One of the most common use cases for public IaaS cloud computing is storage and that’s for good reason: Instead of buying hardware and managing it, users simply upload data to the cloud and pay for how much they put there.
It sounds simple. But in reality, the world of cloud storage has many facets to consider. Each of the three major public IaaS cloud vendors – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform – have a variety of storage options and in some cases complicated schemes for how much it costs.
According to Brian Adler, director of enterprise architecture at cloud management provider RightScale, who recently ran a webinar comparing cloud storage options, there is no one vendor that is clearly better than the others. “Is anyone in the lead? It really depends on what you’re using (the cloud) for,” he says. Each provider has their own strengths and weaknesses depending on the specific use case, he says. Below are three of the most common cloud storage use cases and how the vendors stack up.
Block storage is persistent disk storage used in conjunction with cloud-based virtual machines. Each of the providers break their block storage offerings into two categories: traditional magnetic spinning hard-drive disks, or newer solid state disks (SSD), which are generally more expensive but have better performance. Customers can also pay a premium to get a certain amount of guaranteed input/output per second (IOPs), which basically is an indication of how fast the storage will save new information and read information stored in it.
Amazon’s product is named Elastic Block Store (EBS) and it comes in three main flavors: Throughput Optimized HHD, a traditional magnetic, spinning-disk offering; General Purpose SSD, next-generation drives; and Provisioned IOPS SSD, which come with a guaranteed rate of reads and writes to the data.
Azure’s block storage offering is called Managed Disks and comes in standard or premium with the latter based on SSDs.
Google’s version is named Persistent Disks (PDs), which come in a standard or SSD option.
Rightscale. AWS and Google have a 99.95% availability, while Azure offers a 99.99% availability service-level agreement (SLA) for block storage service.
One of the most important factors to consider when buying block storage is how fast you need access to the data stored on the SSD disk. For that, the vendors offer different guaranteed rates of IOPs. Google is in the lead here; the company offers 40,000 IOPs for reads and 30,000 for writes to its disks. AWS’s general purpose SSD offers 10,000 IOPS, but its provisioned IOPs offering can offer up to 20,000 IOPs per instance, with a maximum IOPs of 65,000 per volume. Azure offers 5,000 IOPs.
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