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Azure Storage Gains on Amazon S3 (Report)

A report by enterprise cloud storage provider Nasuni shows Microsoft's cloud storage competes and sometimes bests the competition in performance and other criteria.

Amazon S3 should be an obvious first choice when one is putting together a list of enterprise cloud storage suppliers. Based on performance, price, uptime, reliability and a host of other features, it might seem like the only choice. But enterprise cloud storage provider Nasuni offers evidence that Microsoft's Windows Azure Blob Storage competes and sometimes bests Amazon S3 on some of those capabilities.

Nasuni released a report of its findings this morning, "The State of Cloud Storage 2013 Industry Report," showing Azure performed better than S3 in speed and availability, and gaining on S3 when scaling storage needs. Besides Azure and S3, also tested were Google Cloud Storage, HP Cloud Object Storage and RackSpace Cloud Files.

Testing consisted of virtual machines created outside of each providers cloud platform. (According to the report, that meant Amazon EC2 wasn't used to test Amazon S3, and so on.) The virtual machines ran tests during various times and various locations "to eliminate external network bias," stated the report.

Fee said that Nasuni focused on the five major cloud storage providers based on what it would consider in its own decision-making process when narrowing choices for its own use (with Google and HP being new additions to this year's testing). "All of these meet our base minimum of experience, functionality and price. Once you cross that threshold, now you're going into the heavy-duty benchmarking, where we really try to put you through the paces to determine whether we're willing to take you on as a primary or secondary supplier. To date, no one other than Microsoft and Amazon has met that threshold."

Based on read, write, and delete speed, Azure was 56 percent faster that S3 and HP-COS, both of which were first and second in last year's testing. On availability, Azure was a quarter faster than S3. Azure improved on the scalability front, but still came in behind S3.

Azure's speed was the biggest surprise, said Connor Fee, Nasuni's director of marketing. "When we test performance, we test across two dimensions, to get a robust picture. First, we test across file size, so we go from small file sizes up to big files. Then we test on thread count, or concurrency, what I'm doing when I'm reading one at a time, and what we're doing when we read 50 at a time," said Connor. "When you look at [those criteria], Microsoft emerges as a leader in a pretty significant way... They come in at 100 percent on write performance, while the next closest player comes in at 70 percent."

Fee said that where Microsoft excels is small file sizes, which is what he believes to be the majority type of files being stored in the cloud. "Think a megabyte or less, and Microsoft is better than everybody else by a big jump." Fee explained that the other players, including Amazon, still dominate when writing large files.

Azure dominated when testing read speeds on small and large files. "Amazon didn't get worse, they got better, but Azure just leapfrogged [last year's results]," said Fee.

When it came to availability, Fee said that Azure came up first. The test was more than just a basic ping, and consisted of writing a file, reading back the file, then deleting the file, with any retries or failures factored into its availability testing. "[Microsoft] was less than a half a second, while Amazon came in closer to seven-tenths of a second; Rackspace came in under a second, and Google was close to two seconds."

Over time, Fee said that Microsoft and Amazon were really stable and consistent during testing, while RackSpace availability varied significantly.

The scalability test consisted of writing a hundred billion objects to all the providers, to see how each of them handled that much throughput, and measuring whether speed went up or down and how they handled errors. "What was notable was that all significant errors went down from last year's testing, where we saw errors at the rate of 1 percent. What we're seeing now, in reality, is less than one-hundredth of a percent," Even more notable, said Fee, was that "Microsoft was the only player never to miss a single read or a single write -- no one else could claim that."

Fee said that Azure was a clear favorite, but it wasn't enough to have them jump ship from S3. " Experience and maturity are still primary factors" that Fee said keeps Amazon at the top of its list of primary cloud storage providers. "But we'll continue to monitor all the players."

The report can be viewed here.

About the Author

Michael Domingo has held several positions at 1105 Media, and is currently the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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