Most online comparisons of VPS instances seem to exclusively focus on the smallest (read cheapest) instances offered by various players. We think this is a somewhat blinkered approach as the smallest instances are almost never useful for production environments!
We decided to go out and see what was on offer in India, from various cloud vendors but before doing so we set certain parameters so as to make it as close to an apples to apples comparison as possible.
First of all we decided that we should look at only those instances which were priced at or near the US$ 0.20/ hour mark.
Secondly, considering the way the market and technology is moving as well as to ensure that performance of various plans was as similar as possible, we wanted to limit our comparison to only those providers who were exclusively offering Solid State Disk (SSD) based instances.
Even though not too many players in India are offering SSD based plans, we think this is the future and in most cases should be included as a criteria by anyone evaluating VPS plans.
For comparison sake, we have included one traditional datacenter player who is offering HDD based plans, just to illustrate the fact that SSD plans need not automatically be more expensive.
Third, we not only looked at the obvious price/ performance parameter, but also how cloud agnostic the platform is.
Lastly, keeping in mind the needs of most Indian start-ups, we have limited our comparison to only those cloud players who are offering instances at Indian Datacenter locations.
This is an important consideration for anyone who is looking at primarily servicing India based customers.
|No. of VCPUs||RAM||Storage & Type||Price per hour|
|IBM SoftLayer||2||12GB||25GB SSD||$0.208 = ?14.35|
|AWS (r3.large – Mumbai)||2||15GB||32GB SSD||$0.19 = ?13.11|
|Digital Ocean||8||16GB||160GB SSD||$0.238 = ?16.42|
|E2E Networks (30_GB_PRO)||8||30GB||460GB SSD||$0.188 = ?13.00|
|NetMagic (Large)||4||4GB||80GB HDD||$0.261 = ?18.00|
From even a cursory glance at the above it is evident that NetMagic, the incumbent datacenter player, clearly targets enterprise and large MNC customers offering their customers a lot of features similar to AWS. They are one of oldest India-based datacenters and still have some of the big name clients on their roaster. However, they are also clearly quite not competitive with some of the newest players that have emerged in India over last few years.
Besides the less than competitive comparison above, they also begin to charge for data transfer from a very low threshold and offer no option of choosing SSD storage. Netmagic also charges the base amount for the machine whether you use it or not, there is no on-demand spinning of instances without payment.
Conclusion: Unless you are a large enterprise or MNS with deep pockets, NetMagic is clearly out of the running.
Lets start by looking at the offering from SoftLayer. For almost exactly our target price, one can get a SoftLayer instance with a 2 VCPUs, 12GB RAM and 25 GB SSD local storage. Except for Netmagic, this is the lowest spec from amongst all the India hosted cloud players we reviewed. Furthermore, outbound data transfer is chargeable, so customers can expect an even higher monthly bill.
On the plus side, SoftLayer is backed by the IBM brand, which for some customers is enough to justify the high price tag. Furthermore, IBM SoftLayer has a global footprint providing connectivity for free within their entire network. Also, the SoftLayer platform lends itself fairly well to building cloud agnostic solutions, which in our books is a definite plus.
Conclusion: Clearly focussed on selling to large global enterprises, SoftLayer doesn’t seem overly keen on picking up business from value driven Indian customers.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Amazon Web Services is the oldest, most well known and the largest cloud player in the world. Being the first entrant and in fact one of the creators of the whole cloud space, AWS offers its customers a huge range of services from which to choose from. While most customers may only ever use two or three of these services, if ever required, additional services can be launched with just a few clicks on the AWS control panel.
The downside to a lot of these services is that they involve abstracted layers in-between, which necessarily impact performance. In essence this means that you need to throw a lot more hardware at the same job, to extract performance approaching that of a “closer to the metal” platform.
Also, developing and maintaining these large number of services comes at a price, which is reflected in the above table. It seems that you get a less for your money, when buying from AWS.
There is another not so obvious aspect of using such a platform. Substituting applications with abstracted services comes at the cost of being cloud agnostic. Which is fine if you expect to be with the same vendor for life. However, if you ever expect to be able to switch providers at any point, you would need to select the services you use very carefully, so as not to lock your solution in to such a platform.
In addition, we feel that for not-so-tech-savvy customers, AWS can prove to be a bit overwhelming.
AWS also begins to charge for data transfer at fairly low levels, which means that you will almost certainly be paying data transfer charges from the get go.
Conclusion: Bad in terms of price/ performance or cloud agnosticism. Choose AWS only for the brand name or if you really need to use one of the many services which are available on their platform.
Digital Ocean is a global player known for providing closer to the metal pure SSD based VPS instances. It has now finally set up a datacenter location in India and is offering it as an option at no extra cost.
While their comparable instance is priced higher than that from AWS, it comes with 4 times the number of VCPUs and 5 times the amount of SSD storage!
Furthermore Digital Ocean has bundled in very generous 6TB of data transfer along with this plan. This essentially means that the vast majority of customers will probably never get charged for data transfer.
Although, we have not used Digital Ocean services ourselves, their consumers generally talk very highly about their services. Their customer support seems to be quite good as well!
Conclusion: This is a serious contender. Very good price/ performance and suitable for building cloud agnostic solutions.
The least known of the three contenders here, E2E Networks is a 6 year old Indian start-up that has been making waves in the Indian IaaS space. Known for it’s aggressive pricing and offering it’s customers the option of “You do it for me” support, it is a clear winner in the price/ performance segment.
With a per instance price lower than AWS, it offers 4 times the number of VCPUs, 2 times the RAM and a very generous 460GB of SSD Storage. Additionally, all plans are bundled with unmetered data transfer, so they are ideal for websites and cloud applications that have need heavy data transfers.
Their solution follows the Digital Ocean model of building closer to the metal SSD based VPS instances, suitable for those wish to remain cloud agnostic. This combined with their (optional) full DevOps support, it becomes really hard not to place them at the top of the heap.
When it comes to value for money, E2E Networks definitely beats most others, with Digital Ocean coming close second. If you are an enterprise level customer, you would be better served with AWS or Softlayer or even Netmagic. This article was mainly focused towards requirements of web publishers, Web App developers who are looking for pure SSD, India based cloud hosting solutions.
We have not written anything about customer service, because it is quite subjective and everyone will have a different experience with each.