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June 26, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 2:31pm

Cloud platforms – the latest moves from five of the biggest

As the cloud provider market undergoes a shift in payment and big data practices, here are some recent business model changes.

By Ben Sullivan

Amazon Web Services

Following the pay-as-you-go trend, Amazon Web Services has unveiled its SSD-backed volume type for Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS).

This means Amazon Web Services customers can choose from three different Amazon EBS volume types: General Purpose (SSD), Provisioned IOPS (SSD), and Magnetic volumes. The General Purpose (SSD) that has been announced becomes the default option for Amazon EBS.

Amazon says the service has been designed to provide ‘five nines’ (99.999%) availability, and it is engineered to offer "predictable and reliable performance for a wide range of workloads such as test and development environments and medium-sized databases".

The service is available on a pay-as-you-go basis, with customers only paying for what they use.

Amazon’s General Purpose (SSD) volumes give users the ability to burst to 3,000 IOPS (input/output operations per second) per volume, independent of volume size, to try and meet the performance needs of a wide range of applications, and also deliver a consistent baseline of three IOPS per gigabyte.

Amazon is charging $0.10 per GB, with no additional charges for input or output.

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Peter De Santis, VP Compute at Amazon Web Services, says: "Customers have been using Amazon EBS since 2008 to run their most demanding applications and databases on AWS. We continue to iterate on the service to support the evolving needs of our customers.

"In 2012, we introduced Amazon EBS Provisioned IOPS volumes, providing customers with access to SSD technology for their most demanding workloads. With the introduction of EBS General Purpose (SSD) volumes today, SSD technology can now be applied to a much broader range of use cases at a lower cost while also delivering high IOPS, low latency and high bandwidth."

Brian Rose, at Infor Labs, a provider of enterprise software, says: "Using AWS, Infor is able to significantly reduce upfront capital expenditure for our customers and speed their time to value by quickly deploying our software in the cloud.

"After experiencing high performance with Amazon EBS General Purpose (SSD) volumes during the beta, we’re able to achieve higher baseline I/O performance and to support periodic spikes in the application workload that deliver a consistent experience to service the high expectations of our enterprise users."

Will Shulman, CEO at MongoLab, says: "Our business requires us to maintain databases that require many thousands of IOPS to meet our customers’ performance needs.

"In testing, Amazon EBS General Purpose (SSD) volumes have proven that they can provide the high performance that our customers need while simultaneously offering exceptional price/performance. The burst capabilities are impressive and great for bulk data loads and exports. Once we roll these out we think that our customers will be very pleased with the improvements to throughput and latency across our product lines."

This article is published in CBR Digital magazine on iPad available here.




Google I/O may be just around the corner, but Google Cloud Platform has just launched two services that show the web giant is ready to up its cloud game.

Firstly, it is to offer users the option of storing their data on fast solid-state drives (SSDs) rather than older, slower hard disks.

The move will give users a much faster medium to store data in. The new drives, from which customers can rent by the minute for their computing power, will cost 32.5 cents per GB per month.

Google hopes the move will attract more customers to its public cloud by offering the improved storage option, which can support up to 30 IOPS per GB for no extra cost.

Writing on the Google blog post, Google product management lead Tom Kershaw wrote: "With persistent disk, more and more of our customers have been asking for a solution to high IOPS use cases – and one that doesn’t break the bank. Our SSD persistent disk product sets a new bar for scalability and performance in block storage.

"While other providers count each and every IOPS and charge extra for them, SSD persistent disk includes IOPS in the base price with no extra charges or fees, making cost completely predictable and easy to model."

Google also announced it will introduce HTTP load balancing. It said the feature "changes the game" for how developers interact with network resources. Google claims that HTTP load balancing can scale to support more than one million requests per second with no warm up, and allows users to take advantage of load balancing across different regions, balancing traffic among different data centres in different parts of the world.

On a blog post surrounding the announcement, Google said: "With Google I/O right around the corner, Google Cloud Platform is launching two innovations that will change the way developers use cloud resources and how they interact with their customers around the world."



Microsoft Azure

Microsoft has unveiled a cloud-based machine learning platform called Azure ML, which enables companies to use the cloud to build applications based on big data and predict future events.

Aimed at acquiring more customers in the ‘hot’ field of machine learning, Azure ML had been in a trial period for one year. The product is designed to enable companies to launch predictive applications much more quickly than traditional development methods. It also allows customers to publish APIs and web services on top of the Azure ML platform.

Microsoft is touting the product’s ability to build big data applications to predict, forecast and change future outcomes as a game changer.

Joseph Sirosh, Microsoft corporate vice-president, says: "Traditional data analysis let you predict the future. Machine learning lets you change the future."

Sirosh cites few examples such as users being able to forecast demand, predict disease outbreaks, and even predict and prevent crime, which sounds straight out of sci-fi movie scenarios. Microsoft has banked on the cloud as the big change agent as it offers scalability and takes care of most of the groundwork companies must do if the work is done in-house in a data centre.

"The cloud solves the last-mile problem. Before a service like this, you needed data scientists to identify the data set, then have IT build an application to support that. This last part often took weeks or months to code and engineer at scale," adds Sirosh.

The product also supports more than 300 packages from the open source project R used by many data scientists. Microsoft is hoping that more people will use the platform to generate more APIs. The firm cites a few examples where Azure ML is being used such as Max 451, which is working with large retailers to help predict which products customers are most likely to purchase; and Carnegie Mellon University, which is hoping to reduce energy costs in campus buildings by predicting and mitigating activities.

Microsoft will offer a public preview of the service, which was code-named Project Passau, in July.




The Equinix Cloud Exchange has been launched by data centre company Equinix. The interconnection solution enables on-demand access to multiple clouds and multiple networks across the globe. Equinix says it has eliminated the bottlenecks associated with traditional cloud access across the public internet, and the Equinix Cloud Exchange provides a secure path for businesses to access cloud resources at much higher throughput.

Reportedly, tests run in the Equinix Solution Validation Center showed increased throughput of 147% when connecting directly to the cloud as compared with public internet connections.

Businesses can join the Equinix Cloud Exchange in 13 markets globally – Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., New York, Toronto, Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris – with expansion planned to a total of 19 markets by the end of 2014.

Customers can connect to Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute in Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C. and London with planned expansions into 13 additional markets by the end of 2014. Customers are also able access Amazon Web Services via the Equinix Cloud Exchange in Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., and London. In addition, Equinix is working with other key cloud and network service providers to provide access to their services via the Cloud Exchange.

Kevin Linsell, head of service development at Adapt, a managed infrastructure services provider, says: "UK businesses are clearly beginning to feel that working with one cloud provider isn’t enough. This is part of the market’s natural progression, as businesses that are familiar with the cloud’s capabilities are now looking at how they can really leverage the cloud for maximum business benefit.

"Sometimes that will involve using one platform for mission-critical applications and another for less critical applications in order to ensure efficiency – it’s rare to be able to do this through one provider. Looking ahead, the opportunity to integrate and manage multiple cloud services as a unified way to meet precise business needs looks likely to prove fruitful for the service provider community. It’s not just about providing one platform for customers; it’s about choice and effective management for the best possible business results."

Marty Legg, head of cloud services at SecureData, says: "Collaboration will also become a key tactic for providers in future, with cloud enabling information to be digested on an industrial scale; being analysed and delivered in a more cost-effective way. In security, we have already seen multiple collaborations – Operation Waking Shark II, CESIT and ISAC, for example – emerging in order to combat threats. This sharing of information will only become more crucial, gaining in popularity as cloud becomes more prominent."




CenturyLink has recently announced the launch of on-demand managed services on its flagship CenturyLink Cloud platform. With on-demand services, users now get the option to choose to consume managed services – web servers, middleware, directory services and database applications, along with operating systems – with pay-by-the-hour billing.

CenturyLink says that the platform creates a single, unified, self-service experience. Using the on-demand service, businesses could "reap benefits of managed applications and operating systems whilst making room for increased agility and reduced management burden".

Jared Wray, CTO and CenturyLink Cloud, says: "CenturyLink continues to change the game in cloud. One-click access to managed services delivers our expert management resources in a new way, providing customers with extraordinary flexibility.

"As cloud adoption evolves and enterprises pursue new and easier ways to manage their IT infrastructure, the time is right in the industry for an optimised experience that brings cloud together with expert managed services."

Speaking to CBR about the shift to pay-by-the-hour models, NTT Communications says: "Increasingly globalised business operations, continued growth in remote and mobile work forces, ‘extended enterprise’ business ecosystems, and evolving IT architectures require more flexible, cost-effective application delivery models in order to provide secure, reliable access for companies."

While CenturyLink will integrate its entire portfolio of managed services into the CenturyLink Cloud platform, the initial launch debuts eight services: Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux managed operating systems, as well as managed applications Active Directory, Apache HTTP Server, Apache Tomcat, Microsoft Internet Information Services, Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL.

The cloud-based managed services will be available starting 30 June through CenturyLink Cloud nodes in Santa Clara, California, and Sterling, Virginia, with additional managed services and global locations in Europe and Asia enabled later this year.

During the past year, CenturyLink has added to its managed hosting and colocation business with new cloud capabilities through the acquisitions of AppFog and Tier 3, merging them with Savvis and forming the CenturyLink Technology Solutions business unit.

This innovation from CenturyLink plays into a global shift currently happening in the market towards adapting to flexibility and catering for customers who want everything to be on-demand.

"The ability to innovate will determine Europe’s economic status. Cloud speeds innovation, and gives organisations flexibility to tap spare capacity with limited waste and rapidly assemble new market opportunities," says Xavier Poisson-Gouyou Beauchamps, EMEA vice-president for cloud, Hewlett-Packard.

Speaking to CBR, David Shacochis, VP Cloud at CenturyLink, adds: "I think that the paying-per-hour model is ultimately, if it runs on month, the same amount of money we’d charge regularly. We’re just decomposing down to per hour.

"The powerful thing about pay by the hour, though, is that it allows customers who are in a fully outsourced IT state to burst into a public cloud but still have their devices being managed the same way as the rest of their traditional estate. The primary driver for that has been dynamics in the industry."

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