Using RAID on EC2 EBS Volumes to Break the 1TB Barrier and Increase Performance

Amazon EC2 currently has a limit of 1,000 GB (1 TB) for EBS volumes (Elastic Block Store). It is possible to create file systems larger than this limit using RAID 0 across multiple EBS volumes. Using RAID 0 can also improve the performance of the file system reducing total IO wait as demonstrated in a number of published EBS performance tests.

The following instructions walk through one way to set up RAID 0 across multiple EBS volumes. Note that there is a limit on the size of a file system on 32-bit instances, but 64-bit instances can get unreasonably large. This test was run with 40 EBS volumes of 1,000 GB each for a total of 40,000 GB (40 TB) in the resulting file system.

Actual command line output showing the size of the RAID:

# df /vol
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/md0             41942906368      1312 41942905056   1% /vol

# df -h /vol
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/md0               40T  1.3M   40T   1% /vol

These commands can run in less than 10 minutes and this could probably be reduced further by parallelizing the creation and attaching of the EBS volumes.

Note that the default limit is 20 EBS volumes per EC2 account. You can request an increase from Amazon if you need more.

Caution: 40 TB of EBS storage on EC2 will cost $4,000 per month plus usage charges.


Start a 64-bit instance (say, Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy from Use your own KEYPAIR:

ec2-run-instances \
  --key KEYPAIR \
  --instance-type c1.xlarge \
  --availability-zone us-east-1a \

Configurable parameters (set on both local host and on EC2 instance):


On the local host (with EC2 API tools installed)…

Create and attach EBS volumes:

devices=$(perl -e 'for$i("h".."k"){for$j("",1..15){print"/dev/sd$i$j\n"}}'|
           head -$volumes)
while [ $i -le $volumes ]; do
  volumeid=$(ec2-create-volume -z us-east-1a --size $size | cut -f2)
  echo "$i: created  $volumeid"
  ec2-attach-volume -d $device -i $instanceid $volumeid
  volumeids="$volumeids $volumeid"
  let i=i+1
echo "volumeids='$volumeids'"

On the EC2 instance (after setting parameters as above)…

Install software:

sudo apt-get update &&
sudo apt-get install -y mdadm xfsprogs

Set up the RAID 0 device:

devices=$(perl -e 'for$i("h".."k"){for$j("",1..15){print"/dev/sd$i$j\n"}}'|
           head -$volumes)

yes | sudo mdadm \
  --create /dev/md0 \
  --level 0 \
  --metadata=1.1 \
  --chunk 256 \
  --raid-devices $volumes \

echo DEVICE $devices       | sudo tee    /etc/mdadm.conf
sudo mdadm --detail --scan | sudo tee -a /etc/mdadm.conf

Create the file system (pick your preferred file system type)

sudo mkfs.xfs /dev/md0


echo "/dev/md0 $mountpoint xfs noatime 0 0" | sudo tee -a /etc/fstab
sudo mkdir $mountpoint
sudo mount $mountpoint

Check it out:

df -h $mountpoint

When you’re done with it and want to destroy the data and stop paying for storage, tear it down:

sudo umount $mountpoint
sudo mdadm --stop /dev/md0

Terminate the instance:

sudo shutdown -h now

On the local host (with EC2 API tools installed)…

Detach and delete volumes:

for volumeid in $volumeids; do
  ec2-detach-volume $volumeid

for volumeid in $volumeids; do
  ec2-delete-volume $volumeid


This article was originally posted on the EC2 Ubuntu group.

Thanks to M. David Peterson for the basic mdadm instructions:

[Update 2012-01-21: Added –chunk 256 based on community recognized best practices.]