UpCloud bets on storage performance, US datacenter to dent market

The cloud market still has room for smaller providers, according to the Finnish cloud company's CEO

It may be a minnow in a market of whales, but Finnish cloud service company UpCloud is hoping that improving its storage performance and adding datacenter capacity in Chicago will make customers take a look.

The cloud arena has become very competitive, but there still is room for smaller companies that can find a way to stand out. While UpCloud, which expanded operations outside its native Finland last year, can't compete with Amazon Web Services' range of services, it believes it can still distinguish itself as a provider of cloud-based servers and storage.

"We believe very strongly that the cloud isn't a commodity, because behind the price there are multiple decisions on how services are produced that all affect performance," said CEO Antti Vilpponen.

One area where UpCloud is convinced it can beat the competition is storage performance. An upgrade launched this week speeds reads and writes from servers to storage with a new SSD-based storage type called MaxIOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second).

"We can perform up to 90,000 IOPS on the read side, and two-thirds of that can be easily achieved on the write side," Vilpponen said.

Vilpponen claimed that exceeds what Amazon, Google and Microsoft can offer. (We reached out to all three vendors for a comment on that claim, but they haven't replied.) However, Amazon says on its website that its high-end storage option Provisioned IOPS has a 4,000 operations per second limit when using one volume, for example.

UpCloud can go head-to-head with its U.S. competitors on price, as well, Vilpponen said. For example, a virtual server with four processors, 8GB of RAM and 200GB of storage costs US$140.11 per month from its datacenter in London. By comparison, a c3.xlarge instance from Amazon's datacenter in Ireland with the same spec and Provisioned IOPS storage (with the maximum 4,000 IOPS) costs $490.55 per month with pay-as-you-go pricing. For users that are satisfied with Amazon's general purpose SSD storage, the price drops to $193.65.

This week UpCloud added its first U.S. location, sited in Chicago because that offers good latency for companies based on the East coast and is still a satisfactory offering for the West coast.

"We are primarily targeting European companies that want global availability," Vilpponen said.

However, competitive performance and pricing isn't enough to compete in today's market: redundancy and privacy are also important factors. All non-planned outages that last longer than 5 minutes are eligible for compensation worth 50 times the value of the lost service. That's a really good motivator for UpCloud to keep its infrastructure up and running, according to Vilpponen.

Like many European cloud providers, UpCloud also sees an advantage in being subject to Finnish and European Union laws regarding data protection. All customer agreements are made with the Finnish company.

"That's definitely a benefit our European customers value," Vilpponen said.

UpCloud's list of customers includes media company Sanoma, which relies on UpCloud for its Finnish video-on-demand service, and the Finnish Ministry of Justice.

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