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Google vs. AWS SSD: Which is the better deal?

AWS shops are eager to use new EBS SSD-backed volumes, though it's still unclear whether AWS or Google has the better SSD deal.

Amazon Web Services shops welcome new Elastic Block Store volumes backed by solid-state drives, but Google delivered a similar cloud offering this week for prospective buyers.

The new Elastic Block Store (EBS) general purpose solid-state drive (SSD) volumes for AWS are now the default volume type for new EBS deployments. SSDs have replaced magnetic, spinning hard drives for high-performance workloads in the last few years, as they allow a high number of IOPS compared with traditional disks.

If I'm a developer, Google might be more appealing, but Amazon may have the better overall value if you factor in all their types of storage and provisioning capabilities.

Greg Schulz, senior advisory consultant, The Server and StorageIO Group

The new volumes will be put to use for NoSQL databases at Sonian Inc., an email archiving cloud service provider located in Newton, Massachusetts. The company has used AWS since 2007 and has made architectural decisions based on the performance of spinning disk. High IOPS allowed by SSDs open the door to new projects using Cassandra, MongoDB or other next-generation databases.

"Quite a few workloads will benefit from the performance you get for the price with solid-state drives," said Greg Arnette, CTO of Sonian.

Previously, to get higher performance in the storage system from magnetic disks, IT pros had to purchase provisioned IOPS from AWS at an additional cost of $0.10 per hour over the cost of disk capacity.

Now they can get the performance of SSDs without paying that premium.

"We won't have to use provisioned IOPS for at least one project now, which will save us on cost," said James Fogerson, solutions architect for international staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. in Menlo Park, California. "One of the other benefits is the stability of guaranteed performance over standard EBS, which could go up or down considerably."

Google vs. AWS SSDs

Google made a similar move to buff up its infrastructure as a service offering with SSDs a day before AWS.

While AWS and Google shops will probably go with the native offering for their cloud, getting to the bottom of which is a better deal could be difficult for prospective buyers of cloud services, analysts said.

Google's price for SSD-backed persistent disk is three times what Amazon charges ($0.325 per gigabyte [GB] per month vs. AWS SSDs $0.10 per GB per month), but it also appears that Google's performance estimates per SSD-backed volume are 10 times what Amazon estimates, or 30 IOPS/GB vs. 3 IOPS/GB for AWS.

But not so fast -- Amazon also breaks out burst performance versus sustained performance, while Google charges a flat rate. On Amazon, general-purpose SSD volumes will burst up to 3,000 IOPS for up to 30 minutes at no additional charge. Amazon recommends consumers use the General Purpose SSD volumes for workloads, such as small to medium databases, and boot volumes. If a customer needs more performance, they can provision up to 4,000 IOPS per volume using provisioned IOPS, which received a 35% price cut this week.

Technically, both cloud service providers offer "up to" 30 IOPS per GB, but prices take another curious turn when the total IOPS offered per virtual machine (VM) or instance are considered.

The maximum number of IOPS per VM on Google Compute Engine is 10,000 for reads and 15,000 for writes. In contrast, AWS maximum IOPS per instance on EBS is 48,000 despite its 3 IOPS/GB estimate on general purpose volumes.

Both vendors have had to strike a balance between cost and performance in offering SSDs to their customers, said Greg Schulz, founder and senior advisory consultant at The Server and StorageIO Group based in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Buyers will have to do a similar evaluation for each vendor's SSD offerings, Schulz said.

"If I'm a developer, Google might be more appealing, but Amazon may have the better overall value if you factor in all their types of storage and provisioning capabilities," he said. "It's not a simple answer."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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