The adoption of Cloud Computing has quickly become a key driving force for businesses today, as applications are moved out of on-premise data center in a bid to innovate, cut costs and increase agility. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a model where a third-party provider hosts and maintains core infrastructure, including hardware, software, servers and storage on behalf of a customer. This typically includes the hosting of applications in a highly scalable environment, where customers are only charged for the infrastructure they use.
Cloud Computing seems to have really caught fire over the last several years with the key players being the usual suspects; Microsoft, Google and Amazon Web Services. Over the past several years while most customers (enterprise) were just dipping their toes in the water, startups were all in from the get-go. Some CEOs were saying they wanted to be “out of the data-center business” in 3-5 years, but knew that they would always maintain some sort of hybrid. The fight was always real… The cloud companies would say it was much cheaper while the hardware companies would say “not so fast”. The key differentiator being you don’t need as large of an IT staff if you host your applications in the cloud and you can reduce your risk easily through redundancy.
No matter which way you look at it, the cloud is here to stay. The worldwide public cloud services market is forecast to grow 17% in 2020 to total $266.4 billion, up from $227.8 billion in 2019, according to Gartner, Inc. “At this point, cloud adoption is mainstream,” said Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner.
So with those statistics, let’s take a look at the main players in the market and help you decide which is better for your use case. As with all products, they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s start with global market share. To date, AWS has dominated the cloud, but the competition is catching up. This is pretty standard economics. Where margin is found, competition follows.
AWS has definitely been in the game the longest and has pushed the market, giving them a competitive advantage. While the odds of them losing market share any time soon are low, the largest players will push them and force them to innovate. Now just because AWS, Microsoft and Google dominate the space, that doesn’t mean are right for your business; in fact, smaller and more personal is what many enterprises prefer. This is similar to “buying small” from the downtown merchants vs. spending money with national chains.
In a bigger market analysis, it would make sense to deep-dive on all current market players, today however, we’re going to spend our time on the largest competitors. In no way are these characterizations perfect, but to simplify the impact of the Big 3 in the market, think of them like this:
There is a small group of companies that outpacing the market and essentially gaining market shares like IBM, Salesforce, Alibaba and Tencent. But their growth still doesn’t threaten AWS in any meaningful way given AWS is larger than their next three competitors combined.
Pricing really is the key differentiator in the Cloud market.
AWS – Pay-as-you-go model and charges customers per hour—and they pay for a full hour, even if they use only one minute of it.
Azure – Pay-as-you-go model, but it charges per minute—a way more exact pricing model than AWS.
Google Cloud - Pay-as-you-go model and also follows a to-the-minute pricing.
Just because AWS uses the hour model, doesn’t make them more expensive, just less precise if you are looking for short term use. This means enterprises should evaluate their cloud needs on a case-by-case basis and match specific applications and workloads with the vendor that offers the best fit.
At their core AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform offer largely similar basic capabilities around flexible compute, storage and networking. They all share the common elements of a public cloud: Self-service, instant provisioning, auto-scaling, plus security, compliance and identity management features.
They all have launched services and tools targeted at cutting edge technology areas like the Internet of Things (IoT) and serverless computing (Lambda for AWS, Functions with Azure and Google), while customers can build a mobile app and create a high performance computing environments. Interestingly, one of the most recent trends in Cloud has been in machine learning in the cloud computing arms race.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud service platform from Amazon, which provides services in different domains such as compute, storage, and delivery, as well as other functionality which help businesses scale and grow. AWS sells these as services which can be used to create and deploy applications in the cloud. All AWS services are designed to work together and produce a scalable and efficient solution. AWS offers the standard XaaS model including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). They launched in 2006 built on the backbone of Amazon’s business. AWS offers high-level computing, storage, networking and databases in addition to different options for networking, such as virtual private cloud (VPC), cloud CDN, cloud DNS, load balancing and other features. AWS has invested heavily in machine learning engine, video intelligence, speech, and others also utilize machine learning in AWS.
These cons tend to be outweighed by Amazon's strengths and organizations of all sizes around the world continue to use AWS for their workloads.
Azure is a cloud service platform launched by Microsoft in 2010. It provides services in compute, storage, database, networking, developer tools. Azure also provides the XaaS model including platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). All of these services can be used by developers to create, deploy and manage services and applications through the cloud. Azure has emerged fairly quickly as one of the largest and most successful cloud service providers. It offers integrated cloud services and functionalities including computing, networking, database, storage, mobile and web applications that seamlessly integrate with enterprise environments.
"While Microsoft Azure is an enterprise-ready platform, Gartner clients report that the service experience feels less enterprise-ready than they expected, given Microsoft's long history as an enterprise vendor," the researcher said. "Customers cite issues with technical support, documentation, training and breadth of the ISV partner ecosystem."
Google Cloud Platform is a cloud computing platform developed by Google and launched shortly after AWS in 2008. It was written in Java, C++, Python including Ruby. It also provides the XaaS model including platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) in addition to a Serverless platform. Google Cloud is categorized into different platforms including Google App Engine, Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud Datastore, Google Cloud Storage, Google Big Query (for analytics) and Google Cloud SQL. Google Cloud Platform offers high-level computing, storage, networking and databases. It also offers different options for networking, such as virtual private cloud, cloud CDN, cloud DNS, load balancing and other optional features. It also offers management of big data and Internet of things (IoT) workloads. Cloud machine learning engine, cloud video intelligence, cloud speech API, cloud Vision API and others also utilize machine learning in Google cloud. There are numerous options inside Google Cloud, which is most often used by developers, as opposed to line-of-business employees.
"Clients typically choose GCP as a secondary provider rather than a strategic provider, though GCP is increasingly chosen as a strategic alternative to AWS by customers whose businesses compete with Amazon, and that are more open-source-centric or DevOps-centric, and thus are less well-aligned to Microsoft Azure."
A common approach within the cloud community is to focus on helping to serve customer's hybrid and multi-cloud needs. This tends to apply where customers are deploying across multiple vendors' infrastructure and also need to maintain some applications on-premises. Vendors have built a range of solutions to help customers who aren't ready to jump all-in on public cloud just yet. This is very common with large enterprises.
Microsoft has been strong in hybrid with its Azure Stack. This provides customers with the hardware and software required to deploy Azure public cloud services from a local data center with a shared management portal, code and APIs for simple interoperability.
AWS began working the hybrid cloud world at re:invent in 2018 with the launch of Outposts, a fully managed service where the vendor delivers pre-configured racks to your premises, where AWS services can be run as though it were in their data center.
Google added a hybrid offering in 2019 with the release of Anthos, which brings together a combination of the existing Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), GKE On-Prem and the Anthos Config Management console. This promises unified administration, policies and security across hybrid Kubernetes deployments.
This is a high-level comparison of the three major cloud service leaders. Essentially, you can find the right solution for your workloads in computing, storage, networking and tools and will likely be happy no matter which you choose. Try not to get too caught up in the pricing models and be sure to understand what exactly you are seeking to accomplish and look at all of your options. These just happen to be the three largest in the marketplace.