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S3 Meets R3 (Reliability, Robustness, and Resilience)

Mamoon Yunus is CTO of Forum Systems and a pioneer of SOA Gateways & Firewalls. Prior to Forum, Mr. Yunus was at webMethods where he developed XML-based techology. Mamoon holds two Graduate Degrees in Engineering from MIT.

Rizwan Mallal is Technology Director at Crosscheck Networks and Chief Security Architect of Forum Systems. Previously, Rizwan held various positions at Sonicwall and Raptor (now Symantec). Rizwan holds a Masters in Computer Science from University of Vermont.

Amazon's entry into the online storage business has created a lot of buzz in the industry. The well-touted S3 (Simple Scalable Storage) web service holds the promise of providing reliable and robust virtual storage for users over the web. It’s provided as a storage service exposed via standard interfaces such as SOAP Web Services and REST that developers can leverage to build custom storage applications for end users.

The success of Amazon's S3 depends on two factors: first, consumers building successful business models from such services; and second, S3 providing a reliable and robust infrastructure to deliver such services. The robustness, reliability and resilience can create a positive user experience. Robustness and reliability in turn depend on the performance characteristics of this service, specifically the latency that determines the delay in storing or retrieving files.

To determine the latency that a user might experience with S3, we embarked on a project to measure typical file storage, file retrieval and other miscellaneous file operations. The latency of these file operations was based on the time it would take to store and retrieve files of multiple sizes ranging from a few kilobytes up to a few megabytes. Keeping in mind that performance is relative, we introduced a comparable latency metric by measuring how long it would take us to store/retrieve files of similar sizes to a remote server over the WAN (Wide Area Network) using Secure Copy (SCP) protocol. Granted, measuring the transfer time between the two different standards on different endpoints is not exactly an apples to apples comparison but it would still give us a fair estimation of where Amazon S3 service stands in comparison to a well-known industry standard such as SCP.

Based on our goals we decided to run multiple test results and produce metrics that would highlight the latency involved when accessing Amazon S3.

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