EBS volume as it would demand significant time and effort from the DevOps team.

Once you have the necessary data from the Lucidity Storage Audit, it is time to continuously implement such a strategy to ensure EBS cost optimization through effective scaling. When going the conventional route for scaling resources, you might face two problems: 

  1. overprovisioning, which will squander valuable resources, or 
  2. underprovisioning, which will result in performance bottlenecks

This is why Lucidity has developed an enterprise-grade Live EBS Auto-Scaler that expands and shrinks the live block storage based on the workload. Our autonomous orchestration solution helps businesses relying on AWS save significant money and mitigate the probability of overprovisioning through effective EBS management. 

Whether you're facing unexpected traffic surges or looking for cost savings during periods of low activity, our EBS Auto-Scaler automatically adjusts your storage capacity to guarantee peak performance. With just three-click deployment, Lucidity's EBS Auto-Scaler can help reduce your cloud storage cost by up to 70% and increase disk utilization from 35 % to 80%.

Lucidity offers three deployment options:

  • Lucidity Hosted: We host the agent in the cloud environment in this deployment option. Our agent gathers storage metrics and transmits them to our hosted Auto-Scaler Engine. The Auto-Scaler Engine executes commands to adjust resource capacity dynamically based on real-time requirements.
  • Private Link: To ensure data security and integrity, AWS provides a private link through which the data gets routed to the dedicated servers.
  • Self-Hosted: Through this deployment option, you can rest assured about the integrity and security of your data since the Auto-Scaler Engine will reside on your server.

Why should you opt for Lucidity?

Our Auto-Scaler is an intelligent overlay on your AWS infrastructure, enabling on-the-fly disk expansion and contraction without buffer time, downtime, or performance gaps. It offers an expansion of EBS within 1 minute of the requirement being raised and seamless shrinkage without any bottlenecks, buffers, or downtime. With Lucidity's EBS Auto-Scaler by your side, you will get:

benefits of Lucidity for ebs optimization
  • Maximizes disk utilization: Our EBS Auto-Scaler will maximize your disk utilization by ensuring that the storage you've arranged is used efficiently. This will lead to improved use of resources overall and less wasted capacity. Hence, by enhancing your disk utilization to 70-80%, we bring down the cost associated with provisioning, resource management, and data transfer. Furthermore, our EBS Auto-scaler also reduces the DevOps efforts by 90%.

To know how much you can save, head to our ROI calculator. All you have to do is add your monthly/yearly spending, disk utilization, and growth rate. We will provide you with the savings you can achieve when you install Lucidity on your system.

LUcidity ROI calculator for saving on cloud spend
  • Automation: Unlike the traditional method of capacity planning, which involves four manuals, including navigating through 3 different tools and the intervention of the DevOps team, we automate capacity planning management. Our EBS Auto-Scaler automates the expansion and shrinkage of the EBS while eliminating the possibility of any downtime, buffer time, or performance lag.

Moreover, our EBS Auto-Scaler also has a feature that allows the creation of tailored policies. You can set your desired disk utilization, maximum disk, and buffer for efficient EBS management. Lucidity allows you to create as many policies as you want, and it will ensure that the disk shrinks or expands according to these customized policies.

Lucidity custom policy feature for maintaining buffer
  • Eliminates downtime: Within a minute of a sudden spike in traffic or workload, Lucidity expands the disk to accommodate the increased demand. Both shrinking and expanding occur seamlessly without any downtime. In addition, neither process causes any performance degradation during shrinkage or expansions.
  • No impact on performance: Our EBS Auto-Scaler can only be deployed in 3 clicks. Once we are onboarded, the entire capacity management becomes Lucidity's responsibility. Moreover, we have designed Lucidity to have little to no impact on the workload instances, like CPU or RAM usage. As the Lucidity agent consumes only 2% or less CPU and RAM, your workload will run uninterrupted and unaffected.

Lucidity's industry-first Auto-Scaler is available for quick and easy deployment at AWS Marketplace. With just a few clicks, you can leverage Lucidity for auto-expansion and auto-shrinkage with any performance lag or downtime. Follow the below steps to get started on AWS Marketplace.

  • Log in to your AWS account (that you use for billing).
  • Search and find Lucidity Auto-Scaler in the AWS Marketplace.
  • Select the view purchase option and click on the Subscribe button. You will be redirected to the Lucidity's website.
  • Create a new Lucidity account if you don't have one already, or use the credentials to sign in to your existing account.
  • Once you have signed in to your account, you can relax, as your Lucidity billing will be seamlessly managed through your AWS account.

Delete Unattached EBS Volumes

Your AWS EBS volumes are attached to the EC2 instances as storage devices. Regardless of whether they are being used or not by the associated EC2 instance, each EBS volume will add charges to your monthly AWS bill.

To minimize the EBS cost, you need to identify and delete the unattached volumes. Even after terminating the EC2 volume, the attached block volume will keep running, adding to the overall cloud cost, even if not in use. 

If a volume has the AWS attribute "state" marked as "available" and is not currently connected to an EC2 instance, assess its network throughput and IOPS to determine recent volume activity in the past week. Lucidity's Storage Audit can help identify idle resources leading to wastage due to unattached storage or when storage is attached to a stopped virtual machine.

Deleting the volume before detaching it is imperative to avoid incurring additional costs. You should select "Delete on Termination" during the instance launch to delete any unused volume. This will not only save you money but also prevent any unauthorized access to the sensitive data. 

We recommend creating a backup copy of the EBS volume before deleting it so that you can restore it if needed.

Find Underutilized EBS Volume

The best way to assess EBS volumes' activity and identify potential low throughput is to monitor their reads and writes. If no throughput or disk operations have occurred in the past ten days, the volume is likely not in active operation. In such a situation, you should downsize any underutilized volume or change their volume type. 

We at Lucidity understand how time-consuming it is to manually discover the underutilized volumes or how much effort the DevOps team will have to put in to implement monitoring tools. This is why we designed Lucidity Storage Audit to simplify this process. It will help uncover wastage due to underutilized resources and other factors.

Minimize The Number Of PIOPS Volumes

Elastic Block Store (EBS) PIOPS volumes provide your Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances with a predictable and consistent level of high-speed input/output operations. These volumes are designed for low latency and high-speed storage applications like databases and I/O-intensive workloads.

They are relatively costly since they are designed for applications requiring consistent and high performance. But you can change them easily. If you have any EBS volumes designated as PIOPS (Io1), examine them specifically. On the detailed view, note the maximum IOPS that your volume has experienced. Consider adding 10-20% above this value for safety. After this assessment, determine if a PIOPS volume is essential for your application.

Manage AWS Budgets Smartly with EBS Cost Optimization Strategies

If you want to ensure smooth AWS operation without going over the budget, optimize EBS cost. Utilizing the best practices discussed in this article will help you balance application performance, resource utilization, and storage costs harmoniously. Ensure your EBS resources align with your evolving workloads by regularly monitoring, adjusting, and fine-tuning them. Continuously monitoring and optimizing your storage infrastructure can keep it agile, responsive, and cost-effective, supporting your business goals and cloud operations to the fullest.

If you are facing issues with low disk utilization or your EBS to cloud cost is high, take your first step towards automated EBS scaling with Lucidity. Book a demo today!

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