What Do Cloud Service Providers Need to Compete with Amazon Web Services


With its recent announcement of IOPS provisioning, Amazon has once again leapfrogged ahead of its competition in the cloud computing industry. Few may have realized that this particular announcement is backed by a breakthrough technology. Historically, storage performance has been considered unpredictable due to various factors involved and the technology limitation in controlling them. By offering guaranteed IOPS for its storage volumes, AWS appears to have solved this complex problem,albeit in a limited way (we’ll elaborate on this a little later).Legacy Solutions Limit Cloud Service Providers’ Offerings

Storage performance unpredictability is the key limiting factor in integrating storage seamlessly in a cloud environment. Legacy storage solutions can define their storage endpoints only in terms of capacity and cannot offer predictable storage performance. As a result, performance-sensitive applications are not deployed in a shared storage environment. Rather, these applications are dedicated a set of storage controllers and disks that can deliver the required performance. Unable to leverage a shared storage platform, CSPs do not realize any economies of scale in storage, resulting in exorbitantly high storage costs. Typically, CSPs either do not host performance-sensitive applications or charge much higher for such applications.

AWS has Leapfrogged Competition with its IOPS-guaranteed Storage Performance

Amazon is targeting precisely these performance-sensitive applications by offering IOPS-guaranteed performance. Cost-effective and with flexibility of on-demand performance and capacity, AWS provides an ideal platform for such applications. More importantly, this is the largest revenue market within cloud storage, with industry estimates of US$4bn global market that is rapidly chipping away at the on-premise enterprise storage. With its technology breakthrough, AWS definitely seems to hold an unfair advantage over its competition in attracting performance sensitive applications to its shared storage environment.

So, how can CSPs effectively compete with AWS?

It’s actually pretty simple – CSPs must equip themselves with better technology than even AWS. While AWS provides just IOPS-guaranteed performance, with the next-generation storage solutions, CSPs can now get storage performance that is guaranteed in terms of IOPS, throughput, and latency. While AWS offering is suited only for IOPS-sensitive applications, other CSPs can now do better by hosting even throughput/latency sensitive applications. In other words, CSPs can now host a database application, a video streaming application and an email application on the same storage platform – providing both the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of on-demand performance that enterprises desire.

Selecting the Next-Generation Storage Solution

I believe it is important to carefully screen the next-generation storage solutions to avoid any future embarrassments. Of course, they must all satisfy the basic requirement of superior technology i.e., guaranteed storage performance, in terms of IOPS, throughput, and latency. In addition, it is best to look for solutions that are seamlessly scalable, avoid any proprietary lock-in (both in terms of hardware and software), and meet enterprise-class security standards.

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