The big cloud providers do everything, but the bill is often dirty. Fortunately, several smaller cloud providers, like the nine in this selection, charge lower rates. In a second part, to come, we will come back to the French alternatives.
The CFO’s review of the cloud invoice is usually an ordeal. The price of products and services is expressed in fractions of cents, but these fractions add up. The good news is that more and more alternatives are appearing on the market from smaller cloud providers who rely on low prices to attract customers. In most cases, the term “small” isn’t quite appropriate, because in reality, these competitors are often quite large, but they lack the immense size and visibility of large cloud providers. This is why some prefer to use the term “independent”. These cloud providers focus on the most popular services, from basic instances running Linux to basic block and object storage. Then, they offer prices that can be 40% or even 80% lower than those of very large suppliers. It often even happens that the offer is better. Some offer hidden discounts on extras like bandwidth that are usually overlooked. Many have different pricing models for features like data exfiltration or block storage, which can provide even more savings.
But these cloud services are not for everyone. Often, independent clouds lack large research teams capable of developing sophisticated tools for artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other cutting-edge technologies. They rarely support as many operating systems or architectures as large clouds. Some don’t provide time-saving managed tools like databases. Yet some savvy indie clouds turn all of this into a selling point. They highlight the fact that simpler systems can make life easier for developers, devops teams and even managers. If a team can work with commodity instances, if the idea of a simpler service is appealing, or if the CFO is addicted to cloud cost reduction, then it’s time to explore one of these options. First overview with American and European players (German Hetzner and Finnish Upcloud) in this first part, before looking at French suppliers (Blue, Cheops, Ikoula/Sewan, Jaguard Networks/Scaleway, Nua.ge , Outscale, OVH…), in a second step.
Backblaze, from backup to object cloud storage
Backblaze is best known for its unlimited backup product for individual users. On the other hand, not everyone knows that the company also offers an API compatible with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), which allows developers to store their data. The service, called B2 Cloud Storage, is priced at $5 per terabyte per month, about 70% less than Amazon Web Services (AWS) list prices. Savings are even greater for projects that don’t just leave data onsite. Exfiltration can cost a fifth of the standard price, a savings of 80%. The service level agreement promises 99.9% uptime, and the cloud is certified for many compliance standards like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Cloudflare moves from CDN to storage
Wasabi, S3-compatible storage
The proliferation of data is driving the proliferation of data-driven services. This other independent service offers cheaper data storage thanks to an API modeled on that of Amazon S3. Wasabi also offers additional features, like Reserved Storage, which allows large customers to lock in a discount at a rate that’s likely much cheaper than hosting its own drives. Businesses targeted by ransomware can turn to Wasabi’s secure, immutable storage. In the right combinations, Wasabi estimates its service could cost a fifth of the cost of Amazon S3, and the provider doesn’t charge for data exfiltration.
Vultr, tight entry-level prices
Pricing for basic Vultr cloud instances, which use legacy hardware, starts at $0.004 excl. VAT per hour, which works out to $2.50 excl. VAT per month. Prices go up if you want to use the latest and fastest machines, but not by much. Vultr reckons the increased performance of its newer AMD hardware more than makes up for that slightly higher price. The company also offers Kubernetes clusters, bare-metal machines, and some object storage, all at lower prices. Vultr’s network can be as large as anyone’s. The provider is also proud to have 23 data centers around the world, so chances are it has one close to all users.
DigitalOcean targets developers
Even though it has grown in importance and size, DigitalOcean continues to target developers with a simple and clean interface since going public. The DigitalOcean cloud offers a mix of raw computing power and newer managed services. It is possible either to configure your own database from a free image on the market place, or to let DigitalOcean manage a machine running MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL or Redis in place of the user. The very recent application platform offers a serverless option for Node.js, Python, Django, Go, PHP and static sites.
Linode, standardized or custom instances
Vendor Linode offers everything from dedicated or shared CPUs, to GPUs and bare-metal machines. The provider also offers a wide range of managed services for tools such as databases. Block storage or object storage is readily available and the company insists that there are no pricing pitfalls in its offering. Linode includes free transfer in and “up to 1TB out”. Its marketplace includes a bunch of pre-built images for many of the most popular and even obscure apps too. For example, setting up a Jitsi server only takes a few seconds. And if the user has even more specific needs, he can create a StackScript that will configure new instances according to his specifications.
Node SSD, very competitive for in-memory
Projects that need lots of RAM will find the Node SSD pricing model attractive. The vendor does not charge as much as others for increasing the amount of working memory. While some cloud providers double the monthly rental price for twice as much RAM, SSD Node increases its price very moderately, to a level closer to the real price of RAM. The provider emphasizes virtual private servers with long-term contracts, and applies substantial discounts for 12 and 36 month contracts.
Hetzner, a German alternative
Hetzner offers many low-cost bare-metal machine options, with a slew of possible configurations. The main focus is on classic servers with RAM and hard drives bundled into one offering. But the provider also offers cloud instances in data centers in Germany, Finland and the United States. Hetzner charges by the hour, but it includes a monthly price cap that caps the bill for long-running instances. Some users who have a preference for the older model of managed servers for basic websites like WordPress will also find reasonably priced options.
Upcloud, performance above all
Providing fast and efficient servers is Upcloud’s main concern. In fact, the Finnish provider boasts of offering the “fastest cloud in the world” because its block storage offers superior performance, enough in any case to be able to say that it is “faster than the SSD”. MaxiOPS technology is the default selection, but projects that do not require exceptional performance can be switched to the HDD option. Upcloud also emphasizes reliability and it offers up to 50 times refund for any outage lasting more than five minutes. Upcloud’s product line includes the usual cloud instances, some of which can be partitioned into a private cloud with dedicated machines in a separate, physically isolated environment. Projects running under Microsoft Windows can also find their place here. The Windows option is available in addition to the usual Linux distributions.
Big providers are also looking to be faster and cheaper
Independent cloud providers aren’t the only ones with low-cost options. Some major vendors are exploring the use of ARM CPUs and many claim to be even faster and cheaper. For example, currently AWS is rolling out its third generation in-house Graviton processors, which deliver faster performance at a lower price in the Amazon cloud. Design progress has been rapid, and the third-generation chip is said to be three times faster than the second-generation one, at least on basic floating-point operations commonly used by machine learning algorithms. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are said to be following a similar path.
In a second part, we will come back to the French alternatives to the three cloud giants.
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What are cheap cloud providers worth? – The Computer World
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