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Choosing between AWS vs. Google vs. Azure cloud storage

Comparing cloud storage options can be daunting, especially AWS vs. Google vs. Azure. Focus on cloud storage services and features -- not just prices.

LAS VEGAS -- In the growing cloud market, choosing a provider often comes down to AWS vs. Google vs. Azure. But when it's time to pick a vendor for cloud storage, don't let capacity pricing lead your decision process.

Considerable savings can be found by moving data storage to the cloud, but there's negligible price differences in capacity offerings from public cloud mega vendors Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure cloud services, said Werner Zurcher, research director for Gartner, Inc., the Stamford, Conn.-based analyst firm which held its Data Center, Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference here this week.

Each vendor has its strengths and weaknesses, and none is dramatically better than the others, but associated operational cost and varying use cases can help IT  find the right solution, he added.

Operational costs include transaction and management costs, and are far more likely to show a contrast between vendors than capacity costs, Zurcher said. Amazon Glacier is by far the cheapest storage option at one terabyte of monthly storage for $10, for example, but downloading a single terabyte from the service costs $120, he added.

Kuriakose Varghese, technical manager for Mitsubishi Electric, based in Cypress, Calif., said he is trying to sift through the vendors for potential cloud services.

"A year ago if you'd asked me I would have said Amazon, OK it's a no brainer," Kuriakose said. "But now, is it Amazon or Azure or Google? It's much more confusing."

Amazon is the likely pick if a company only wants storage, but if it needs additional hosting services Google may be the better fit for both to stick with a single vendor, Kuriakose said.

A year ago if you'd asked me I would have said Amazon, OK it's a no brainer. But now, is it Amazon or Azure or Google? It's much more confusing.
Kuriakose Varghesetechnical manager for Mitsubishi Electric, based in Cypress, Calif.

The most common form of cloud storage is object storage, which is typically accessed using HTTP and is more highly scalable than block or file storage.

Since no single vendor is head and shoulders above the rest, selections should take into account other potential cloud services that could be married with storage to simplify the process, Zurcher said.

"Do not select a storage provider in a void," Zurcher said. "Consider provider ecosystem and software ecosystem as part of a greater cloud adoption plan."

Meeting cloud storage criteria: AWS vs. Google vs. Azure

There are several criteria to consider when considering cloud storage use, including durability, availability, performance, capacity cost, monitoring, and access and life-cycle management, Zurcher said. It's also important for IT pros to know their needs before ever taking vendor pitches on cloud storage.

AWS has the largest set of partners and ISV integrators, including NetApp Inc. and Panzura, and network providers such as Equinix Inc.

Google, which was late to market and is trying to stand out with low costs, still lags in brand recognition, while Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) is almost the industry standard at this point, Zurcher said. Microsoft has improved its integration of cloud storage into its existing front-end management solutions.

Some vendors offer better guaranteed uptime, with Microsoft offering 99.99% for its Geo Redundant Storage, but any data lost won’t be retrieved and customers will only receive a credit for the downtime, Zurcher said. Whatever practices IT departments use for on-premises data should be carried over to the cloud, he added.

And while cloud storage can be magnitudes cheaper than on-premises storage, there are other factors to keep in mind, Zurcher said. It's possible the services could move more towards Glacier with the big costs coming from pulling data out rather than putting it in, and vendors are quick to note they aren't culpable for anything that happens to data stored on their machines.

"If your data is lost, then you're responsible for it," Zurcher said.

Other lingering concerns among enterprises relate to trusting someone else with their data. Amazon and other cloud vendors likely have more secure facilities than most on-premises data centers, but that is still a challenge for some people to understand, said Steve Royce, solutions manager for servers and storage for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Royce's organization uses Amazon S3 in limited capacity, and he'd be open to doing more cloud storage.

"I'm pretty comfortable with it but the business is still wrapping its head around it," Royce said. "There's this perception that because I know where the door is I can control it better than Amazon does."

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at [email protected].

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