Amazon, Microsoft Top Short List Of Cloud Storage Providers: Study

Amazon and Microsoft are the cream of the crop among a small handful of cloud storage vendors that offer the performance, stability and scalability to make them viable alternative to their on-premise counterparts, a recent study has revealed.

While the study, dubbed "State Of Cloud Storage," was conducted by Natick, Mass.-based storage and data continuity services startup Nasuni Corp., it takes a candid view of the cloud storage market and identifies which cloud storage providers (CSPs) are ready for primetime. Nasuni also points out in the study that its offerings are cloud storage provider agnostic.

The results stem from a more than two year evaluation of the market in which Nasuni tested storage vendors and rated them based on their performance, stability and scalability.

This technical test looked at how CSPs perform in a specific use case, namely, how they perform for mid-sized organizations that want to take advantage of the cloud for primary storage, data protection and disaster recovery. Some providers, for example, have built their clouds to optimize their ability to deliver very large media files across the Web. Nasuni did not test for every possible use case.

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Nasuni judged cloud storage players based on performance, which it identified as the ability to respond quickly to queries and not slow when stressed; stability and availability, or the ability to trust that data in the cloud will be available at all time; and scalability, or the ability to leverage unlimited capacity.

Of the 16 different cloud storage providers evaluated, only six passed Nasuni's criteria. And Amazon S3 and Microsoft Windows Azure came out the big winners.

"Two CSPs emerged as top performers in the Nasuni study: Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure, with Amazon S3 being the standout across all evaluation areas," Nasuni wrote in the study.

Rounding out the six top cloud storage providers were AT&T Synaptic Storage-as-a-Service, Nirvanix, Peer1 Hosting and Rackspace Cloud, the study revealed.

Nasuni added that EMC Atmos Online also passed the performance, stability and scalability testing, but EMC discontinued the Atmos Online service in 2010 and now offers EMC Atmos as a platform that lets other companies host their own clouds, such as AT&T and Peer1. Nasuni did not reveal the names of the 10 other cloud storage providers that didn't pass muster.

Nasuni's testing examined five different stages, API integration, unit testing performance testing, stability testing and scalability testing, all of which required the services to perform tasks as they would in business cloud environments.

Nasuni measured average write speed for large files of 1 MB, and found that Microsoft ranked first, followed by Nirvanix, Rackspace, AT&T, Amazon and Peer1. And in average read speed for large files Nirvanix placed first, followed by Microsoft Windows Azure, Amazon, AT&T, Rackspace and Peer1. Nasuni also tested average read and write speeds for medium files and large files and Amazon and Microsoft averaged highest among the field.

NEXT: Which Cloud Storage Providers Suffered The Most Outages?

On the stability side, Nasuni measured average response times and again Microsoft and Amazon led the pack followed by Peer1, Rackspace, AT&T and Nirvanix.

And for availability, Nasuni tracked the number of cloud outages per month suffered by each cloud storage provider. Amazon suffered 1.4 outages per month, but still offered availability of 100 percent. Peer1 suffered 6.8 outages per month, and offered 99.9 percent availability. Rackspace and AT&T had 10.3 and 10.4 outages per month, respectively, while Microsoft Azure had 11.1 outages per month and Nirvanix had 332 outages per month.

"In terms of outages, Amazon had the fewest with just 1.43 outages per month. However, the duration of these outages was not significant as Amazon had an uptime that essentially equaled 100 percent. Availability for Microsoft Azure, Peer1 and Rackspace were comparable, with Nirvanix and AT&T coming in last place. Nirvanix, in particular, experienced a high number of outages relative to this peer group, though its availability was 99.8 percent. AT&T did not have a large number of outages, but their duration impacted its availability, which was the lowest of the top six providers at 99.5 percent," Nasuni noted.

For scalability testing, Nasuni continuously wrote small files with many concurrent threads for several weeks to each cloud storage provider until it had written 100 million objects. While writing the files, Nasuni measured and tracked error rates and performance. Against, Amazon S3 and Microsoft Windows Azure took top honors with writing error rates that were effectively zero and reading error rates of about 0.07 for Azure and zero for Amazon. Nirvanix had a read error rate of 1.34 and a write error rate of zero, while AT&T and Peer1 each had read error rates of 2.96 and write error rates of 0.01. Rackspace, which also had a write error rate of zero, had a read error rate of 59.63, according to Nasuni's testing.

"The largest CSPs are the equivalent of the hard drive vendors in traditional storage, offering low prices and a high quality raw storage service through sheer operational excellence and economies of scale. But raw cloud storage lacks performance, security, and any sort of comprehensive account management," Nasuni wrote. "Raw cloud storage is just as unusable to most businesses as a solitary hard drive. In much the same way that the hard drive industry evolved, the CSP market will continue to consolidate, leaving only a handful of players who have the massive economies of scale required to compete effectively in what will eventually become a commodity business. And just as companies such as EMC emerged to package commodity disk drives into intelligent systems, a new generation of storage vendors is now emerging who are focused on harnessing the power of raw cloud storage to deliver complete storage systems built to run businesses."