This month Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the availability of the AWS London region. This follows on from Microsoft opening 3 locations in the UK in Cardiff, Durham and London in September. Working as I do for CAPSiDE’s UK organisation, you can imagine I’m pretty excited about the opportunity this brings for our customers, particularly for those customers who may have seen data residency as one of the blockers to cloud adoption. But a question came to mind about the cost of hyperscale cloud providers in the UK.

Is there an additional cost for businesses who can’t have their data leave our shores, in the post ‘brexit’ world – even to Europe? It turns out there is.

In my quest to answer this question I took to the pricing tools:

…and dusted off the trusty Microsoft Excel to collate some numbers.

Some caveats. The data here is correct as of 15th December 2016, plus pricing of these services can be complex – so I hold my hands up in the case of any errors – don’t hesitate to be in touch to highlight errors. It is also not at all exhaustive, picking only a few key items from each vendor’s menu of services. But it was still an interesting exercise…

That aside, let’s get started.

About the cost of UK Cloud

I looked at the pricing of the three foundational services:

I then looked at the pricing of these in three key regions:

I chose some base elements of each service and looked at pricing to understand the percentage difference in pricing between each of the regions and to see if there was a premium to running services in the UK Cloud. I also used USD as the currency, my logic to this was that both vendors are US based, they are likely accounting for the majority of costs in USD and so any charging in EUR or GBP may be subject to currency fluctuations or additional fees, I felt USD would have the best opportunity to not be muddied by such variation. This is, of course, an assumption.

It is also important to be clear that this is not a comparison directly between AWS and Azure pricing on individual elements, but instead a comparison of how their own pricing varies between similar locations. While it could also be tempting to compare provider elements directly – and to some extent, this can be possible in the tables below – in reality, this can be misleading as they are not always apples-to-apples comparisons.

Let’s start with compute

To look at compute, I chose a mid-range specification on both platforms that provide general compute capability for a variety of workloads. On AWS I chose a T2.Large – which has 2 vCPUs and 8GB of memory, while on Azure I chose a D2v2 which is similar also with 2vCPUs but with 7GB of memory, both using on-demand pricing.

Note again though these cannot be compared to each other – as the D2v2 units come with an 100GB temporary SSD drive attached as standard, but the T2.Large does not include any storage, so keep that in mind if you do compare the two. Instead, the focus is on how the pricing for each vendor varies across regions.

So let’s look:

Provider Type Service US West (Oregon) / West US EU (Ireland) / North Europe EU (London) / UK South IRE cf. US UK cf. IRE UK cf. US
AWS Compute EC2 – T2.Large – Linux (OD, per hr) USD 0.094 USD 0.101 USD 0.106 7.4% 5.0% 12.8%
AWS Compute EC2 – T2.Large – Windows (OD, per hr) USD 0.122 USD 0.129 USD 0.134 5.7% 3.9% 9.8%
Azure Compute VM – D2V2 – Linux (OD, per hr) USD 0.140 USD 0.132 USD 0.176 -5.7% 33.3% 25.7%
Azure Compute VM – D2V2 – Windows (OD, per hr) USD 0.266 USD 0.244 USD 0.327 -8.3% 34.0% 22.9%

 

Already some interesting patterns. Azure is actually cheaper in Ireland than the US, what is curious is that the difference by percentage is reversed between Windows and Linux, for example on Azure Linux is 5.7% cheaper in Ireland compared to the US but on AWS Windows is 5.7% more expensive.

Comparing Ireland to the new UK Cloud locations though we can see already there are increases across the board, with a Windows instance on Azure in the UK costing a whopping 34% more than Ireland. Although Azure charges less for this type of instance in Ireland compared to the US.

Another interesting element while looking at the data was the cost the two platforms apply to Windows licenses. It is well known the premium that the Windows Operating System license brings, but using the data above, we can look at how much extra the cost of Windows over Linux is by vendor and by region. The table below shows this:

AWS Azure
US 29.79% 90.00%
IRE 27.72% 84.85%
UK 26.42% 85.80%

There is a clear difference in approach, AWS charging ~25-30% premium for Windows across locations, but Azure charging ~80-90% premium. Does this mean they are charging more for the license? Or that they are massively discounting Linux instances. While the pricing does show Azure has a premium over AWS for these instance types, as mentioned before, it is hard to compare directly. Still, it was a surprising thing to see.

So UK sites on both platforms come at a premium for compute over Ireland and the US, with AWS charging ~4-5% more and Azure charging ~33-34% more compared to Ireland – for this instance type at least.

What about storage?

When looking at storage, again I tried to pick services that were similar between each vendor. I looked at both block storage, picking AWS EBS SSD gp2 and an Azure Premium SSD Storage.

Provider Type Service US West (Oregon) / West US EU (Ireland) / North Europe EU (London) / UK South IRE cf. US UK cf. IRE UK cf. US
AWS Storage EBS – SSD (gp2, per GB-month) USD 0.100 USD 0.110 USD 0.116 10.0% 5.5% 16.0%
Azure Storage Page Blob – Premium SSD (128GB, LRS, per-month) USD 19.71 USD 21.68 USD 23.85 10.0% 10.0% 21.0%

Note that EBS is charged by the hour and Page Blobs are for the month – in case you were going to compare them.

Here we start to see some similarity between the vendors, with both AWS and Azure charging a premium of 10% for Ireland over the US site. Again though we see a difference when it comes to the UK, with Azure charging 10% more compared to AWS only an additional 5% over Ireland.

Another common storage element is object storage, for this, I compared S3 storage and operations on AWS and Block Blob storage and operations on Azure. These are as follows:

Provider Type Service US West (Oregon) / West US EU (Ireland) / North Europe EU (London) / UK South IRE cf. US UK cf. IRE UK cf. US
AWS Storage S3 Standard (first 50TB, per GB-month) USD 0.023 USD 0.023 USD 0.024 0.0% 4.3% 4.3%
AWS Storage S3 PUTS (per 1k reqs) USD 0.0050 USD 0.0050 USD 0.0053 0.0% 6.0% 6.0%
AWS Storage S3 GETS (per 10k reqs) USD 0.0040 USD 0.0040 USD 0.0042 0.0% 5.0% 5.0%
Azure Storage Block Blob (Standard, cool, LRS, per GB-month) USD 0.017 USD 0.010 USD 0.017 -41.2% 70.0% 0.0%
Azure Storage Block Blob PUTS (Standard, Cool, LRS, per 10k) USD 0.100 USD 0.100 USD 0.110 0.0% 10.0% 10.0%
Azure Storage Block Blob Other (Standard, Cool, LRS, per 10k) USD 0.010 USD 0.010 USD 0.011 0.0% 10.0% 10.0%

Once again, storage is more expensive across the board in the UK for both raw storage and operations on both providers.

An interesting anomaly here is the storage cost in Ireland on Azure, with the base storage cost being over 40% cheaper in Ireland compared to the US. This then makes the storage cost even harder to swallow for UK customers, with a significant 70% premium over Ireland. Though it is good to see Microsoft have aligned pricing for raw storage in the UK with the US in this case, although storage operations still have a 10% premium.

Let’s look at network services

In the past, there was some perception that data transfer pricing might have an effect on regional cloud pricing, but at least in the case of these three locations that is not the case, with both vendors having uniform pricing across all of them:

Provider Type Service US West (Oregon) / West US EU (Ireland) / North Europe EU (London) / UK South IRE cf. US UK cf. IRE UK cf. US
AWS Network E2 Transfer Out (1TB) USD 92.16 USD 92.16 USD 92.16 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Azure Network Bandwidth (Zone 1 1TB per month) USD 88.65 USD 88.65 USD 88.65 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

Also of note for network pricing is both platforms have similar pricing with AWS having only a 3.9% premium over Azure.

Finally, I did take a look at the AWS NAT Gateway pricing, while there is no direct equivalent in Azure, I thought it was interesting to compare across regions this common element:

Provider Type Service US West (Oregon) / West US EU (Ireland) / North Europe EU (London) / UK South IRE cf. US UK cf. IRE UK cf. US
AWS Network VPC NAT Gateway USD 0.045 USD 0.048 USD 0.050 6.7% 4.2% 11.1%

Again we can see there is a premium to be in the UK, with the price difference matching more or less the difference of a Linux instance – this is understandable as underneath this is more or less what the NAT gateway is.

Conclusion

So it is fantastic news that UK business now has access to the two leading public cloud platforms, but that data sovereignty comes at a price on both AWS and Azure.

While Azure generally has a higher increase in prices across the board for their UK South region compared to AWS increases for their London region, this might be linked to Microsoft’s recent announcement of UK prices more generally.

While this announcement was for volume licensing customers and doesn’t come into effect until January 2017, the pricing I used was the ‘consumer’ pricing which I can only assume may have already affected the London pricing.

Keep in mind too that Microsoft offer discounts for volume licensing customers – for example those with Enterprise Agreements, as well as through Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) resellers, like us at CAPSiDE – which while they do vary I expect they would go some way to eliminate the variation between AWS and Azure.

With the British Pound having changed dramatically this year compared to both the Dollar and the Euro, it will be also interesting to see if this also has an effect with AWS in the coming months.

It was also interesting to see both storage and compute prices on Azure in Ireland were lower than the US site, meaning that for UK Microsoft Azure users that are able to use EU regions, there are cost effective options not far away.

This does mean that workload placement continues to be something that should be based on a number of factors. While the UK prices today seem higher, businesses always have the option to split workloads to other more cost effective regions for those applications where data sovereignty is not a concern.

However, if you are reading this, take caution not to mistake this as a negative towards cloud transformation to these platforms in the UK, on the contrary, when properly implemented your cloud strategy should always result in far more economic benefits that will easily outweigh these variations.

If you are a UK business wanting to explore opportunities to make use of these new locations on either Azure or AWS – or both – then don’t hesitate to be in touch – myself or another member of our UK team would be happy to help.

For reference, you can download my full Excel on UK Cloud price comparison.

TAGS: amazon web services, amazon web services, aws, aws, azure, azure, capside, capside, cost, London, microsoft azure, UK, uk cloud

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Comments
Bill Mew | December 23, 2016 8:12 am

Alex
Much has been made of the Privacy Shield framework for transatlantic exchanges of personal data between the EU and US, and also of Microsoft’s successful challenge this summer to the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in regard to US federal government access to emails held in Dublin (which you linked to in your response). However, the DoJ has filed a petition to re-open the case and it is expected to go all the way to the US Supreme Court. Privacy Shield, which is under review by data protection authorities across the EU, does not give any legal guarantee that EU citizen data will not be subject to mass surveillance, nor does it abnegate US firms from their regulatory responsibilities or from the application of such laws.
Data sovereignty, and data residency are terms that are generally used interchangeably. However, the Rule 41 amendments, and many other US laws, force us to make a distinction. All US company, and their subsidiaries, are ultimately subject to US law. Therefore, while they can offer their UK clients data residency, they will never be able to offer data sovereignty – as in protection in the UK from the foreign jurisdictions that the cloud provider may be subject to.
UK companies that have no US subsidiaries, are not subject to US law, and can therefore offer their UK clients data sovereignty. For example, UKCloud, which pays taxes and is registered in the UK, holds all of its data in the UK and is subject only to UK and EU law. This protects its customer data – which belongs exclusively to public sector organisations from foreign jurisdication. It goes without saying that much of the data is personal data relating to UK citizens, is therefore subject to data protection regulation.
Understandably the US firms are seeking to downplay the importance of data sovereignty – they would, wouldn’t they? I am not sure why you would also be keen to downplay this? However, nobody can yet tell how Rule 41 will be applied (even the DoJ says its applicability to the Fourth Amendment would be tested on a case by case basis) or what further powers will be granted by the new US administration (and you’ve got to ask yourself if you trust Donald Trump). What we do know is that if you are the custodian of client information then you need to be fully aware of your regulatory and legal responsibilities towards the rights and expectations of UK citizens, and have a thorough understanding of how the regulation also applies to practices such as encryption, data pseudonomisation, anonomisation and fragmentation.
You are too quick to downplay sovereignty as an issue I believe. With GDPR it will return to the fore and clients need to be prepared.
Regards
Bill

Reply
Alex Moore | December 23, 2016 10:26 am

Apologies if you felt that I was downplaying it, on the contrary I wholeheartedly agree that data protection is a critical part of any cloud solution. Equally with the UK Government happy to store OFFICIAL data including elements of personal data in both AWS and Azure I think clearly there are options for businesses too. Ultimately though you are right, data sovereignty vs residency on these platforms are important and complex areas and something that requires a separate post beyond my simple price comparison 🙂

Reply
Bill Mew | December 22, 2016 6:41 pm

Alex
This is a very interesting article and sparks 3 immediate questions:
1) Sovereignty: You start by indicating that data sovereignty in no longer a blocker to cloud adoption. The US players don’t offer data sovereignty, they only offer data residency. Just look at the compute and storage capacity available in the new facilities opened by AWS and Azure. It is simply not enough to serve all the needs of their UK clients. Therefore, a significant number of workloads will need to be processed off shore and a significant proportion of data held there also – hardly what you’d call data residency. And even if clients are offered guaranteed data residency with all compute and storage restricted to the new UK facilities, the data is still subject to the intrusive US regulations (such as the recent Rule 41 amendments) as long as it is being handled or stored by these US firms – hardly what you’d call data sovereignty either. Indeed, typically under AWS and Azure contracts, data (including meta-data and any customer data needed to perform the services) is allowed to go anywhere in the world. And getting the data back isn’t straight forward either as AWS and Azure are both on proprietary technology stacks which means that you are locked in.
2) Price: it is not absolutely clear if your figures reflect the market conditions following the Azure price rise that will come in to effect in January.
3) Perspective: AWS and Azure don’t represent the whole market. It would be interesting to include a UK player in the statistics – one that can offer TRUE data sovereignty.
Regards
Bill

Reply
Alex Moore | December 22, 2016 8:16 pm

Hi Bill,

Great points. To comment a bit…

For 1, you are right that it does not solve 100% the data sovereignty challenge, though players like Microsoft are fighting hard and so far winning the battle to demonstrate their commitment to sovereignty issues (see: http://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2016/07/14/search-warrant-case-important-decision-people-everywhere/ which I’m sure you’re familiar with). I’m less clear on any evidence for lack of capacity on their platforms (have you seen something?) though I’m sure like any cloud provider they are operating on the premise that not all capacity is required at once and will scale as they go. The discussion on lock in is a complex one, it is true they offer proprietary APIs, but they are equally open enough that there is a rich eco system of tools to facilitate extraction if that was required – no different to vCloud or Openstack IMHO. Of course if you start to use native PaaS or similar technologies on any provider then you’ll start to code to their platform making migration more difficult – but that is a risk with any PaaS to a degree.

For 2, this was definitely a tricky point, I did start to table up some currency comparisons too, but my simple blog post was starting to become an essay 🙂 but it would be interesting GBP vs EUR vs USD pricing, with the currency markets in flux, this will always be the hardest point…I might follow up in 6 months to see how things have changed though.

Finally, 3 – In the context of this article though I was comparing pricing between geographies and the price changes for the same service in the UK compared to other regions from the same provider and with both of them having only recently opened facilities I felt it an interesting comparison – but you’re right there are other options for cloud in the UK. For this comparison though I’m not aware of any UK owned providers that have both data centres in those other countries and pricing publicly available, but if you know of some I’d happily include them next time.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

All the best,
Alex

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