By Kelly Dent
With every year that passes, it becomes ever more apparent that migrating to the cloud is the only way for companies to truly compete and remain relevant in the long-term.
A growing number of businesses, from freshly-launched start-ups to Fortune 500 giants, are adopting cloud computing, meaning that CIOs and business owners alike are met with an overwhelming number of providers, features, products, services, hybrid solutions and training options to consider.
Similarly, IT professionals are looking at which products they should build their skillsets on to gain that competitive advantage in the job market, and rightly so.
According to Gartner’s estimations, the value of the worldwide public cloud service market will balloon to $331.2B by 2022; that’s a compound annual growth rate of 12.6%.
Any professional worth their salt will tell you that when it comes to identifying the kind of cloud services your business needs to operate at maximum efficiency, you can’t expect a one-size-fits-all solution.
Every organization has its own technological fingerprint; its own distinct set of requirements, goals, and operational nuances that need to be taken into consideration.
With that in mind, it’s worth remembering that the perfect fit for your business could actually be a hybrid approach; combining different products and services from a mix of leading vendors.
Let’s take a closer look at the top three top names in the industry: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
AWS jumped into the game early as the very first major cloud vendor in the space around 12 years ago, claiming an impressive 33% of market share and generating $1.4bn for Amazon in Q1 2018 alone.
The biggest strength AWS possesses is undoubtedly its maturity and dominance in the public cloud market, with its success and popularity linked to the sheer scale of its operation.
AWS boasts a huge, ever-growing range of products and services, and arguably the most comprehensive network of data centers the market currently has to offer.
Today, it stands tall as the most established and enterprise-ready vendor, offering perhaps the richest capabilities when it comes to overseeing a massive number of resources and users.
Gartner’s report on cloud IaaS vendors shows that AWS remains a clear leader in the market, dominating the cloud landscape and obviously benefitting from its early entrance into the cloud technology sphere.
Microsoft Azure is gaining ground as the preferred service of existing Microsoft customers, with Google’s offering entering the cloud battleground relatively recently as a ‘leader’.
While other formidable competitors such as Alibaba Cloud and Oracle Cloud have increased in popularity over the last few years, AWS remains a strong front runner in the cloud computing industry, with competitors Azure and Google Cloud carving out their own modest share of the market.
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|Extensive range of infrastructure applications||Range of infrastructure options can be overwhelming for more traditional enterprises|
|Highly flexible||Hybrid options available, but not a priority|
|Easy transition for users with existing digital infrastructure||Organizations operating on legacy systems may experience longer migration times|
|Frequently updated and maintained|
|Free tier available|
|Greater control over security|
|Cost-effective pricing model|
|Support for large enterprises|
Microsoft showed up on the cloud scene a little later than AWS, but certainly made up for it by adapting its existing on-premises offerings (e.g. Windows Server, Office, SQL Server, SharePoint, Dynamics, etc.) for the cloud.
Seven years since its initial launch, Azure is a strong competitor to AWS, providing businesses with a great range of features, robust open-source support, and straightforward integration with other Microsoft tools.
As a Microsoft product, Azure no doubt benefits from user familiarity with the brand, which creates an immediate preference for Azure among loyal Microsoft customers.
While Azure is indeed classed as an enterprise-ready platform, in its aforementioned Magic Quadrant report Gartner noted that many users feel that “the service experience feels less enterprise-ready than they expected, given Microsoft’s long history as an enterprise vendor”.
Users also cited issues with technical support, training, and DevOps support as some primary pain-points when using the provider.
|High availability||Requires considerable management|
|Strong focus on Security||Requires platform expertise|
|Scalability||More limited backward compatibility|
|Cost-effective||Comparatively more costly than other leading vendors|
|Strong IaaS and PaaS options||Additional charge for pay-as-you-go option|
|Support for open source||Customer service|
|Hybrid cloud||Less enterprise-ready|
As a latecomer to the cloud market, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) naturally offers a more limited range of services and doesn’t command the same global spread of data centers offered by AWS and Azure.
It does, however, give customers a highly-specialized service in three main streams: big data, machine learning, and analytics, with good scale and stable load balancing, as well as those famously low response times.
Google’s container offering provides users with a significant advantage as it developed the very Kubernetes standard now utilized by competitors AWS and Azure.
Customers tend to choose GCP as a secondary vendor in a hybrid solution, though it is becoming increasingly popular with organizations that are direct competitors with Amazon, and therefore cannot use AWS.
It’s important to note that GCP is very open-source- and DevOps-centric, and as a result does not integrate as well with Microsoft Azure.
|Excellent integration with other Google services||Majority of components based on Google proprietary tech; no real control over Virtual Machines|
|Fast I/O||Limited choice of programming languages|
|Strong data analytics and storage||Complex transition away from the platform to another vendor|
|Facilitates easy collaboration||Fewer features/services|
|Designed for cloud-native business||Fewer global data centers|
|Good portability and open source integration|
When it comes to choosing a cloud vendor, pricing structures are notoriously complex and somewhat difficult to digest.
This is primarily because there is no single way that providers bill customers; for example, AWS and GCP charge by the second, while Azure bills customers by the minute.
At a glance, this might not seem like much of a difference, however, that quickly changes when calculating the costs of deploying hundreds or thousands of virtual machines.
The fact that many vendors also offer discounts makes matters slightly more complicated—a point to bear in mind when taking a look at the side-by-side comparison below:
|Price per instance per hour*|
*Prices calculated according to vendors’ current on-demand pricing structure.
AWS is hailed for its top-quality security, utilizing the services of cybersecurity giant Fortinet for its Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) across the majority of availability zones on an on-demand basis.
Azure also works with Fortinet to provide optimized security services across its data and applications, minimizing security costs when it comes to migration, while GCP uses FortiGate Next-Generation Firewall for advanced security and firewalling.
|Authentication/Authorization||Identity and access management (IAM)||Active Directory/Active Directory Premium||Cloud IAM/ Cloud Identity-Aware proxy|
|Data encryption||Key management service||Storage service encryption|
|Firewall||Web application firewall||Application gateway|
|Identity Management||Cognito||Active directory B2C|
|Cloud services (with protection)||Shield||DDoS protection service|
Every cloud migration project is as unique as your own fingerprint and depends on your company’s specific needs, goals, industry, and resources.
In 2018 alone, more than 80% of large businesses went for a multi-cloud approach; 51% opted for a hybrid solution (combining public and private clouds).
When looking for the right cloud vendor for your enterprise, be sure to consider your particular requirements and workload, and remember that the answer could indeed lie in a combination of two or three cloud providers.
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