How to choose an IaaS provider?

Today, there are so many IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) providers to choose from – Amazon Web Services, IBM Softlayer, Rackspace, Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure and so on. To add to the confusion, messages like ‘virtual machines are the same irrespective of where you are running’, or ‘how does it matter which provider it is, as long as you are getting your instance flavor’, can be hassling. Now the big question is – How does one chooses the right provider?

Well, for this, first and foremost, it is very important to look at each provider more holistically before selecting a specific one. By that I mean looking beyond just the cost and the offered services. Yes, services catalog and cost are the most important requirements, the provider does need to have the service you want, and at a price point which looks attractive. But does this mean we ignore other factors like service level agreements, monitoring and management options, the back-end infrastructure and customer support- certainly Not ! And, here, I think it’s very important to give careful consideration to these other factors as well before deciding on a specific provider.

It might be worth the effort to define some key characteristics and their relative priorities based on the specific requirements that you might have and compare each provider against those characteristics.

In my opinion, the following list of characteristics, can be a good start:

  • Cost & Billing Model

    Per minute, hourly, daily, monthly, usage based etc

  • Operating Systems

    Available Operating systems and versions.

  • Architecture

    Supported platform architectures – Intel/Amd (x86/x86_64), Power (ppc/ppc64), ARM (arm/aarch64) etc

  • Compute Flavours

    Typical VM sizes that are supported.

  • Compute Type

    Baremetal/Virtual Machines/Containers

  • Storage Options

    Block and Object Storage options

  • Monitoring Options

    Monitoring resource consumption of VM, applications inside the VM, performance analysis and debugging

  • Add-ons

    VPN, HA, Load Balancing, Backup, Disaster Recovery option etc

  • Accelerators

    GPUs etc

  • DataCenter Location

  • Certification

    Security, regulatory requirements

  • SLA and Support

  • Misc

    Autoscale, Bring your Own Image, Bring your Own License etc

Having something similar to http://www.paasify.it/vendors for IaaS providers would have been very useful.

I would appreciate your thoughts on any additional characteristics that you have found useful in deciding a specific provider. Looking forward to it.

Pradipta Kumar Banerjee

I'm a Cloud and Linux/ OpenSource enthusiast, with 16 years of industry experience at IBM. You can find more details about me here - Linkedin

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