How to size up a new cloud service like low-priced Wasabi

The cloud storage startup promises faster access and lower costs than Amazon

Saving money may be a good enough reason to try a brand-new cloud storage service -- if it can deliver on its promises.

That's the equation some enterprises may use when they look at Wasabi Technologies, an object storage startup that says it offers six times the performance of Amazon's S3 service at one-fifth the price. The service is available globally on Wednesday.

The company, started by the co-founders of online backup provider Carbonite, says its single pool of capacity can deliver primary, secondary or archive data at a sustained-read speed of 1.3GB per second, versus 191MB per second at Amazon. Its durability is the same, Wasabi says.

The cost? Just US$0.0039 per gigabyte, per month, compared with between $0.21 and $0.23 for the same on Amazon S3, Wasabi says.

Still, enterprises may approach a new service like Wasabi with caution at first, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Steve Duplessie said.

"I can see companies with huge data sets that have at least two copies in the cloud moving the secondary to a much cheaper alternative like Wasabi," Duplessie said.

Price is just one factor enterprises should consider when they consider a new cloud storage service.

Costs may include things like charges for uploading, using and removing the data, said Deni Connor of research company SSG-NOW. Wasabi says it charges only for storage and removal of their data.

The cloud gateway, in software or hardware, is another piece of the equation on cost and on complexity of setup, Connor said. Wasabi doesn't come with its own, but the company says it's compatible with any gateway that works with S3.

Enterprises should also consider how secure the information will be, Connor said. Will it be encrypted both in the cloud and on its way to the cloud, and will the customer control the encryption key? Wasabi says it will encrypt data both en route and in the cloud. Users have a few options for encrypting data en route to Wasabi, but the company does not give customers access to its encryption keys.

Also, take a good look at whether the service will deliver the performance you need, Duplessie said. And with startups, it's worth considering a company's business practices and financial footing.

"Are they going to be there tomorrow? Are they going to be able to continue supporting you?" Connor said.

Wasabi knows it will need to prove itself and that risk-averse companies may start with second copies of data, CEO David Friend said. "Over time, people will grow to trust us."

The company isn't saying much about what makes the service fast or cheap. Part of it involves the way its software breaks up data and reads it off multiple hard drives in parallel. There is some flash in the architecture, too.

Wasabi has just one data center, located in Northern Virginia and linked to AWS over Amazon's Direct Connect system. Customers can load data into Amazon's EC2 compute cloud faster from Wasabi than from S3, Friend said. Wasabi plans to build another data center in a different location and will charge customers to replicate their data to that site. There are also plans for overseas facilities eventually.

The service isn't designed for small or short-lived data, like temporary data on a website, Friend said. It's for companies with hundreds of terabytes or more that they're going to keep for at least two weeks.

Wasabi offers mostly the same features as S3, with one addition, called "immutable buckets," that the company says will be a boon to data integrity. These are data sets that can't be changed by anyone for a set period of time, determined by the customer's business policies. Immutable buckets could be used for data such as X-rays that a medical center needs to keep for a long time, Friend said.

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