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March 17, 2011

GoGrid and Amazon: Rich Comparisons from an End User Group

Nicole Hemsoth

Although there are a number of sites providing benchmarks for performance, pricing, and any other number of variables, sometimes there is nothing more succinct and helpful than pure user experience. While the needs of users are highly dependent on their intent, there are still a few universal elements that should be addressed during comparisons.

While there’s nothing wrong with the summaries of comparison points found here (with Rackspace thrown into the mix) and certainly those at CloudHarmony, which is one of the best sources to help users grasp how providers stack up—getting the story straight from use cases does provide an added layer of objectivity.

This week one the richest comparisons of GoGrid and Amazon from user experience emerged from Postgres Online Journal, the blog of small company with big computational needs that focuses on custom database and web application creation as well as prototype hosting. While their own requirements might not look much like those that would concern a user with HPC-type scenarios, they touch on every single important item that should be on anyone’s checklist for cloud providers. 

The group takes a close look (and charts observations for easier comparison) at the two providers with particular emphasis on the following points: Number of public IPs, extent of support, ease of creating/handling images, instance configuration/pricing with Windows versus Linux, server shut-down policies, storage, build wizards and presence of trial plans.

The authors note that there is no one-size-fits-all nugget of advice since so much is dependent on any number of factors. Nonetheless, they do note, while it making it completely clear that there was no monetary or other incentive behind their statement, that for their particular needs GoGrid was the winner for their projects most of the time.

According to this group of users, who spent over a year working between both IaaS providers, GoGrid was selected as the ideal most often because they knew they needed a Windows server running all the time (it is explained in depth why this matters and how the differentiation pans out) and they preferred “the live email, phone, and personalized support they [GoGrid] offer free of charge.

Another reason the users cited was that with GoGrid, the group needed to have multiple public IPs per server since they had multiple SSL sites per server. “GoGrid starts you off with 16 public IPs you can distribute any way you like whereas Amazon is stingy with IPs and you basically only get one public per server unless we misunderstood.”

While their needs were well-suited by GoGrid most of the time, sometimes they prefer to experiment with different speeds and OS variations. In such cases Amazon EC2 was the best option since it’s possible to just turn off a server to avoid racking up  more charges. With GoGrid, however, users are forced to delete the server versus just shutting it down.”

Pricing is one of the trickiest issues for cloud users to understand and use to perform simple price comparisons. As the one of the Postgres users noted, “Sometimes I think all cloud providers—and it’s probably true of most industries—are involved in a conspiracy scheme to confuse you with their pricing to get the most money out of you and ensure you can never exactly compare their pricing to any other cloud provider’s pricing.” This is in part because Amazon has its own extensive terminology and pricing methods whereas similar things (like instances, for instance) are approximately the same elsewhere but they’re called something different and infer slightly different things.”

To be fair, Amazon and GoGrid have both tried to simplify understanding how its pricing breaks down by providing calculators (follow links on the names to take them for a spin).

Again, this in-depth comparison is a must read for anyone evaluating cloud providers in general as the same approximate points of consideration are important.

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