Are Cloud Providers Really Efficient?

Cloud providers are sometimes held up as models of efficiency but are they really? Or, do cloud providers just hide inefficiency better? Cloud providers invest much of their resources in automation, so that functions within their data centers happen transparently without administrator interaction. In terms of actual resource utilization though, many cloud providers waste resources as much as the typical data center.

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Cloud providers make storage available in a variety of forms. Most providers deliver a high performance tier, a low cost, moderately performing tier and a very low cost “cold” tier. Just like traditional data centers, cloud providers often have to move data between these tiers.

Most cloud providers use commodity hardware to deliver these storage tiers and use storage software to deliver data services. Commodity hardware gives providers a price advantage, not an efficiency advantage. They may waste just as much of their resources, but they pay less for that waste.

Cloud providers also struggle with their storage operating environments. Some use a single storage software stack for all services and other use a use a specific storage stack per use case (performance, capacity, retention). They seldom realize maximum raw performance from their storage investments. Flash is a case in point. Once storage software burdens impact the hardware, the net flash performance drops by 90% or more of its raw state.

Cloud providers hide the lack of performance optimization with massive scale. A provider’s environment consists of hundreds if not thousands of nodes within the storage infrastructure. The traditional data center can’t afford that scale, making its lack of efficiency more obvious.

Traditional data centers continue to pay for name brand storage systems because software defined vendors fail to differentiate themselves. SDS vendors provide the same services as name brand storage for potentially less cost, but they lack game-changing innovation. The data center needs a high performance software defined solution to not only deliver services but also extract maximum efficiency from the storage media.

In our next blog, we’ll discuss how data centers can achieve true efficiency without cloud scale. Then in blog three, we’ll discuss how automation enables IT to complete the picture.

In the meantime, watch our on demand webinar “Data Center vs Cloud – The advantage of on-premises“.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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