Cloud Provider Comparisons

Cloud Provider Comparisons: AWS vs Azure vs GCP – Storage

Episode description

In Cloud Provider Comparisons, we take a look at the same cloud services across the three major public cloud providers – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). In this video Senior ACG Training Architect Scott Pletcher focuses on cloud storage, and compares the major services across object storage, file storage, block storage, archive storage, and data transport.

Here’s some more detail on the cloud storage services we cover:

  • Object storage: Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), GCP Cloud Storage, Azure Blob Storage
  • Object storage – less frequently accessed storage: Amazon Infrequently Accessed storage, Azure Cool Blob Storage, GCP Nearline and Cooline storage
  • Archive storage: Amazon Glacier, Azure Archive Storage, GCP Archive Storage
  • File storage: Amazon Elastic File System (EFS), Azure Files, GCP Filestore
  • Block storage: Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Azure Managed Disks, GCP Persistent Disks and Solid State Drive
  • Data transport: AWS Snow Family (AWS Snowcone, AWS Snowball, AWS Snowmobile) Azure Data Box Disk and Azure Data Box Heavy, GCP Transfer Appliance

If you’re curious about how the storage services of Azure, AWS and Google Cloud Platform match up, stick around!

0:00 Introduction
0:45 Cloud storage overview
1:46 Object storage
2:49 Less frequently accessed data
3:14 Archiving data
4:08 File storage
5:40 Block storage
6:40 Data transport

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Episode resources:

Series description

In Cloud Provider Comparisons, we explore and compare the same cloud service across the three major public cloud providers - Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Okay, hello Cloud Gurus, Scott Pletcher here, and welcome to Cloud Provider Comparisons. In this series, we take a look at the same cloud service across different cloud providers. We look at the similarities and differences, and anything else that might be interesting. In this episode, we're going to dive into one of the most common use cases for the cloud, storage. Storage is one of those services that is foundational to cloud providers and is usually a relatively easy way companies first get started with the cloud.

If you're curious as to how the storage services of Azure GCP and AWS stack up, stick around. Now, data storage is a pretty broad topic. We can store data on paper, on disk, on magnetic tape, on optical disc, in non-volatile random access memory. We can even store data in the DNA of bacteria. But warehousing all this data takes up space and costs money.

Not to mention that some of the data storage media just isn't designed for the longterm. Enter the cloud. Cloud providers have figured out how to create a variety of storage methods at scale, resulting in very high reliability for relatively low cost. Plus, you're able to pay for only what you use and pay for the performance and features that you require for your data storage needs. For our comparison, we're going to be looking at object storage, block storage, file storage and archive storage. We'll also compare how the cloud providers can help us get our massive amounts of local data into their storage platforms.

Let's start with object storage. Now in the context of object storage services, an object is a file. Your impressive collection of seventies yacht rock MP3s are objects, and they can be stored in the cloud on object storage services. AWS calls their object storage offering Simple Storage Service, or S3 for short. GCP calls theirs the aptly named Cloud Storage.

Azure ups the geek quotient a bit by calling theirs Blob Storage. Blob is just an acronym that means binary large object. Another word for file. Both AWS and GCP call the thing that you put your data in a bucket. While Azure calls it a container. Beyond this, though,

all the storage services have way more in common than they have differences. They all offer versioning, encryption at rest, and fine grain security, including options to make your object publicly accessible or completely private. They also offer different tiers of storage classes, the more performance and redundant the storage class the more you will pay. Additionally, all the object storage services offer the option to pay less for less frequently accessed data. AWS has their Infrequently Accessed storage class, Azure calls it the Cool Tier Blob storage and GCP has Nearline and Coldline storage classes. Now,

since we're talking about infrequently accessed data, we should also talk about archiving. Many organizations are required to hold onto their data for a certain amount of time for regulatory or legal reasons. And this can become very expensive. And cloud providers have stepped up with their own low cost archiving solutions. Both Azure and GCP call their archiving solution Archive, while AWS is the odd one out here by naming theirs Glacier.

Another archiving challenge is that you might be obligated to get rid of data after its required retention period has elapsed. Now, fortunately, all of the providers we're talking about today have storage lifecycle management built right into their object storage services. And this automatically can delete those expired objects without you having to do it manually. Let's move on to file storage. Now, yes, object storage is used to store files, but object storage has more in common with a database than it does a hard drive or a USB stick. As such,

object storage usually isn't optimized for performance. If you need high-performance you'll want a storage service that has a high number of input output operations per second, or IOPS. In this case file storage or block storage, which we'll cover next, would be your best option. Think of file storage as that shared drive on your network. Common file storage services will provide NFS or SMB access, allowing other systems to attach over the network and use that storage as if it were a local volume.

Google Cloud Platform calls their file storage offering Filestore, while Azure named their option Files. The same type of service is called Elastic File System, or EFS, on AWS. Now, once again, these services are pretty much the same with some differences in protocol offered, maximum volume size, and performance. AWS also has two additional file storage options, Amazon FSX for Windows, optimized for use in Windows server environments and Amazon FSX for Lustre, optimized for high performance computing use cases. Now, if you have the need, the need for speed, block storage is where it's at.

Think of block storage as just a raw hard drive. It's going to usually provide the highest IOPS. All the cloud providers have block storage options because that's pretty much required to run virtual machines. Block storage is what lets our virtual machines boot into their operating system. And it's pretty elemental without much differentiation. AWS has Elastic Block Store, Azure calls theirs Azure Managed Disks and GCP calls theirs Persistent Disks and Solid State Disks.

You can provision a very fast SSD device or save some money with more traditional magnetic hard drives. Scheduled and ad hoc snapshots allow you to back up, restore, and duplicate your block storage devices, and encryption of block storage is mouse click easy across all providers. Now all this cloud talk is well and good, but how can we get our data into the cloud in the first place? The most basic way supported by all providers is to simply upload it using their respective web UI or command line interface. We might use a command line tool like our RSYNC or RCLONE to upload the data as well. Both AWS and Azure offer virtual appliances that we can download and install in our own data center, which act as transfer gateways, syncing the data to the cloud in the background.

We can do the same thing with GCP, but as of this recording, it requires third-party options. But what if we have petabytes of data stashed in our data center? It will take years to transfer all that data, even over the fastest internet connections. And that my friends is why we can never underestimate the bandwidth of a delivery truck. All the cloud providers let you ship your data via post using hard drives. Aszure Data Box Disk is basically a box full of SSD drives with a USB 3.0 port. Fill up the disks with up to 40 terabytes of data,

ship it back to Microsoft, and your data is loaded into your storage account. Azure also has a larger version capable of up to a petabyte called Azure Databox Heavy that kind of resembles a roadie case from the last Iron Maiden tour. GCP has a similar hardware device called Transfer Appliance that can also accommodate up to a petabyte in one round trip. But the current king of data import is AWS with their Snow Family. Aside from being storage Sherpas, AWS Snowcone and Snowball devices also include compute hardware, allowing them to perform like little AWS data centers.

Then there's also AWS Snowmobile, which is a freaking huge tractor trailer that will drive to your data center, plug in, and ingest up to 100 petabytes of data at 240 gigabits per second. As you can see, storage options across AWS, Azure, and GCP are pretty common, and that's to be expected. Storage has become largely a commodity, with providers focusing on improving performance and reducing price. If you'd like to learn more about any of these cloud services, head on over to the A Cloud Guru platform for videos and hands-on labs covering all these services. Except maybe for that Snowmobile truck thing. I don't think we have a hands-on lab involving that one just yet.

Well my friends, this has been Cloud Provider Comparisons, storage edition. Thanks for sticking around, stay safe, take care of one another, and keep being awesome Cloud Gurus!

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