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Why Amazon’s Latest Cloud Storage Option Could Fend Off Google

Andy Jassy, SVP, Web Services, Amazon.com
Interviewer: Adam Lashinsky, FortuneAndy Jassy, SVP, Web Services, Amazon.com
Interviewer: Adam Lashinsky, Fortune
Andy Jassy, SVP, Web Services, Amazon.com Interviewer: Adam Lashinsky, FortunePhotograph by Kevin Moloney/Fortune Brainstorm TECH

In April 2015, Amazon promised to get its then-newest cloud storage service Elastic File System out the door by year’s end. It took longer than that, but EFS is now officially here—at least for three of Amazon’s cloud regions.

Amazon (AMZN) Web Services already offered several types of data storage, including its flagship Simple Storage Service (or S3), which makes storage accessible from any device or application; Elastic Block Storage (EBS) which assigns storage to a given server (or “instance” in AWS parlance); and Glacier, a cheaper way to store archival data that doesn’t need to be pulled up often or fast.

What AWS lacked until now was a good way for workloads running on many servers to share the same storage pool. That comes in handy for widely distributed web applications that might need a ton of storage one second, and not so much the next.

Amazon said in a blog post this week that it expects EFS, which relies on fast solid-state disks, to be deployed for content repositories, development environments, web server farms, home directories, and big data applications.

If Amazon can deliver truly fast network-accessible storage, it could be a big deal for enterprise accounts, observers said.

“Network-based file systems like EFS typically give you availability across many instances whilst sacrificing performance. You either have to get block storage (which is per instance) or network storage (poor performance),” said David Mytton, chief executive of London-based Server Density, a cloud server monitoring company, said via email.

For more, read: This Is Where Amazon Cloud Is Opening Next

Mytton pointed out that Google Cloud Platform partisans often snipe that AWS services don’t scale as fast or easily as Google’s competitive offerings. He cites Google (GOOG) BigQuery vs. Redshift data analysis tools as an example. A truly scalable file system could help AWS’s scalability story here, he noted.

If it performs as advertised, Amazon’s EFS could also appeal to the big business customers that AWS hopes to bring aboard—many of whom use expensive network storage appliances.

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EFS could be “great for migrating legacy apps that depend on a network-attach storage device from NetApp (NTAP) or EMC (EMC) or for developers that build or deploy apps that were built with that dependency/architecture in mind,” said Sebastian Stadil, chief executive officer of Scalr, a cloud monitoring company.

As is often the case for new AWS services, EFS is available from just three of Amazon’s 13 global cloud regions: the U.S. East region based in Virginia, U.S. West in Oregon, and the Europe region based out of Dublin.