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News briefs: AWS cloud storage slips to Azure, VCE debuts new Vblocks

In these news briefs, Microsoft Azure bests AWS cloud in performance tests, and VCE targets midsize firms with two Vblock Systems and new software.

Microsoft's Azure surpasses AWS cloud in performance tests

Since storage vendor Nasuni began evaluating cloud storage providers in 2009, two of the 16 providers it analyzes have outshone the competition: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Windows Azure. In Nasuni's second annual report, narrowed to assess just the five top providers with refined testing procedures, Azure pushed AWS out of first place with its high marks in performance, scalability and stability. Nasuni executives were careful to note that the more quantitative rankings don't necessarily indicate their own first pick of a provider. "Amazon has a lot more experience and has been doing this longer -- and there is a lot to be said for that," Nasuni's director of marketing, Connor Fee, told SearchCloudStorage. The trend of improvement among all the vendors highlights the still-evolving nature of the market -- good news for cloud storage providers looking to stand out, as well as for customers.

VCE releases wave of hardware and software offerings

Cloud infrastructure company VCE announced its largest-ever introduction of new software and hardware, revealing the release of its Vblock System 100 and System 200 models, along with a separate range of machines certified to run the SAP High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA) big data analytics program. VCE's other updates included capacity and performance enhancements for the Vblock System 300 and System 700 families, plus software called Vision Intelligent Operations that gives users a single, integrated view of their Vblock environment. As InfoWorld reports, the low-end infrastructure models target midsize firms, with the System 200 catering to midmarket corporations' core data center infrastructure, and the System 100 fitting the needs of remote and branch offices. The units are pegged for release early in the second quarter of 2013, while the System 300 and System 700 improvements for SAP HANA are available now.

OnApp announces general release of Cloud v3.0

The latest version of the OnApp Cloud v3.0 platform has hit the market, offering providers improvements that include increased storage capacities and greater control in user management, as stated in a press release from the company. The update comes with OnApp Storage, a cost-effective storage area network designed to let cloud providers pool Serial Advanced Technology Assessment and solid-state disk capacities for maximizing space on existing hardware. An integrated content delivery network with video streaming, VMware support, a redesigned control panel and the automated set-up tool Cloud Boot also are among the 100-plus enhancements included in the v3.0 release.

Google steps up cloud competition with tiered support

Taking the offensive in its ongoing cloud competition with, Google has enhanced its technical support features to provide four tiers of service, Wired reports. The updates redistribute Google's paid support plan, from a single premium account that costs $500 into Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum support packages, with services varying according to the monthly fee. At the level of the $150 Silver package, customers get email support in addition to the online forum services available with the free Bronze package. Forking over $400 per month for the Gold package allows customers 24/7 phone consultations, while gaining direct access to a Technical Account Manager team through the Platinum package requires preliminary communication with Google's sales department.

Cloud to expand to 35% of K-12 IT budgets by 2017

The future of cloud in K-12 education is looking bright, with schools expecting cloud computing will take 25% of their IT budgets within the next year and around 35% of their IT budgets four years from now, according to CDW Government's recent report on the state of cloud computing. Schools also are expecting to reduce spending in cloud computing. K-12 IT professionals predicted they'll save 20% of their budget in the next year and 27% in the next four years. Storage is the application these institutions focus on, with 40% using the cloud to house their data. Despite the expansion, obstacles to cloud adoption remain, predominantly in the form of security concerns (37%) and worries about the performance of cloud services (30%).

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