I just stumbled upon an industry report by Cloud Spectator (www.cloudspectator.com). It ran a test on the top IaaS providers, looking for who had the best performance for the buck. As far as I know, Windows Azure and Microsoft had nothing to do with this report.
The abstract of the report:
With a lack of standardization in the IaaS industry, providers freely use unique
terminology to describe their VM resource allocations. How do you compare an
ECU to an HPCCU to a vCPU? This report examines the performance and pricing
of 5 of the world’s largest IaaS providers over a 5-day period, and provides a process
to clearly determine the price-performance value of a cloud provider, addressing the
issue of standardization in the marketplace.
I do like the process it used. First, it found a similar server configuration from each vendor. In this case it was an Ubuntu server with 4GB of RAM. And yes, Windows Azure runs Linux as a first class citizen. It even has open source SDKs and native tools for Linux. Then it used an industry trusted tool, Unixbench, to compare the performance of the servers. It did this over different days, and at different times of the day.
It first found the performance of each server over the test timeframe, and then tied that into price. It turns out that the most expensive isn’t always the best. It turns out that Windows Azure also had the least amount of performance variability, making it the most reliable when it comes to getting the performance you plan for and expect.
Spoiler Alert: Windows Azure comes out the most performant, and the cheapest.
Some interesting quotes:
On average, the highest-performance provider over the test period is Windows Azure, and the lowest performance provider is Amazon EC2. The difference in performance: Windows Azure scores 3 times higher than Amazon EC2 on average.
Later when they take cost into account:
In this scenario, Amazon EC2, Rackspace, and SoftLayer shift positions; SoftLayer, the most expensive player, drops down close to Amazon EC2 and Rackspace. Rackspace, due to its cost as well, falls below Amazon EC2. Windows Azure, the highest-value provider in this scenario, provides 5x more value than on average throughout the 5-day test period than the lowest-value provider, Rackspace.
I am sure a lot of this has to do with the amazing infrastructure architecture Azure datacenters have, as well as the new SSD-based storage systems that are part of Windows Azure Storage.
If you are trying to pick the right vendor for you, you should read this report. You could easily reproduce their tests in your own way, to come to your own conclusions.