Mounting a NVME disk on AWS EC2

I have been using “c5” type instances since almost a month, mostly “c5d.4xlarge” with nvme drives. So, here’s what has worked for me on Ubuntu instances:

first get the location nvme drive is located at:


mine was always mounted at nvme1n1. Then check if it is an empty volume and doens’t has any file system, (it mostly doesn’t, unless you are remounting). the output should be /dev/nvme1n1: data for empty drives:

sudo file -s /dev/nvme1n1

Then do this to format(if from last step you learned that your drive had file system and isn’t an empty drive. skip this and go to next step):

sudo mkfs -t xfs /dev/nvme1n1

Then create a folder in current directory and mount the nvme drive:

sudo mkdir /data
sudo mount /dev/nvme1n1 /data

you can now even check it’s existence by running:

df -h

Stopping and starting an instance erases the ephemeral disks, moves the instance to new host hardware, and gives you new empty disks… so the ephemeral disks will always be blank after stop/start. When an instance is stopped, it doesn’t exist on any physical host — the resources are freed.

So, the best approach, if you are going to be stopping and starting instances is not to add them to /etc/fstab but rather to just format them on first boot and mount them after that. One way of testing whether a filesystem is already present is using the file utility and grep its output. If grep doesn’t find a match, it returns false.

The NVMe SSD on the i3 instance class is an example of an Instance Store Volume, also known as an Ephemeral [ Disk | Volume | Drive ]. They are physically inside the instance and extremely fast, but not redundant and not intended for persistent data… hence, “ephemeral.” Persistent data needs to be on an Elastic Block Store (EBS) volume or an Elastic File System (EFS), both of which survive instance stop/start, hardware failures, and maintenance.

It isn’t clear why your instances are failing to boot, but nofail may not be doing what you expect when a volume is present but has no filesystem. My impression has been that eventually it should succeed.

But, you may need to apt-get install linux-aws if running Ubuntu 16.04. Ubuntu 14.04 NVMe support is not really stable and not recommended.

Each of these three storage solutions has its advantages and disadvantages.

The Instance Store is local, so it’s quite fast… but, it’s ephemeral. It survives hard and soft reboots, but not stop/start cycles. If your instance suffers a hardware failure, or is scheduled for retirement, as eventually happens to all hardware, you will have to stop and start the instance to move it to new hardware. Reserved and dedicated instances don’t change ephemeral disk behavior.

EBS is persistent, redundant storage, that can be detached from one instance and moved to another (and this happens automatically across a stop/start). EBS supports point-in-time snapshots, and these are incremental at the block level, so you don’t pay for storing the data that didn’t change across snapshots… but through some excellent witchcraft, you also don’t have to keep track of “full” vs. “incremental” snapshots — the snapshots are only logical containers of pointers to the backed-up data blocks, so they are in essence, all “full” snapshots, but only billed as incrememental. When you delete a snapshot, only the blocks no longer needed to restore either that snapshot and any other snapshot are purged from the back-end storage system (which, transparent to you, actually uses Amazon S3).

EBS volumes are available as both SSD and spinning platter magnetic volumes, again with tradeoffs in cost, performance, and appropriate applications. See EBS Volume Types. EBS volumes mimic ordinary hard drives, except that their capacity can be manually increased on demand (but not decreased), and can be converted from one volume type to another without shutting down the system. EBS does all of the data migration on the fly, with a reduction in performance but no disruption. This is a relatively recent innovation.

EFS uses NFS, so you can mount an EFS filesystem on as many instances as you like, even across availability zones within one region. The size limit for any one file in EFS is 52 terabytes, and your instance will actually report 8 exabytes of free space. The actual free space is for all practical purposes unlimited, but EFS is also the most expensive — if you did have a 52 TiB file stored there for one month, that storage would cost over $15,000. The most I ever stored was about 20 TiB for 2 weeks, cost me about $5k but if you need the space, the space is there. It’s billed hourly, so if you stored the 52 TiB file for just a couple of hours and then deleted it, you’d pay maybe $50. The “Elastic” in EFS refers to the capacity and the price. You don’t pre-provision space on EFS. You use what you need and delete what you don’t, and the billable size is calculated hourly.

A discussion of storage wouldn’t be complete without S3. It’s not a filesystem, it’s an object store. At about 1/10 the price of EFS, S3 also has effectively infinite capacity, and a maximum object size of 5TB. Some applications would be better designed using S3 objects, instead of files.

S3 can also be easily used by systems outside of AWS, whether in your data center or in another cloud. The other storage technologies are intended for use inside EC2, though there is an undocumented workaround that allows EFS to be used externally or across regions, with proxies and tunnels.

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