Evaluating price and performance in the public cloud

Time to ask yourself, “Are you getting your money’s worth from your public cloud?”

Take Snapchat, the popular mobile app that enables users to send videos and pictures that self destruct after a few seconds after viewing. Its parent company, Snap, is filing for its Intial Public Opening (IPO). In the filing, Snap revealed that it spends $400 million a year on Google cloud services and another $50 million on Amazon Web Services (AWS). That’s $450 million — or about $45 million more than the company’s 2016 revenue.


Snap’s founders and venture capitalist supporters hope that its growth rate will give it a valuation of between $19.5 billion and $22.2 billion. If it hits those kind of numbers then any penny spent on the public cloud will be worth it.

But, will the money you spend on the public cloud be worth it to you?

Cloud Spectator, a cloud benchmarking company, recently did an extensive evaluation of public cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers price/value, which can help you get a grip on what you’re really getting from your cloud provider.

The company set out to test 10 of the largest, most well-known public cloud providers with North American data centers to determine a comprehensive performance and price-performance measurement. It examined the performance of vCPU, memory and block storage as well as the value, and called the result the CloudSpecs Score.

The evaluation was needed, Cloud Spectator points out, because “A lack of transparency in the public cloud IaaS marketplace for performance often leads to misinformation or false assumptions.”

“Users and potential users may be led to view cloud computing as a commodity, differentiated mostly by services. The reality of performance in cloud computing impacts the user differently from Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to CSP, involving everything from the physical hardware (e.g., Intel or AMD, SSD or spinning disk), to the cost of the virtualized resources. By identifying environments based on performance rather than resource count, users are able to maximize value in the cloud.”

With that in mind, don’t get caught up in these three myths about cloud performance:

1. VM performance is the same from CSP to CSP.

While CSPs often use the same terms to label resources (i.e., vCPUs, RAM or memory and block storage), differences in the underlying hardware, architecture and performance tuning lead to entirely different results. For example, on VM performance (the virtual processor and memory) alone, the 10 IaaS providers in this report exhibited differences of up to 1.9x. With block storage performance, differences exceeded 18x.

2. For performance, you get what you pay for.

For additional CSP services, such as support, security, geographical location and managed services, this may be true. However, when it came to performance, this study found no correlation between price and performance. Similarly sized virtual machines (VM)s within the 10 providers displayed a spectrum of prices with up to a 5.8x difference between the least and most expensive CSPs.

3. Resource contention, aka the Noisy Neighbor Effect, is not a concern with most providers.

A public cloud environment offers multi-tenant physical hosts.This means a business may share the same physical resources with different users on the same hardware. With a lack of understanding of other users’ activities, resource-hogging applications can affect the performance of other VMs on the host machine.

While resource contention has been addressed by many of the largest providers in an attempt to stabilize VM performance, the block storage offerings still exhibit high levels of performance fluctuations. The fluctuation in performance evidenced in some CSPs can significantly affect hosted applications within those environments.

Put it all together and what you end up with is this: You must carefully evaluate and benchmark what you’re really going to get from your cloud provider for your money.

To start, get a copy of the full report to see who’s who in major IaaS cloud providers. Then, keep in mind that to know what’s really going to work for your company, you’ll need to take a really, really close look at the data center cost/performance, private cloud cost/performance, and the overall cost/performance of the public clouds you’re considering.


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