The rise in use of cloud computing has emerged like a key driving force for enterprises today, as applications get shifted from traditional data centre in a bid to cut costs, innovate and increase agility.
Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a facility where a third-party provider hosts and maintains core infrastructure, including hardware, software, servers and storage on behalf of a customer. This majorly includes application hosting in a more scalable environment, where customers gets charged only for the infrastructure they use.
Foremost security concerns and data sovereignty were hugely addressed by the 'big three' public cloud vendors – Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform - with only a few highly managed businesses continue to take the steps carefully when it calls for adopting the cloud services. This scenario incites a crowded IaaS market, estimated to reach a mark of $50 billion in 2020, from $39.1 billion in 2019, according to a latest research. Moreover the market majorly dominated by AWS since day one, when it entered the sector in 2006. Now, AWS is a global market leader for public IaaS and PaaS with 33 percent share, followed by Microsoft at 16 percent, Google at 8 percent and Alibaba at 5 percent.
Although AWS dominated, Microsoft successfully gained its place in the leadership of "cloud first", developing a huge global cloud network of its own. Then there is global internet giant Google, majorly offering its public cloud services and IaaS business under the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). There’s a huge competition going on in cloud computing vertical from past 12 months, however real difference between the cloud service providers in terms of the deals for winning the market is getting visible now.
Well then, move ahead and find key difference between these American 'big three' cloud providers so you start to decide which IaaS platform is best suited to your organization:
Choosing one cloud vendor from a list of available options definitely comes down to the specific requirements of each customer and workloads they are running. It’s often that organizations utilize different providers within multiple parts of their operations, or for different use cases, that’s called a multi-cloud approach. Moreover, there are several key differentiating factors distinguishing the approach of three firms, which can be helpful for end users considering that’s right for them.
To start with AWS, assets of the market leader continues to the defining its services with 176+ compute, storage, database, analytics, networking, mobile, developer tools, management tools, IoT, security and enterprise applications at last count.
As market leader, AWS often precedes on developer functionality, due to its ranging services as the first move advantage. AWS has performed well by done a good job by changing their scale for the benefits for customer, although cloud can be cost prohibitive sometimes. A challenge is pricing on AWS, where numerous companies cannot fully understand the metrics and its impact on architectural decisions along with the costs for supporting some services.
Microsoft is been a popular choice of C-level executives having sustainable relationships with vendors, being completely aware about the consumable deal of every enterprise computing needs - productivity and enterprise software to flexible cloud computing resources for developers. Microsoft has been a huge competition to AWS, due to its combination of Azure, Office 365 and Teams. All these leading vendors have a strong background in machine learning because of internal research and development expertise. Here Google stands apart as customers prefer selecting the precision that has been the driving force behind the search giant’s unprecedented scale over the past couple of decades. Google is renowned for its deep expertise in open source technologies; especially containers. The company has also heavily embraced open source and its culture of innovation lends itself to customers who prioritize these areas above all in the digital transformation. The organizations seeking good AI and machine learning capabilities, along with translate, search, and security have been gravitating towards Google Cloud Platform. Also the arrival has put a product and roadmap discipline in place that aligns better with the needs of enterprises. This also sparkled the opportunity for more competition in the cloud duopoly of Azure and AWS.
Features and services
At core AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform provides basic capabilities around flexible compute, storage and networking - sharing important elements of a public cloud: self-service and instant provisioning, autoscaling, security, compliance and identity management features. These three vendors launched services and tools compatible with cutting edge technology areas like the Internet of Things (IoT) and robust computing (Functions with Azure and Google, Lambda for AWS) while customers can either select cloud for building a mobile app or even create a high performance computing environment depending on their needs. Machine learning has also been a booming area in the great cloud computing arms race as of late.
AWS launched SageMaker in 2017 as simplified option to adopt machine learning for bringing a hosted environment with a built-in model management, automated spin up of training environments using EC2 instances, and HTTPS endpoints for hosting capabilities with Amazon S3. Also the vendor has enabled a set of the off-shelf machine learning services for use cases like image recognition, text to speech deep learning models and the engine powering Alexa.
Azures’ Machine Learning offers the facility for developers to write, test and deploy algorithms, as well as access a marketplace for off-the-shelf APIs. Whereas Google provides a one-stop-shop AI platform, helping the machine learning engineers to build and deploy models based on its popular open source TensorFlow deep learning library. Finally for UK customers worried about data sovereignty, AWS launched its UK region with Microsoft and Google quickly following suit.
Compute, storage, databases and networking
For compute, AWS' offered its EC2 instances that’s tailored with a huge number of options providing services like Elastic Beanstalk for app deployment, ECS for Kubernetes (EKS), AWS Lambda and Autoscaling, EC2 Container service. Moreover, Azure's compute is focused around Virtual Machines with tools like Cloud Services and Resource Manager for deploying applications on the cloud, and its Azure Autoscaling service. Google's scalable Compute Engine delivers VMs in Google's data centers. All these are quick to boot, equipped by persistent disk storage, consistent performance and highly customizable facility depends on the requirement of the customer. Also these 3 providers support relational databases –Azure SQL Database, Amazon Relational Database Service, Redshift and Google Cloud SQL – NoSQL databases with Azure DocumentDB, Amazon DynamoDB and Google Bigtable.
AWS storage also includes Elastic Block Storage (EBS), Simple Storage (S3), Elastic File System (EFS), Import/Export large volume data transfer service, Glacier archive backup and Storage Gateway, which integrates with on-premise environments. Microsoft provides core Azure Storage service, Azure Blob block storage, Table, Queue and File storage. It also offers Site Recovery, Import Export and Azure Backup.
Another emerging trend between the hyper-scale public cloud providers in the past year has been increasing focus on serving customer's hybrid and multi-cloud needs. This leads to a robust application for customers looking to get it deployed across multiple vendors' infrastructure and maintain applications on-premise. Vendors provided a range of solutions to serve customers not looking to jump all-in on public cloud just yet, which is of course the majority of large enterprises. Microsoft started long ago for hybrid deployments with its well-established Azure Stack offering customers with hardware and software for deploying Azure cloud services from a local data centre with a shared management portal, code and APIs for simple interoperability.
Google entered the scenario of hybrid in 2019 with the release of Anthos, combination of the existing Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), GKE On-Prem and the Anthos Config Management console. It offers unified administration, policies and security across hybrid Kubernetes deployments. Several companies look to train the people once on a set of technology that they can deploy anywhere. Today Azure Stack on-premise and on the cloud, Amazon will say you can run Outposts on-premise and in the AWS cloud. They are fine companies, but they're not solving the multi-cloud problem.
Pricing is a huge factor for anyone considering a move towards the cloud, and with good reason: there’s been a continual reduction in prices for some time now as the big providers compete. In basic terms, prices gets comparable, especially when AWS shifted from by-the-hour to by-the-second pricing for its EC2 and EBS services, bringing it into line with Azure and Google. But making a clear comparison can be difficult as all three offer vivid pricing models, and discounts.
A high-profile user base can be useful for more cautious organisations understand how the public cloud is beneficial. This is a strong point of AWS since it has increasingly taken on large customer deals. A renowned AWS customer is Netflix, which eventually decided to move on the cloud in 2016. Apart from web pioneers, AWS has been truly successful in convincing more traditional businesses to move to the cloud. Other customers include: NewsCorp, AirBnB, AstraZeneca, Aon, Dow Jones, Kurt Geiger, Channel 4, Financial Times, Lonely Planet, Nasdaq, Nike, Nisa Retail, Pfizer, and the Royal Opera House.
Now Microsoft has a few Azure users with majority of messaging from the vendor appearing to be around with a widely used software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool. Microsoft's biggest deal for $10 billion with US Department of Defence (DoD) Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure JEDI is still disputed by AWS.
Google hasn't had the same level of enterprise success so far, but has gained some key wins in past few years, especially Spotify in 2018. Also HSBC joined Google Cloud for its analytics and machine learning capabilities. However, HSBC is taking a clear multi-cloud approach, partnering with all three providers for different workloads.
Pros and cons
AWS has been a leader of competition building out its suite of cloud services since 2006. Its built to be enterprise-friendly so that they will appeal to CIOs as well as its core audience of developers. The vendor ranks highly on platform configuration options, monitoring and policy features, security and reliability. Enterprises using AWS benefit from the early adopters, which help to push new technologies into the mainstream, not risking such services and making them easier to consume and manage as a result.
However, AWS falls short to some extent due to its hybrid cloud strategy; another downside to AWS is the scale of its offering. While having these options to pick from is attractive, it can also be difficult navigate the large numbers of features that are on offer, and some see AWS as being a complex vendor to manage. The parental company continues to expand and compete in a growing array of industries, such as healthcare and financial services.
Azure is naturally linked with key Microsoft systems like Windows Server, System Center and Active Directory. Enterprises strategically committed to Microsoft technology prefer choosing Azure as their primary IaaS+PaaS provider. Again Microsoft is capitalizing its tremendous sales reach and ability to co-sell Azure with other Microsoft products and services in order to drive adoption. Enterprises frequently criticized the quality of Microsoft technical support with the increasing cost of support and field solution architects. This also affects the customer satisfaction scenario and slows Azure adoption and therefore customer spending.
Google Cloud Platform
Google is ranked higher with a good track record of innovative cloud-native procedure with a solid standing in open source community, but it traditionally struggled to break into the enterprise market. Google Cloud has strengths in big data and other analytics applications, machine learning projects, cloud-native applications, or other applications optimized for cloud-native operations. The market strategy of Google has been focused on proving itself in smaller, innovative projects at large organizations, rather than becoming a strategic cloud partner.
Google have a clear vision of customer offering in a number of industries who are going through digital transformation. They wanted to provide businesses a global scale, distributed, secure infrastructure; a digital transformation platform that helps people to built innovative digital transformation solutions. This can also be attributed to its nascent focus on the enterprise market. It is worth noting that Google has the smallest footprint of global instances of the big three and also has no presence in one of the world's biggest markets: China. AWS and Azure on the other hand have regions in mainland China, which are owned and operated by Chinese third-party partners Beijing Sinnet Technology, NWDC and 21Vianet, respectively.
Conclusively, AWS is a leader in terms of offering the widest range of functionality and maturity, however the gap is closing. Its expansive tools and services with enterprise-friendly features make it a strong partner for large organizations. Meanwhile its continuously growing infrastructure provides scale economies aggressive price cuts.
However Microsoft has initiated the process of bridging the gaps and will continue it with its ongoing investment in building and strengthen the Azure cloud platform with its on-premise software. Organizations already investing in Microsoft’s technology and skill development programs – Microsoft Azure will continue to be a strong proposition.
Then there is Google, which could prove a more serious enterprise competitor under its new leadership. It was already making good progress with certain customers, especially with its Kubernetes and machine learning expertise, but has much more work to do to prove itself a viable enterprise option.
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