Who’s the best cloud storage provider? Microsoft, says Nasuni; but it still likes Amazon

So here’s an interesting tidbit. Nasuni, which manages cloud storage for businesses, ran a set of exhaustive tests to assess the performance, availability and scalability of five major cloud storage providers. And the winner? Microsoft(s msft) Windows Azure. Yup. Not Amazon(s amzn) S3, but Azure Blob storage.

nasunifig10“We ran uptime tests and other tests and the long and short of it is that all the vendors got better, but Azure just leapfrogged. It was the fastest, had the best availability and uptime and was the only provider to never register an error,” Connor Fee, VP of marketing for Natick, Mass.-based Nasuni said in an interview.

This according to Nasuni’s new State of Cloud Storage 2013 Industry Report, which also evaluated Google(s goog), Hewlett-Packard(s hpq), and Rackspace(s rax) storage. Nasuni is a pretty good judge of cloud storage provider performance since it assesses the best of the services to use for its customers’ data.  It views the various cloud storage players much as EMC(s emc) or NetApp(s ntap) views hard drives — a piece of its overall service.

Azure’s no.1, but Nasuni still dubs Amazon S3 as its primary backend

Now before we get all wrapped around our axles about this glowing Azure endorsement, it’s important to note that Nasuni still counts on Amazon as its primary storage supplier and will continue to use Azure as a secondary supplier in some cases.

So if Azure is so great, why stick with Amazon? “One major thing we evaluate is maturity and experience in the market and Amazon still clearly has the most experience and is the most mature player in this space,” Fee said.

So how to explain Microsoft’s vast improvement? Fee, refers to this Microsoft blog post, which outlines a major upgrade of Azure’s storage layer, as a possible reason. Basically, Microsoft upgraded its storage layer, from a 1 gig to a 10 gig network and from a hierarchial to a flat network. That means it’s faster handling myriad small files.

Microsoft honed performance on handling lots of itty-bitty files

nasunifig1Think of it this way: Every time you want to store something to the cloud, you have alert the cloud that you’re about to write to it; then you write to it; then it acknowledges receipt of what you’ve written. “There’s a lot of back-and-forth there,” said Fee. “With very big files, if you have a very fast network connection that’s usually enough. But with small files, all of that chatter matters, so whatever Azure did, they got really, really good at handling small I/O,”

It’s also important to note that this year’s report differs from Nasuni’s 2102 testing so year over year comparisons aren’t all that useful, although Nasuni was impressed with Azure even then.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user Carlos Gutiérrez G.