This is a follow up question to this post, as I'm trying to get my head wrapped around all these cloud hosting services:


I had stumbled upon a blog and this:

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) provides block level storage volumes for use with Amazon EC2 instances. Amazon EBS volumes are off-instance storage that persists independently from the life of an instance. Amazon Elastic Block Store provides highly available, highly reliable storage volumes that can be attached to a running Amazon EC2 instance and exposed as a device within the instance. Amazon EBS is particularly suited for applications that require a database, file system, or access to raw block level storage.

So it seems as though, one should connect an EC2 with an EBS. Now all that's left to be done is have your database software (on the EC2) read/write the database data files on the EBS.

AWS has so many products and they all sound pretty similar. Not sure how Rackspace and the other cloud servers have something similar or not.

I'm still fuzzy if multiple instances of EC2s can read/write to the same EBS. Or if each instance of EC2s have their own EBS and then there's some other mechanism (such as database software installed on EC2) to keep all EBSs in sync.

Also, the e-commerce platform would be Spree/Rails with PostGreSQL/MySQL database...in case someone has further insight...


  • You'll get much more detailed responses from ServerFault for this question. I'm pretty sure all ec2 instances are EBS backed by default. S3 is the other storage option. I like Amazon because if an instance is turned off you're not charged other than for EBS and other services. Unlike RackSpace where if your server is offline you're still charged for allocated resources.
    – Anagio
    Jul 20, 2012 at 22:32
  • Thanks for the referral. I would have never known about server fault.
    – A L
    Jul 25, 2012 at 21:38
  • There's a nice list at the bottom of stackexchange pages. Check it out.
    – Skaperen
    Jul 29, 2012 at 18:50

3 Answers 3


An EBS volume can only be used by one EC2 instance at one time. You may detach the EBS volume from one EC2 instance and attach it to another, but cannot attach it to more then one EC2 instance at the same time, please refer to Amazon EC2 FAQs for more information. For example, what I have mentioned is answered here: http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/faqs/#Do_you_plan_to_support_multiple_instances_accessing_a_single_volume

  • That FAQ answer evaded the "do you plan to" aspect of the question.
    – Skaperen
    Jul 29, 2012 at 18:32
  • Then, I would treat it as "No, we do not have such plan, you are on your own". Jul 30, 2012 at 11:36
  • @RaymondTau: I really needed someone to confirm that "An EBS volumne can only be used by one EC2 instance at one time." Thanks!
    – Zhao Li
    Jul 31, 2012 at 1:56

If your database is MySQL, MS SQL, or Oracle, you're much better off using an RDS instance rather than trying to roll your own using EC2 and EBS. RDS functions like a cloud-based version of a DB server and greatly simplifies configuring and maintaining a scalable, fault-tolerant database. The underlying OS is completely managed for you so you can't SSH into it, but you can connect to it with your normal client tools to manage your database.

  • Thanks for the RDS recommendation. I was wondering at what point would that service be needed as opposed to using EBS, which now I've found out that I really can't use EBS.
    – Zhao Li
    Jul 31, 2012 at 1:55

EBS volumes are like block devices. Most systems and software are not prepared to share block level devices. In "real life" that would be equivalent to one hard drive connected to two or more machines. Ever see that? I have not since I worked on IBM mainframes. And even when I did do programming on data shared between machines, it required a lot just to avoid corruption. The only safe way to share was to share in read-only mode. We had an out-of-band means to negotiate which machine got write access. And even with that it required a careful structure to be sure the one writer would not end up confusing any readers. While I would say it is possible to succeed with shared block devices in certain cases which are probably deeply corner cases, I would avoid it. Given the hassles end users would have with shared volumes, I can see why AWS would not expend the effort to make EBS work in a shared mode.

If you need a shared database, just build a special (probably high-I/O and/or 10-gig network) instance for it, give it the volume(s) it needs, and let it serve your other instances. Need redundancy? Set up another in a different zone or region with its own volumes and configure replication over the network.

If you need shared plain files, I guess you have to go with an instance that runs as an NFS or Samba file server.

If you need a file repository, do the same thing (an instance with its own volume(s) and perhaps also a replica in another region) and run your favorite revision storage software (git, svn, hg, cvs, whatever).

  • I was thinking there was something special about the cloud. Like these EBS were some sort of special cloud harddrives. But I guess I was expecting too much. Thanks!
    – Zhao Li
    Jul 31, 2012 at 1:57

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