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02/27/2010 23:56 PST

Cloud Storage Showdown Part 2 - What is the best storage for your cloud server?

In the previous post we discussed cloud storage for consumers. Probably a more common use case for cloud storage is to enable backups and/or extended storage from cloud servers and platforms. Over the past month, we have used our network of 25 global servers running in various public clouds to measure bandwidth throughput and latency to and from various cloud storage services including Microsoft's Azure Blob Storage, Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3), SoftLayer's CloudLayer Storage, Nirvanix Storage Delivery Network, Rackspace Cloud Files, and Box.net. We conducted these bandwidth tests by reading and writing a 3MB test file (10MB for storage services in the same cloud such as EC2 to S3) to/from each storage services at random times twice daily. The results are separated by cloud server provider. The table displays all of the storage services tested within that cloud ordered by fastest downlink. We also tested storage in Microsoft's Azure platform.

The purpose of this test wasn't to measure the maximum throughput capacity between server and storage service, but rather to provide a comparison between different storage services. The 3MB test file is not sufficiently large for maximum capacity to be determined (for same cloud storage services the throughput will be more accurate because of the larger 10MB file size). Actual throughput for larger files will most likely be higher than the throughput calculations displayed here.

Bandwidth and storage pricing are other factors to consider when selecting a storage service. For example, Amazon does not charge for bandwidth to/from its S3 storage service and EC2 instances running in the same region. However, there are good reasons to use an external storage service for backups. If, for example, you use EC2 and store your backups using S3 in the same region, and that region happens to go down entirely for an extended period (an unlikely scenario of course), you will be without any means of recovering your data until the region is brought back online. For added fault tolerance, you may decide to keep backups in a separate Amazon S3 region (and pay the bandwidth costs) or even in a separate cloud like Microsoft's Azure.

Tests were performed using a small Azure instance.

South Central US (TX)
North Central US (IL)
Southeast Asia (Singapore)

Tests were performed using an m1.small instance in all regions.

US East Region
EU West Region
US West Region

All instances are Linode 360s

Newark, NJ
Atlanta, GA
Dallas, TX
Rackspace Cloud Files is run out of Dallas as well. Linode also provides GigE uplinks with all servers. This explains the very high downlink throughput result
London, UK
Fremont, CA

Our VoxCloud servers are the smallest 2GB model

New York
Singapore
Most likely Microsoft Azure and Voxel run out of data centers in very close proximity
Amsterdam, NL

GoGrid (CA, US)
We run a 512MB instance with GoGrid. Box.net tends to perform very well against US west coast servers.

Our rackspace node is also run on a 512MB instance. Throughput to and from Rackspace's own Cloud Files storage service was very good.



ReliaCloud (MN, US)



Dallas, TX
Auckland, NZ

02/14/2010 14:33 PST

Cloud Storage Showdown Part 1 - Cloud to Consumer

This is a follow up to our previous post Cloud Speed Test Results where we analyzed the results from our custom cloud speedtest as they pertained to cloud servers and content delivery networks. In this post, we'll use the same test results to analyze the bandwidth performance of 4 cloud storage services including Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) (all 3 regions), Rackspace's Cloud Files, Nirvanix's Storage Delivery Network (SDN), and Microsoft's Azure Blog Storage. To date, about 1350 unique users in 115 countries have run the speedtest. This speedtest tracks the amount of time required to download a 1MB test file from these 6 cloud storage services, and records the transfer rate for each test run. We use MaxMind's geoip database to track where the user is running the test from (country + state/province for US/Canada). The order of the tests is always random and we enforce a time limit such that users with dial up or slow connections are excluded. We also limit individual users to running the speedtest only once per day. 90% of the speedtests were run by users on residential high-speed Internet connections, thus this post is focused on Cloud to Consumer bandwidth performance. In the next post (Part 2), we'll focus on Cloud to Cloud or Intracloud storage bandwidth performance.

As you'll see in the results below, consumer cloud storage performance is highly dependent on the consumer's geographical location. Although cloud vendors may tell you it isn't important where their services are run out of, this is not entirely true. In the previous post we separated the results into very general geographical regions (US and non-US). Since this post is more focused on consumer cloud storage usage, and because there is a large difference in bandwidth performance based on geographical origin, we have broken these results into 8 geographical regions.

A few admin notes regarding the speedtest results:
  • The results are based on download performance. Consumers will generally not achieve this same throughput for uploads due to ISP uplink caps
  • Nirvanix's SDN is unique in that it is geographically optimized like a content delivery network (users connect to the fastest/closest of 4 storage nodes). We used a 4-node SDN (US West, US East, Germany and Japan) in conducting the Nirvanix tests
  • Rackspace Cloud Files is not directly browser accessible and thus not compatible with our speedtest. The results shown below are based on performance for Rackspace Cloud Servers which to our knowledge are run out of the same data centers. Also, based on other bandwidth tests we have conducted, there is a very close correlation between Rackspace Cloud Files/Cloud Servers bandwidth performance
  • Results for Azure storage are based on Azure Platform performance. These results should be most closely correlated with the South Central US storage region. Now that Azure is out of CTP, we will be including the other regions in future tests: US North Central, North Europe and Southeast Asia
Global Results
The global results (all tests performed) show a fairly close spread between the 6 storage services with the exception of S3 US West which seems to be more geographically sensitive.
US Results
In the US, tests were run from all 50 states. S3 US East, Azure Storage and Rackspace Cloud Files were all pretty close in the top 3 spots. Surprisingly, Amazon's S3 region in Europe performed significantly better than the new S3 US West region in the US.
US West Results
US West (AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA) is where Amazon's new S3 US West region really shined out performing other US services by 20-40%.
US Central Results
In US Central (CO, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI, MN, MO, MS, ND, NE, OH, OK, SD, TX, WI, WY), Rackspace's Cloud Files service was the clear top performer followed by Azure (7% slower) and S3 US East (13% slower).
US East Results
In US East (AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, KY, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WV), Amazon's S3 US East region was the top performer. Surprisingly, S3 EU West was not close behind. Azure followed at a distant third (15% slower).
Non US Results
Outside of the US is where Nirvanix's storage outperformed other services. Azure also performed well followed by S3 US East.
Europe Results
In Europe, Nirvanix's SDN did extremely well, out performing second place S3 EU West by 20%. Azure performed comparably with S3 EU West. Rackspace Cloud Files was a bit further behind. S3 US West did not perform well in Europe.
Asia Results
In Asia Azure and Nirvanix were about equal in performance. Rackspace Cloud Files and S3 US West followed at about 15% slower. Amazon will be deploying a new AWS Asia region later this year.
Summary
Bandwidth is but one factor for consumers to consider when choosing a cloud storage service. Most of these storage services are not natively mountable (i.e. you can't browse them using your operating system's file browser), so third party tools like JungleDisk (S3 or Rackspace Cloud Files only), CloudBerry (S3 or Nirvanix) or Windows Explorer Virtual Network Drive (S3, Azure, Nirvanix) are necessary in order to use them. The decision on which storage service to use really depends on a variety of factors including geography, bandwidth, third party tools available and bandwidth/storage costs.

02/10/2010 11:31 PST

Cloud Speed Test Results

Over the past 2 months we've used Amazon's Mechanical Turk to pay users with high speed, mostly residential Internet connections, to run our cloud speedtest. To date, about 1100 unique users in 115 different countries have run the speedtest. This speedtest tracks the amount of time required to download a 1MB test file from 26 different cloud services (servers and content delivery networks), and records the transfer rate for each test and service run. We use MaxMind's geoip database to track where the user is downloading from (country + state/province for US/Canada). The order of the tests is always random and we enforce a time limit such that users with dial up or slow connections are excluded. We also limited individual users to running the speedtest only once per day. To date, about 1300 tests have been performed. About 60% of the tests were performed from US-based connections.

The purpose of these tests is to compare bandwidth speed from various cloud services to high-speed Internet connections. Businesses can use this data to determine which cloud services will provide the best throughput for their customer base.

US Speedtests to Cloud Servers
We got a fairly diverse group of users to run the speedtest from US-based connections covering all 50 states. Voxel, IBM and EC2 (US East) were the top 3 in this category. IBM's service is still in beta and not intended for production use. The bottom 3 are located in Europe, explaining their slower bandwidth.
Non-US Speedtests to Cloud Servers
Most of the non-US speedtests were run by Canadian, European and Indian users. Linode's London data center performed very well in this category followed by EC2 (EU West) and Flexiscale.
Global Speedtests to Cloud Servers
This table shows the aggregate results from all speedtests (both US and non-US). The top 3 are the same as the US-based results, IBM, Voxel, and EC2 (US East).

US Speedtests to CDNs
The only major CDN we were unable to test is Akamai. This is because, unlike other CDNs, Akamai is still strongly opposed to a paygo model and the new realities of CDN pricing, and we are unable to commit to a $200/Mo, 50GB plan ($4GB!). Update: VPS.NET has announced they will be making Akamai CDN available on a zero commit paygo plan. We will add Akamai to the speedtest as soon as we are able to get setup with an account. More info is available here: http://bit.ly/98IQkC

As with our previous pingdom-based tests, CacheFly performed the best in all of our tests. Edgecast also performed very well. Edgecast is available with a zero-commit paygo plan through GoGrid through which it is very good from a price/features/performance perspective. Surprisingly, the #2 CDN (marketshare-wise) Limelight (via RackspaceCloud CDN) performed very poorly in all of our tests.
Non-US Speedtests to CDNs
Outside of the US, both CacheFly and Edgecast performed very well. Amazon's CloudFront came in 3rd, about 18% slower than CacheFly.
Global Speedtests to CDNs
Globally, CacheFly and Edgecast were neck-to-neck, followed by CloudFront at about 15% slower.
Summary
Bandwidth is certainly not the only consideration when choosing a cloud service vendor. However, it is one factor we believe businesses should consider in combination with quality of support, pricing, features and reliability. The combination of these factors should allow users to make a fairly objective decision about which vendor will provide the best overall service for their business.

On a side note, if you intend to use cloud services for internal-facing applications (e.g. virtual private clouds), bandwidth throughput to your business locations should be a very significant factor in your decision making process.

Our speedtest is available publicly in beta release at http://cloudharmony.com/speedtest