In the last article, we discussed what the cloud is and the types of cloud services offered. As most people are familiar with Software as a Service (think Gmail, Outlook.com, Dropbox, etc.), I thought it may be useful to do a roundup of IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service providers.
I will try to spec out machines similarly so it’ll be easier to compare costs, but as each provider offers numerous different instance types this may be difficult to give you a true apples to apples comparison. Also, these prices will be for Windows Server based systems. As a general rule, Linux based systems will be 30-50% cheaper.
Amazon Web Services
Amazon is currently the undisputed king of the cloud, offering services to many of the largest web companies in the world. Amazon.com is hosted on the AWS infrastructure as is a little company you may have heard of called Netflix. Amazon’s offerings may be intimidating, but with low prices and pretty much any kind of cloud offering you could think of, Amazon should have what you’re looking for.
Example Specs: 2 cores, 7.5GB RAM, 32GB SSD
Launched in: 2006
Cost per month: $256.94
Data Centers: 10 Regions - worldwide
OS Support: Windows, Red Hat, Amazon Linux, SuSE Linux
Instance Types: 29 – including general use, IO intensive, Graphics intensive, Memory intensive and Compute intensive
Microsoft Azure may offer low prices like Amazon, but their support for non-Windows operating systems are a bit more restrictive. Their interface is much easier to navigate than Amazon’s, however, so if you want to stick with Windows-based machines, it is worth looking into. In addition, Azure is the backbone for the recently release Xbox One’s cloud-based services.
Example Specs: 4 cores, 8GB RAM, ~400GB HD
Launched in: 2010
Cost per month: $267.84
Data Centers: 10 Regions – worldwide
OS Support: Windows, Linux (Ubuntu, CentOS, Oracle, SuSE, openSuSE)
Instance Types: 8 – including general use and Memory intensive.
Rackspace has been around since 2006 and while their offerings have evolved greatly since then, they’re well known in the cloud and hosting space as a reputable, high-quality vendor with great services. Whereas Amazon’s infrastructure is proprietary and Azure is based on Hyper-V, Rackspace has chosen to standardize on the popular OpenStack platform.
Example Specs: 8 cores, 8GB RAM, ~120GB SSD
Launched in: 2006
Cost per month: $292
Data Centers: 6 Regions – worldwide
OS Support: Windows, Linux (Red Hat, Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian and six more)
Instance Types: 8 – including general use and high performance
Bit Refinery is somewhat different from other cloud providers. Instead of offering predefined instance types, they lets you configure your own instance. If you want a machine with 3 virtual CPUs, 64GB of RAM using 5GB of enterprise storage, you can do it. Pricing is handled by each component – CPU, Memory, Storage so the more you add to your instance the higher the cost. The main benefit of this is that you don’t have to simply find a machine comes close to fitting your needs as you must the other vendors. Bit Refinery has standardized on the VMware platform so if you’re comfortable managing VMware in your environment, Bit Refinery will be just as easy.
Example Specs: 4 cores, 8GB RAM, 120GB Storage
Launched in: 2008
Cost per month: $279.60
Data Centers: 7 – six in the US, one in England
OS Support: Any OS supported by vSphere 5.1 – Windows, Linux, etc.
Instance Types: Unlimited
Although DigitalOcean is the youngest provider in this roundup, it is growing very quickly. A few factors make DigitalOcean different. First is pricing. $80 is significantly cheaper than the other systems in this roundup, although the fact that this is a Linux machine will account for some of that lower price. The second big thing about DigitalOcean is its focus on usability. The control panel is very easy to use and the clean, sparse UI looks great. Third is the focus on developers. Many different OS images are available, making setting up a development environment a snap.
Example Specs: 4 processors, 8GB RAM, 80GB SSD
Launched in: 2011
Cost per month: $80
Data Centers: 4 – two in the US, one in Amsterdam and one in Singapore
OS Support: Linux only – including Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, Arch and Fedora
Instance Types: 9 – a variety of general use and high performance
These are just a few of the more popular mainstream and up-and-comers in the IaaS space. In the next article, we will use AWS to set up a free web server so we can see how these IaaS providers work.