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December 10, 2010

Cloud storage - costing and pricing

I've been doing some cloud-related (cloudy?) thinking as part of my work on the FleSSR project over the last couple of days, ultimately with the aim of delivering a piece on business models for cloud services (one of the project deliverables) but initially just looking at the costs of storage in the cloud (Amazon, Dropbox and Rackspace) and the costs of building cloud storage in-house.

The result is a couple of posts on the FleSSR project blog and a Google spreadsheet. Please have a read. I'm keen to get feedback!

So, what can we conclude? Looking at the cost per TB per year, the Dropbox and Rackspace prices are pretty much flat (i.e. the same irrespective of how much data is being stored) at around £1530/TB/year and £1220/TB/year respectively (though, as noted above, the Dropbox prices are only applicable for 50GB and 100GB). Amazon's pricing is cheaper, particularly so for large amounts of data (anything over 100TB data where the price starts dipping below £1000/TB/year) but never reaches the kind of baseline figures I've seen others quote for Amazon storage alone (i.e. without network costs) of around £450/TB/year. (My lowest estimate is around £510/TB/year for 500PB data but, as mentioned above, this estimate is probably unrealistic for other reasons.)

Superficially, these prices seem quite high - they are certainly higher than I was expecting. What is interesting is whether they can be matched or beaten by academic providers (such as Eduserv) and/or in-house institutional provision, and if so by how much?

In the second post I try to identify a 'shopping list' of things that would need to be paid for if one were to build a cloud storage infrastructure oneself, partly as a simple reminder that setting up this kind of service isn't just about buying some kit - there are all sort of costs that need to be met (some up-front and some on an ongoing basis):

  • Disks
  • Network infrastructure (switching, etc.)
  • Router/firewall
  • Physical space costs
  • Energy
  • Operator cover
  • Development effort
  • Project/service management
  • Procurement/financial effort

I don't go as far as identifying specific costs (in terms of amounts of money) because doing so is subject to all kinds of variables. However, the list itself is intended to help think about costs when considering things like whether to outsource to the cloud or not. I'm hoping that this will prove useful to people but if you think I've got things majorly (or even a little bit) wrong, please shout.

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