Everyone knows the pain that follows after your CFO takes a look at the cloud computing bill. The products and services are priced in fractions of a cent, but somehow those fractions all add up.
The good news is that more options are appearing as smaller clouds compete directly on price. In most cases, it’s not quite accurate to use the word smaller because these cloud competitors are often quite big — they just don’t have the immense size and visibility of the major clouds. That’s why some prefer to use the word independent.
These cloud companies concentrate on the most popular services, from basic instances running Linux to commodity block and object storage. Then, they slap on a price tag that could be 40% or even 80% lower.
In many cases, the deal is even better. Some offer hidden discounts on extras like bandwidth, which are often overlooked. Many have different pricing models for features like data exfiltration or block storage, which can help you save even more money.
These cloud services aren’t for everyone. In many cases, independent clouds don’t have big research teams building sophisticated tools for artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other cutting edge technologies. They rarely support as many operating systems or architectures as the big clouds do. Some don’t provide time-saving managed tools like databases.
Yet, some savvy independent clouds turn all of this into a sales point. They point out the ways that simpler systems can make life easier for developers, devops teams, and even managers.
If your team can work with basic instances, if the idea of something simpler sounds refreshing, or if the CFO is on your back to bring down cloud costs, then one of these cloud options might be right for you.
Many people know Backblaze as the company that markets an unlimited backup product to individual users. Not everyone knows the company also offers an API compatible with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), that will squirrel away data for developers, too.
This service, called B2 Cloud Storage, is priced at $ 5 per terabyte per month, an amount that’s about 70% lower than the list prices from Amazon Web Services (AWS). The savings get better for projects that don’t just let the data sit there. Exfiltration may be one fifth of the standard price, a savings of 80%. The service-level agreement promises 99.9% availability, and the cloud is certified for many compliance standards like HIPAA.
There are too many services to list here because Cloudflare is rapidly becoming a full-service shop with plenty of options for building out cloud services, networks, and APIs — all running on the edge of the internet.
Data proliferates, so do data-focused services. Wasabi is another independent service offering cheaper data storage using an API modeled on Amazon S3. Wasabi also offers extra features like reserved storage, which allows bigger customers to lock in a discount at a rate that could be dramatically cheaper than hosting your own disks. Companies that need to worry about ransomware can turn to Wasabi’s air-gapped, immutable storage. In the right combinations, Wasabi estimates that its service could cost one-fifth of using Amazon S3 — and it doesn’t charge for data exfiltration.
Vultr’s basic cloud instances using the older generation hardware begins at $ 0.004 per hour, which comes out to $ 2.50 per month. Prices go up if you want to use some of the newer, faster machines, but not by much. Vultr estimates that the increased performance of its newest AMD hardware more than makes up for the slightly higher price. The company also offers Kubernetes clusters, bare-metal machines, and some object storage — all at lower rates. Vultr’s network could be as broad as anyone’s. It is also proud of supporting 23 data centers around the globe, so there’s a good chance it has one close to your users.
While it’s not as small as it once was, now that it’s gone public, DigitalOcean continues to target developers with a simple, no-nonsense interface. The DigitalOcean cloud offers a mixture of raw compute power and newer managed services. You can either set up your own database from a free image in the marketplace or let DigitalOcean manage a machine running MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, or Redis for you. The newer application platform offers a serverless option for Node.js, Python, Django, Go, PHP, and static sites.
Dedicated CPUs, shared CPUs, GPUs, or bare-metal machines: Linode offers them all, along with a wide range of managed services for tools like databases. Block or object storage is readily available and the company goes out of its way to emphasize that its menu doesn’t hide pricing landmines. Linode includes free inbound transfer and “up to 1TB outbound.” It’s been building out a marketplace filled with prebuilt images for many of the most popular applications and some of the more obscure ones, too. Setting up your own Jitsi server, for instance, takes just a few seconds. If you have more specific needs, you can spin up a StackScript that will configure new instances to your specs.
Projects that require plenty of RAM will find SSD Node’s pricing model attractive. The company doesn’t charge as much to increase the amount of working memory as others do. While some cloud providers will double the monthly rental price for twice the amount of RAM, SSD Node only adds a moderate charge that’s closer to the real price of RAM. The company emphasizes virtual private servers with long-term contracts, with substantial discounts for 12-month and 36-month contracts.
If you’re looking for a bare-metal machine at low prices, Hetzner has plenty of options in a variety of configurations. The emphasis is mostly on classic servers with all of the RAM and drives bundled in one package, but Hetzner also has some cloud instances available in data centers in Germany, Finland, and the United States. Hetzner bills with an hourly rate but includes a monthly price limit that caps the bill for long-running instances. Some users who like the old model of managed servers for basic websites like WordPress will also find options that are reasonably priced.
Fast servers with high performance are the focus for Upcloud. Indeed, Upcloud calls itself the “world’s fastest cloud” because its block storage offers superior performance; enough to be called “faster-than-SSD.” The MaxiOPS technology is the default selection, but projects that don’t need super performance can be switched to the hard disk-based HDD option. Upcloud also emphasizes trustworthiness, offering up to 50 -times payback for any outage lasting more than five minutes.Upcloud’s product line includes the usual cloud instances, and some that can be partitioned into a private cloud with dedicated machines in a separate, physically isolated environment.Projects running on Microsoft Windows can also find a home here; Windows is an option, alongside the usual Linux distributions.
Big clouds look to go faster and cheaper
Not all the low-rent options are in independent clouds. Some of the big providers are exploring using ARM CPUs and many are reporting that they’re faster and cheaper. AWS, for example, is now deploying the third generation of its Graviton processors, which are custom built to deliver faster performance at a lower price in the Amazon cloud. Progress has been rapid, and the third generation chip is said to be three times faster than the second generation, at least when measured on basic floating point operations commonly used in machine learning algorithms. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are reportedly following a similar path.
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