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Compare file storage options in the cloud

In the hot market of file storage in the public cloud, many options are available across some of the largest vendors, with performance a major consideration.

File storage is the fastest-growing data type, and cloud file storage is expanding to keep up.

AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud all have multiple file storage managed services. Several of these file storage options in the cloud come through partnerships with traditional on-premises NAS vendors.

In addition to keeping up with an increased need for file storage, the expansion of NAS-managed services reflects a larger trend in storage. Even on-premises vendors make their storage available as managed services, such as Dell Apex, HPE GreenLake, IBM Storage as a Service, NetApp Keystone and Pure Storage Evergreen.

To understand how NAS has evolved, look at NetApp. The vendor stayed among the NAS leaders for decades, packaging the OnTap OS it developed in 1992 on disk arrays. OnTap remains NetApp's flagship technology, but now, users can deploy it natively in AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure, as well as on NetApp FAS arrays.

FSx for NetApp OnTap and Microsoft Azure Files are managed services based on OnTap. NetApp also sells Cloud Volumes OnTap (CVO) and Cloud Volumes Service (CVS) through the public cloud. CVO is a customer-managed virtual OnTap instance that runs in the cloud and enables movement of data from on-premises to CVO in the cloud. CVS is a file service that NetApp manages.

Other traditional NAS products -- such as Dell PowerScale, Hitachi NAS, IBM Storage Scale and Qumulo File Fabric -- can migrate data to the public cloud. In 2023, Dell also added Dell Apex File Storage for AWS, a customer-managed version of its on-premises OneFS scale-out file software that runs in the public cloud. Dell Apex File Storage for AWS is available through the AWS Marketplace with one-year and three-year subscription options.

So many NAS choices can complicate buying decisions, so look at what's available on the public cloud.


Think of Amazon FSx as a collection of file systems AWS offers as managed services that use AWS disk, compute and networking technology. In addition to FSx for NetApp OnTap, AWS also offers file storage options in the cloud with FSx for Windows File Server, FSx for Lustre and FSx for OpenZFS.

OnTap or Windows File Server users who want those file systems delivered as managed services can sign up for the same file system on AWS. FSx for Lustre is a high parallel file system for high-performance computing. FSx for OpenZFS is recommended for customers who want to use ZFS or other Linux-based file servers.

So many NAS choices can complicate buying decisions, so look at what's available on the public cloud.

For users who aren't already an on-premises NAS customer or use a different file system and want to switch to an AWS managed service, AWS publishes a chart to help customers decide which is best. Lustre supports greater throughput and IOPS per file system than the others while OpenZFS has the lowest latency. FSx for Lustre is Linux-only and uses a performance-optimized POSIX-compliant file protocol.

Windows File Server uses the SMB protocol and OpenZFS uses NFS. OnTap supports NFS and SMB file protocols plus iSCSI for shared block storage. FSx for OnTap supports nearly all the features NetApp delivers in its on-premises systems, so users can also get features such as SnapMirror, SnapVault and FlexCache with FSx.

NetApp CVS subscriptions, previously purchased through AWS Marketplace, will migrate to FSx for NetApp OnTap. NetApp CVO is still available through AWS Marketplace for customers who want to manage their own OnTap cloud storage.

AWS also has Elastic File System (EFS), an OS-agnostic network file system based on NFS. Amazon EFS is a NAS filer for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances designed to quickly scale up and down as users add and remove files. Amazon EFS is for test/dev and file sharing and works with other AWS services, such as Lambda. AWS increased performance of EFS in August 2023 to help run more demanding workflows such as ML research, financial simulations and big data procession.

Microsoft Azure

Azure offers two managed file storage options in the cloud. Microsoft Azure Files is built on the same storage platform as Azure Blob for object storage. Azure NetApp Files is based on OnTap for more high-performance, low-latency workloads. Azure NetApp Files also includes OnTap's data protection and data management features.

Azure Files supports SMB and NFS, but not in the same file share. NFS is only available on premium tier, while SMB has premium, transaction optimized, hot and cool tiers.

Microsoft bills Azure Files Premium on a provisioned model -- the customer pays for a capacity level regardless of whether they use that much. The standard tiers -- transaction optimized, hot and cool -- feature a pay-as-you-go model where customers pay for the amount of data stored, plus transaction costs.

Microsoft also offers reserved instance pricing at a reduced rate for Azure Files. Customers can choose a one-year or three-year subscription, committing to 10 TiB or 100 TiB per month.

Azure NetApp Files has three service levels, based on maximum throughput per volume. For every 1 TiB of provisioned capacity, the Ultra tier provides 128 MiB per second of throughput, the Premium tier provides up to 64 MiBps of throughput, and the Standard tier provides up to 16 MiBps of throughput.

Azure NetApp Files customers pay a per-hour charge based on provisioned capacity. Customers can start with a 2 TiB storage pool and add 1 TiB increments.


Google has four native file storage options -- three Google Filestore tiers and Google Cloud NetApp Volumes. Filestore Basic focuses on file sharing, software development, Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) and web sharing. Filestore Zonal (previously High Scale) is for high-performance and high-capacity workloads, such as genome sequencing and financial trading analysis. Filestore Enterprise (with Zonal Availability) is for critical apps that need high availability and GKE.

All Filestore tiers support NFS but not SMB. Filestore Basic has 1.2 GBps and 60,000 IOPS performance numbers, while Enterprise hits 120,000 IOPS and 1.2 GBps. Filestore Zonal has far greater performance, with a maximum sequential read throughput of 26 GBps and 900,000 IOPS.

Basic scales to 64 TiB file systems, while the other two tiers go to 100 TiB. Enterprise supports 10 GiB for GKE. Zonal and Enterprise support snapshots, backups and non-disruptive upgrades. Basic only supports backup, and its updates must be scheduled.

Filestore pricing is based on the services tier, allocated storage capacity and the region where the storage instance is provisioned. Filestore Enterprise typically costs about twice as much as Basic SSD and Zonal, and three times as much as Basic HDD per GiB per month.

Google Cloud NetApp Volumes is a new service that Google manages. Google previously sold NetApp CVS, managed by NetApp. Google Cloud NetApp Volumes is for file sharing, critical applications and Windows files. It supports SMB and NFS protocols.

Google Cloud NetApp Volumes has Standard, Premium and Extreme tiers. Standard's performance scales from 16 MiBps per TiB to 1 GiBps, Premium's from 64 MiBps to 4.5 GiBps, and Extreme's from 128 MiBps to 4.5 GiBps. Standard has a maximum storage pool of 100 TiB; the other tiers support 500 TiB. All three support up to 100 GiB volumes. Pricing starts at 20 cents per GiB for Standard, 29 cents per GiB for Premium and 30 cents per GiB for Extreme.

Google Cloud also offers popular NAS products from partner vendors. These include:

  • Dell PowerScale for Google Cloud. This is an integrated Google Cloud subscription-based service managed by Dell, using Dell's PowerScale OneFS file system.
  • DDN ExaScaler. DataDirect Networks and Google developed DDN ExaScaler, an in-cloud Lustre-based file system.
  • NetApp CVO. Unlike Google Cloud NetApp Volumes, the customer manages CVO.
  • Nasuni Files for Google Cloud. Nasuni's UniFS distributed file system is available through Google Cloud Marketplace, enabling customers to move files off on-premises servers and into the cloud.

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