Let there be no doubt about it, Amazon’s S3 online storage system is wonderful; it’s secure (both from an technology point of view and from Amazon’s status as one of the web’s most trusted sites i.e. one you wouldn’t worry about giving your credit card to), it’s cheap, it’s pay-as-you-go and it has first mover advantage, but (there’s always a but) it has until now lacked competition. And because it lacked competition the various shortcomings (such as no support for HTTP POST file upload, no SLAs etc.) that S3 users complain about are handled by Amazon in what can best be described as ..
..we hear what you’re saying, we have it on a list; no, we’ll not tell if/when we’ll remedy this problem (or explain why it’s not possible to do so); and anyway if you don’t like it, who else provides anything comparable?
Okay, I’m being unfair here, I’m sure Amazon has very good reasons for how they do things and scalability and “keeping it simple” seem to be their development mantra; and this is a good thing for an online 24/7 storage infrastructure. But, as in all things in life, competition would help not just disillusioned users by offering another comparable service but would help Amazon prioritise items on its S3 roadmap.
Most would have assumed that when that competitor arrived it would either be Google or Microsoft, instead the first up to bat is Nirvanix, a San Diego startup which appears to be associated with another online storage player, MediaMax. Pricing is similar to S3, but with the option of purchasing extra SLA backed support packages, something that has been top of the list for many actual and potential S3 users. Other “missings” that Nirvanix addresses are;
- File upload via HTTP POST, S3 restricts upload to HTTP PUTs which requires the use of a proxy server or the installation of client software.
- File rename and move, S3 requires that a file is first deleted and then reloaded.
- In-built support for media processing such as image resize/rotate for thumbnails.
- Multi-tenant accounts, each S3 account supports only a single ‘user view’.
- Files are indexed via tags and name, not just by name as is the case with S3.
- Granular control of usage limits and reporting, S3 only offers ‘after-the-fact’ reporting.
- Maximum file size of 256Gb compared to Amazon’s 5Gb.
The Nirvanix authentication method uses a much simpler and more traditional username/password over SLL approach than S3’s key-pair based URL signing method. This can be seen as either a weakness or a strength, but combined with Nirvanix’s support for POST file uploads, multi-tenant accounts and granular usage controls it makes building browser based clients much simpler.
S3’s industrial grade authentication is all fine and dandy but if the key becomes compromised, all’s lost, you could expose not just your data but your wallet if somebody used the compromised key to maliciously upload Terabytes of data. This single point of failure is perhaps my main complaint of S3’s current set-up.
So, am I getting ready to jump ship, no, at least not yet, as;
- Amazon is still Amazon, they may be lacking SLAs but they have my trust.
- S3’s role as a back-end to Amazon Ec2.
- Friendly and effective forums offering excellent support provided by both the developer community and Amazon’s own staff.
- CNAME support. (e.g. http://www2.gobansaor.com/)
- Did I mention Ec2?
Should Amazon be worried? No, this is not a zero-sum game, in fact competition will help grow awareness and expand the market for all “cloud” based services.