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Technology / Cloud

The Cloud Providers Ranked by Network Performance

What’s the fastest cloud provider and the most resilient? A new cloud performance benchmark report may not provide the definitive final answer, but it does reveal major overall performance and connectivity architectures between the five providers it profiles: Alibaba Cloud, AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and IBM.

ThousandEyes based its analysis on 320 million data points and path traces across 98 regions, gathering network metrics such as loss, latency and jitter, to return some unusual findings and highlight strengths and weaknesses across architectures. (The report does not consider the differences in applications, customer service and other metrics across the different cloud providers, just their networks).

The US-based startup highlights some significant architectural differences between the  cloud providers: i.e. AWS and Alibaba Cloud rely heavily on the public Internet to transport traffic (as a result, broadband ISP choice makes a significant difference to cloud performance) while Google Cloud and Azure rely heavily on their private backbone networks. (IBM takes a hybrid approach that varies regionally.)

Among its findings: The AWS Global Accelerator (introduced in November 2018 to let customers use the AWS private backbone network for a fee – rather than use the public Internet, which is AWS’ default behavior) doesn’t always out-perform the Internet. And while a private backbone might sometimes be a good thing, Google Cloud’s reliance on one seriously slows traffic from Europe and Africa to India…

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AWS Performance

AWS generally demonstrates low latency and made some minor improvements over the last year, ThousandEyes finds: “Its performance predictability metrics, however, noticeably improved, with its most dramatic change in Asia, which showed a 42 percent reduction in variability over last year. However, when compared to Azure and GCP, it still has lower performance predictability due to its extensive reliance on the Internet.”

Azure Performance 

Azure continues its strong network performance “based on aggressive use of its own backbone to carry user traffic to cloud hosting regions” ThousandEyes finds: “Standout changes from 2018 to 2019 include on average a 50 percent improvement in performance predictability in Sydney, whereas in India, there was a 31 percent decrease in performance predictability. Despite a slight decrease year over year, Azure continues to lead in performance predictability in Asia.”

Google Cloud Performance 

“Google Cloud continues to favor use of its own backbone for user to cloud hosting region traffic delivery and has strong performance in most regions, but it still has some significant global gaps that haven’t been resolved” ThousandEyes finds.

“Traffic from Europe and Africa takes 2.5-3 times longer [than rivals] to get to India, going “around the rest of the world instead of taking a direct route.

“Google Cloud also decreased visibility into their internal network, making it harder for its users to understand its network paths and performance.”

Alibaba Cloud Performance 

Alibaba Cloud offers “comparable performance” to other cloud providers, ThousandEyes finds, adding: “It closely resembles AWS in terms of connectivity patterns, region locations, and even region naming constructs.”

“Like AWS, Alibaba Cloud leans heavily on the Internet rather than their own private network backbone for the majority of user traffic transport. Uniquely, inter-region traffic between Alibaba Cloud regions is not contained within their own cloud infrastructure as it is for the other four, instead it exits Alibaba Cloud, traverses the Internet and then makes its way back into Alibaba Cloud.”

(This means that, like all the other providers, Alibaba Cloud faces packet loss when it hits the Great Firewall of China: users get no special treatment…)

IBM Cloud Performance 

IBM Cloud performance is also comparable to the major players, ThousandEyes finds, noting its hybrid approach to traffic delivery, “fluctuating between using its own private backbone and the public Internet, depending on which regions user traffic is accessing.”

Report This Year Added Alibaba, IBM

The inaugural Cloud Performance Benchmark published by US-based startup ThousandEyes last year benchmarked the three biggest cloud providers (by market share) AWS, Azure and GCP, in an intriguing report covered by Computer Business Review at the time. This year, it added Alibaba and IBM.

Archana Kesavan, research author at ThousandEyes said: “When businesses need to decide which cloud provider best meets their needs, one metric that’s notably missing from their assessments has been performance data, mainly because it’s never been available or has, at best, been myopic. The second annual Cloud Performance Benchmark gives businesses that comparative data. Understanding cloud performance is essential for planning and for ongoing measurement so you can be assured that you’re providing customers and employees with the best possible performance.”

ThousandEyes – which was launched by two UCLA doctoral students with a $150,000 federal grant in 2010 – raised $50 million ifrom investors including GV, formerly Google Ventures; the venture capital arm of Alphabet, Inc. in February.
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CBR Staff Writer

CBR Online legacy content.