sumetho - Fotolia

Public cloud storage providers expanded offerings in 2015

Amazon upgraded its file system storage while Microsoft launched its Azure File Storage to remain competitive. Google added a cold storage service to compete with Glacier.

The big three public cloud storage providers -- Amazon, Microsoft and Google -- expanded their storage ecosystems in 2015 as more businesses turned to them for compute power and data management.

Unlike past years when public cloud storage providers tried to tempt customers mainly through price cuts, they focused more on filling out their technology choices in 2015.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its Elastic File System for a scalable file system in the cloud for network file system (NFS) applications. The Google Cloud Storage Nearline that competes with Amazon Glacier for cold storage became generally available.

Microsoft Azure also came along with an improved file system and introduced upgraded StorSimple products.

"They are expanding their ecosystem," said Jeff Kato, senior storage analyst at Taneja Group, of the leading cloud storage vendors. "And a lot of storage vendors are tightly integrating the public cloud with their on-premises storage. All the backup and restore companies make it so their on-premises product works seamlessly with storage in the cloud."

Amazon began breaking out its AWS revenue in 2015 and underscored its standing as the clear cloud market leader -- hitting more than $2 billion in revenue for the third quarter. Gartner Research's 2015 Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Storage Services published in June also declared AWS to technology leader followed by Microsoft and Google.

"A few customers even exceeded 100 PBs, a testament to its scale and customers' trust in its operational prowess," the Gartner report said of AWS. "AWS has built an impressive marketplace ecosystem of [software as a service] SaaS partners that allows customers to more easily manage, analyze and protect data that sits in the underlying storage tiers. The Amazon S3 API enjoys wide ecosystem support from technology partners as well as gaining high mind share with independent and enterprise application developers as a preferred cloud storage API."

Amazon added a critical enhancement to its cloud storage service this year when it launched cross-region replication. That means every object uploaded to an S3 bucket is replicated to a designated bucket located in a different AWS region.

Microsoft adds file storage, additional support

Microsoft Azure this year went GA with Azure File Storage that stores each file's data in an Azure Page Blob. The file storage is based on the SMB protocol.

"We took a very different approach with Azure File Storage than to simply use Windows file servers," Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich wrote in an October blog post. "To take advantage of the scalability of Azure Storage, the Azure File Storage implements the SMB 3.0 protocol specifically to run at hyper-scale in Azure."

Microsoft also added more types of workloads capable of connecting to its StorSimple cloud gateway in December. The StorSimple Virtual Array went into public preview, allowing remote offices to scale primary storage. A new StorSimple Cloud Appliance runs as a virtual machine in Azure and uses solid-state drives (SSDs) for local storage for better performance. The Cloud Appliance, part of the StorSimple 8000 Series, also now stores primary storage without tiering that data to Azure. That runs applications that cannot tolerate cloud latencies more efficiently.

Google adds cold storage option, expands partnerships

Besides adding Google Cloud Storage Nearline in 2015, Google also built stronger partnerships with enterprise infrastructure vendors such as VMware for hybrid cloud deployments. It also is focusing more on big data services that include Google BigQuery for cloud storage.

Google Cloud Storage Nearline service signaled that Google is trying to make an aggressive run at AWS and Azure. Google's Switch and Save program that offers 100 PBs of free Nearline for up to six months for customers who switch from any other cloud provider or on-premises environments to Google Cloud Storage.

Google also made Cloud Storage Transfer Service, previously Online Cloud Import, generally available. Cloud Storage Transfer Service lets customers import data online to Google Cloud Storage, and they can also transfer data between buckets inside Cloud Storage.

Next Steps

Public cloud storage adoption grows though concerns still loom

Use of public cloud storage providers expanded in 2015

Evaluating public, private and hybrid cloud infrastructure

Dig Deeper on Public cloud storage