Why Size Really Matters in the Cloud

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There's no shortage of cloud service providers these days, but new tests from Nasuni, a provider of storage systems that are integrated with multiple back-end cloud storage services, finds that not all cloud computing platforms are created equal.

According to Nasuni, the Amazon S3 cloud storage service is not only substantially faster than other cloud storage platforms, the company's latest tests show that transferring 12 TB of data between one Amazon S3 cloud instance to another only take four hours. That compares to 40 hours for transferring the same amount of data between Amazon S3 and Microsoft Windows Azure, and just under a week to transfer that data to Rackspace. Conversely, the test shows it only take five hours to transfer that data from Rackspace back to the Amazon S3 cloud.

According to Nasuni CEO Andres Rodriguez, the reason for this is that the Amazon S3 cloud has reached a level of scale that allows it to perform writes to disk storage at rates that are substantially faster than competitors. Rodriguez says he expects that Microsoft Azure might one day approach the scale of Amazon, but just about every other cloud service provider is going to be at a disk performance disadvantage for some time to come.

As a result of these tests, Rodriguez says Nasuni advises most of its customers to use the Amazon S3 cloud. Of course, the more customers Amazon gets, the larger the disk farm becomes, which ultimately improves storage performance. That's an important factor not only for meeting service level agreement (SLA) requirements, but also for companies that expect to share data with other entities because the cost of transferring data in the cloud is often tied to both the amount of data involved and how long it takes to move it across the network.

The Nasuni tests would also suggest that there will need to be a significant amount of consolidation in the cloud space if other providers expect to compete with Amazon. The simple fact of the matter is that scale not only allows Amazon to compete aggressively on pricing by increasing its scale, but also contributes to the ongoing performance improvements across the entire shared cloud storage service. As such, competitors are going to have to figure out how to compete with Amazon at a level of scale most of them right now can come nowhere near matching.