Amazon and Microsoft Bring Public Cloud Storage to a New Level

Microsoft announced last week that Azure Premium Storage would soon become widely available. The week before this announcement, Amazon launched their Elastic File System, a new public storage cloud, at the AWS Summit. Both of these have helped the adoption of using the cloud.


Public storage is usually available in one of three types. Object storage is exposed via standard REST APIs to store and retrieve data. Block storage files are attached to a VM and then become available as local disks. Lastly, archival storage is an alternative to tape-based backing systems. This type of storage is used to store data that is not accessed very often. These three storage types address specific situations, but the network file share equal on the public cloud is missing from the equation.


Amazon’s Elastic File System (EFS) provides multiple E2 instances with low-latency, shared access to file systems. EFS provides flexible capacity that adjusts as files are added or removed and is accessible from both Microsoft Windows and Linus operating systems. Because it is available as a multi-user, shared service, it is being backed up with SSD-based storage. The data is copied over multiple zones for redundancy and availability. EFS integrates with Amazon’s security model based on Identity and Access Management (IAM) and VPC security groups. Managers can use standard file and directory permissions to control who can access the systems.




Before this service, customers had to set up dedicated file servers, and this extra step resulted in higher operating and maintenance costs. With EFS, customers get a managed file sharing service backed by SLA, and they only pay for what they use each month. Amazon is charging $0.30 per GB per month, which is 10 times more expensive than Amazon S3 which costs $0.03 per GB per month (excluding access charges and bandwidth). However, while the data stored in S3 can be accessed from any application, the data stored on EFS is available only to those applications running in Amazon EC2. EFS is also primarily meant for administration and management.


Amazon is not the first to offer a shared file system like this. Microsoft’s Azure announced a file service last year. Customers look for performance matching when they decide to shift their workloads to the cloud. In recent years, public cloud providers tried to address this by moving to Solid State Drives (SSDs). This type of storage is expensive, but customers still prefer to run their workload sets on them. Microsoft’s Azure Premium Storage claims to offer the best public cloud storage for this type of work. The Premium Storage is aimed for Azure VM workloads that require constant IO performance and low latency. It needs to be attached to Azure DS Series VMs in the form of a Page Blob or Data Disk. Multiple disks can be attached to a VM in order to get up to 32 TB of storage per VM. With the right configuration, VMs can reach what is considered the best performance on the public cloud: 50,000 IOPS.




The new storage can be used by both Windows and Linux VMs. The fee structure is as follows: 128GB for $17.92, 512GB for $66.56 and 1TB for $122.88.

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