Microsoft Azure pips Amazon as king of cloud storage

Microsoft Azure pips Amazon as king of cloud storage

Summary: Microsoft's Azure Blob Storage streaks ahead on read, write and delete speeds and to top it off is pretty darn stable, according to one test.


Microsoft's Azure Blob Storage has overtaken Amazon's S3 as the top cloud storage provider, according to performance tests run by storage management vendor Nasuni.

In 2011, Amazon was the clear leader. However in 2012, Microsoft edged ahead of its more well-established rival.

"Our tests revealed that Microsoft Azure Blob Storage has taken a significant step ahead of last year's leader, Amazon S3, to take the top spot," Nasuni notes in its 2012 annual report (PDF), which offers a set of benchmarks comparing the performance, scalability and stability but not price of five major cloud storage platforms. 

Besides Microsoft's Azure Blob and Amazon's S3, the test included, by invitation, Google Cloud Storage, and two OpenStack offerings: HP Cloud Object Storage and Rackspace Cloud Files. The contenders had a chance to review the results, according to Nasuni. 

Each vendor was benchmarked for write, read and delete performance under an evaluation that used a combination of file sizes from 1KB to 1GB and thread counts ranging from 1 to 50. The latter measurement was to factor in performance of file-server data which often has many small files.

Microsoft proved to have faster write and read speeds across file sizes up to 1MB, while Amazon topped the write speeds for files larger than 1MB. Interestingly, HP performed strongly across all three benchmarks, beating Amazon in the read benchmark for all file sizes, Nasuni said.

Amazon's write speeds on larger files may outperform rivals, but it lagged behind Microsoft, HP and Rackspace on read speads for files greater than 1MB.

To measure availability, Nasuni compared the response time to read, write, delete requests at 60 second intervals, factoring in retries and delays. Again, Microsoft performed the best, with an average response time of half a second over a one-month period, followed by Amazon's average of 0.65 seconds, while Rackspace came in at third with just under one second.

The one measure Google shone in was average uptime, sharing the top spot with Amazon's on-average 100-percent uptime. Microsoft was recorded at 99.996 percent, followed by Rackspace at 99.982, and HP at 99.977.

Stress test

The scalability tests compared how each platform performed write, read and delete while being loaded up "as quickly as possible" with new objects, maxing out at 100 million or 30 days, whichever came first.

"Microsoft was the only cloud storage platform to post zero errors during 100 million reads and writes" — Nasuni

Under this test, Amazon, Microsoft and Google did not show meaningful signs of stress, but it caused write speeds on HP and Rackspace — the two OpenStack platforms — to vary between 23.5 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively.

The OpenStack pair produced higher read error rates under this test, returning a small percentage where Amazon, Microsoft and Google produced none.

However, the clincher for Microsoft was that it was the only one that did not produce any read errors under the stress test.

"Not only did Microsoft outperform the competition significantly during the raw performance tests, it was the only cloud storage platform to post zero errors during 100 million reads and writes. In those categories where Microsoft was not the top performer (uptime and scalability variance), it was a close second," Nasuni notes.

Despite dethroning Amazon under the tests, Nasuni still considered Amazon a strong player and commended HP's performance as a newcomer. 

Topics: Storage, Amazon, Cloud, Google, Microsoft

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I don't believe it

    M$ must have rigged the tests again.
    LlNUX Geek
    • no in fact.

      Microsoft as been able to build azure because of years and years of experience in the softwares and services business. Azure is what you can call an amazing product from Microsoft. You will never find the equivalent from Linux, for one good reason.... they are not Microsoft haha.
      Simon Tupper
    • Another bought or paid for test

      from your friends at Micro$oft.
      I Am Galactus
      • Facts are always a problem for the ABMers

        Quick let's have another opinion...
        • Yeah

          Like "GET THE FACTS"

          Well doesn't MS have egg on it's face after Today's world wide fail.
          Alan Smithie
    • LinuxGeek

      Wait you call yourself a Linux Geek but are attacking Windows Azure? Windows Azure is open source software... so you're against Open Source software? Irony?
    • I agree. MS probably has its moles inside Amazon, sabotaging the

      Amazon servers to insure that MS ends up on top. ;)
  • Okay look people...

    One day you will realize that Microsoft have always been a strong player in the tech industry and that even if some think they are dead..... they still have a strong brand and they are still making good quality hardwares and world class softwares and services.

    This whole hate towards Microsoft is such a waste of time and a proof that people are getting more and more easy to manipulate by big companies... having hate towards Microsoft is like having cool feet about Ziploc bags.
    Simon Tupper
    • old story

      It reminds me of years ago when Texas Instruments made and then stopped making the TI990 home computer. I ran a TI Unix VAR at the time. We got calls from customers and prospective customers concerned that TI was going out of business. The 990 home computer was dropped because they were unable to get it up to 2% of sales. Most ABM commenters don't understand where Microsoft gets it profit. eg-Yammer billings quadrupled this year.
  • @ Liam Tung - Typo?

    "Microsoft was recorded at 99.996 percent, followed by Rackspace at 99.982, and HP at 99.997"

    ... so HP followed Microsoft from in front of them?
    • HP in front of who?

      I still hope to see HP take the same road Lenovo is taking... HP is being more and more behind, and all they do is blaming Windows 8 for their crappy hardwares. All the hate towards Microsoft is mostly due to PC makers like HP... You could build the best OS ever and still have people calling it crap because PC makers like HP will never make a good enough hardware.
      Simon Tupper
      • Windows 8

        I am running W8 on three computers. A "gaming" laptop that was bleeding edge three and a half years ago, a cheapo Lenovo desktop, and a brand new Sony VAIO touchscreen ultrabook.

        In the more than three years I had my gaming laptop, Windows 7 (and for a brief stint Vista) crashed exactly three times. I know because I can remember each of them since they were so shockingly rare. My desktop, which I had for a similar duration, had never crashed.

        In the few months since I upgraded it (clean install) to W8, my laptop has crashed multiple times, with some being the most serious crashes I've ever encountered -- things like Windows making a "temporary profile" so that none of my files or programs were installed, or needing hours to go through some kind of recovery wizard just to boot up. My desktop, which I ran an in-place upgrade on from W7, isn't crashing much (only once that I know of) but has all kinds of graphical glitches appear after it's been running for a few days...ghosted menu bars and applications looking like they're still there after minimizing. A reboot fixes them for a while. And my brand new, made-for-W8 Sony rebooted automatically after installing some updates a couple of days after we got it, and lost the ability to recognize either the keyboard or trackpad. Fortunately, the touchscreen let me access the refresh menu and a back-to-factory wipe has set things straight, for now...

        And at work, my W8 PC cannot access some shared drives on our network that I can access when logged into every other machine in the hospital, XP, Vista, or W7. No one here can figure out why.

        So, W8 still has a lot of growing to do. And all the W8 pieces of W8 are (store, mail, live tiles, search, etc.), to put it bluntly, garbage.
        x I'm tc
        • The reason why I don't believe you.

          I've put Windows 8 to the test and it is more stable than Windows 7. I cannot believe that you had several "serious" crashes since even Windows 7 was able to completely crashed and not being "serious".

          So I have 2 theories.

          1. You lied.
          2. You played with sensitive files in your PC and you get what you deserve.
          Simon Tupper
          • Win 8

            I've got several machines running Windows 8 in my office now and no problems from any of them. I've still got my old laptop running the preview version, which I ran for months. I did/do have an issue on that machine where it sometimes won't access network shares; but I haven't seen this at all on the release version of Windows 8. I haven't had crash problems at all since Windows 95/98.
        • Win 8

          I've been running Win 8 since that first ARM beta. The only machine I had trouble with was a netbook. It had a native resolution of 800x600. If I set it up to 1024x768 to get Metro apps to work it fails often. Win 7 never failed. Win 8 at 800x600 never failed. If you are trying to use monitors at a different resolution than the main monitor default you may have problems. It is a known bug and Microsoft has promised a patch soon.
        • Not sure how it happend to you!

          I've got Windows 8 on 2 laptop, 1 desktop and 1 Tablet. Other than a bit of fine tuning with the tablet I've had NO issues, NO crashes and only 1 issue with a game not running which I've now fixed. (Bioshock 2 wouldn't run and it was MS fault but running fine now)
    • Thanks!

      Thanks for picking that up. The typo should be fixed now.
  • Azure services are so easy to deploy and manage.

    For those using MS platform, integrating Azure services is really easy.
  • The test is marginal

    The small file sizes favor Azure, most files we send to the S3 are 10's of GBytes no 1G or less, and 1 MBs are word processor files, and not useful for something like a cloud storage in indivual files, more a Dropbox thing!
    • You obviously don't know Azure...

      It's a solid product... it's nothing like Dropbox...
      Simon Tupper