The market of cloud platforms is actively developing with each passing year. The last year’s Gartner research predicted the market growth of 28% with the estimated numbers of $39.5 billion by the end of 2022. Even though such spikes cannot pass unnoticed by IT companies and their boards of directors, many top managers are still wondering whether it is worth switching from local servers in the office to clouds. Our answer is definitely “Yes” because cloud platforms change the methods of managing techno/info resources and have some significant advantages over traditional solutions.
In order not to be unfounded, let us name a few obvious benefits. The effectiveness of cloud resources does not depend on computing systems and their geographical location, so there are minus two major factors to consider from the start. Also, modern cloud solutions come with advanced backup functionality that can be orchestrated on your demand, meaning that you don’t have to keep backup configuration in your office. Managing cloud resources can be automated with the integrated software up to a point, where it will be dynamically distributing resources requested by users.
Cloud computing changes the way of using available technological resources. Also, the consumption of resources and cloud service features is easily measurable and scalable. Plus, you only have to pay for the services you are actually using. Hence, the increasing popularity of cloud platforms. This market is already divided between three giants, but is there any space for alternative solutions? Let’s find out and compare.
Clash of the Titans: AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud
These three corporations are the biggest players and trendsetters in the cloud service industry. In terms of market share, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is on top with 32%. The company started to investigate the potential of the niche before others and managed to acquire an incredible number of loyal clients. Today AWS has multiple data centers across the globe: the US, Brazil, India, South Korea, France, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, and more. In addition to that, Amazon never stops experimenting with AI features and adds new services for their customers.
The silver medal in this competition belongs to Microsoft Azure. Despite that AWS had a good head start, Azure managed to cut 16% of the pie, and now there are no signs that the corporation is going to slow down the tempo. On the contrary, they are using all marketing techniques to increase the market share by offering exclusive deals and considerable discounts to partner companies that have Microsoft software. MS Azure dominates other platforms in terms of available regions – from NA to Australia and even Africa.
Google was last (from the mentioned trio) to join the race and presented the world its Cloud Platform in 2011. We must admit that their enthusiasm and impressive funding of operations has gotten them to the Top-3 list incredibly fast. Google Cloud has data centers in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Australia, a number of states in America, and several European countries as well (Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, etc.). The corporation is trying to attract new customers with mind-blowing discounts on their plans – the bigger your project is, the higher the discount you get. This tactic worked out pretty well for them: being a newcomer, Google already owns 10% of the market.
Besides the leaders mentioned above, there are lots of minor players that all together compile 42% of the market. According to the latest Gartner’s Research of Cloud Infrastructure, there are also three notable cloud solutions that too small to be leaders but perform well in their niches: IBM, Oracle, and Alibaba Cloud.
Now let’s dig a bit deeper and discover more details about each platform while trying to understand which one would be the best fit for your specific needs.
Amazon Web Services
Being the pioneer in the cloud industry (launched in 2006), AWS had absolute freedom to test and implement new solutions while accumulating their client base. As a result, the company has one-third of the market generating billions (over $25 billion in revenue, to be precise). The power of AWS comes from its dominance and matureness. Today AWS is available in 66 zones with the data centers evenly spread across Europe, North America, and Asia.
While we have to admit that Google and Microsoft have really stepped up in competition (and other niche players as well), AWS still remains a solid leader of the cloud computing industry. It is the choice of many established companies, including Netflix, Airbnb, Samsung, Unilever, and others.
You cannot remain on top for too long without innovating and providing new services/features. Amazon understands that and always strives to deliver new technology to boost customers’ interest in the platform. AWS today is probably the best all-round solution for large enterprises with big numbers of employees and resources. Outstanding flexibility comes from the variety of services such as Amazon SNS (cross-platform user notification tool), Amazon Elastic Beanstalk (free developers from infrastructure maintenance routines), Amazon AutoScaling, and others. Here is a comprehensive list of their services:
- Wide range of applications and services
- Great flexibility
- Made easy to transfer users that already have a digital infrastructure
- Regular updates and maintenance
- Multiple security control levels
- High scalability
- Quick deployment
- Optimized for large enterprises
- Best price for basic apps
- An abundance of infrastructure options that are not frequently used by traditional enterprises
- Undeveloped hybrid options (available in some form but not prioritized by the company)
- Paid technical support
Microsoft rolled out its solution four years after Amazon (in 2010), but it came out prepared to take on competition all guns blazing. The software giant made a bet on adapting its existing programs and services (such as MS Office, SharePoint, Windows and SQL server, etc.) for the cloud. And it is safe to say that this strategy worked just fine yielding 16% of the market for the company. The service is available in an impressive 54 regions across the planet and 140 countries. Major clients of Microsoft’s platform are Fujitsu, HP, Apple, Polycom, and others.
Microsoft is definitely not planning to slow down the pace aiming to overthrow the industry king, AWS. Being a formidable competitor to Amazon, Azure offers a variety of features, solid open-source support, and generous offers for partners. If you have a Microsoft Gold Certified partner developing your app, the Azure cloud would be the best (and economically efficient) way to go. Straightforward integration with MS tools and the brand popularity adds lots of points to the service’s score. Here is what Azure can get you today:
- Better availability
- Strong security
- Great scalability
- Cost-effective for MS partners
- Best price for standard apps
- Powerful IaaS/PaaS options
- Open-source support
- More hybrid cloud options
- Needs substantial management
- Requires expertise with the platform and time to learn
- Backward compatibility could be better
- Costs more than competitors
Being new to the market of cloud solutions, Google had to face a series of challenges (limited availability, fewer services to provide, etc.). However, it did not stop the corporation from expanding and turning into one of the industry leaders. Moreover, Google Cloud Platform shows better growth rates than Azure – 83% vs. 75% (while AWS shows early signs of potential slow down with the growth rate of 41%).
Google Cloud Platform today specializes in three main departments: machine learning, business analytics, and big data. The service offers good scalability, steady load balancing, and low response times. Also, keep in mind that it was Google who created the Kubernetes standard, which is now used by AWS and Azure.
According to Google’s statistics, in the beginning, GCP was viewed only as a secondary hybrid solution, but over time more companies realized the potential of the platform that has the same infrastructure as Google Search. Today the list of GCP clients includes lots of big names such as Bloomberg, PayPal, Dominos, 20th Century Fox, and more. All these organizations take full advantage over the following Google’s services:
- Ready for integration with any Google services
- Quick input/output
- Strong business analytics
- Best solution for cloud-native projects
- Designed for cloud-native business
- Great portability
- Open-source integration
- Best price for advanced apps
- Most of the components use Google proprietary technology
- Poor variety of available programming languages to use
- Hard to migrate to another provider after using the platform
- Fewer data centers
For maximum convenience, we decided to compare finalized monthly totals for building basic applications (concurrent usage up to 1k users), standard (up to 10k users), and advanced (up to 1M users) cloud apps. For basic applications, we calculated the combined price of the app engine, relational DB, and file storage. For standard apps, also added CDN (500GB), more CPUs (up to 4), and increased Relational DB to 250GB.
The advanced app package for our calculations is more lavish and includes the following:
- App Engine (5 instances): 4vCPU, 8GB RAM
- High-performance relational DB: 1TB.
- File storage: 1TB (100M requests).
- CDN (3 zones): 3TB.
- Standard tier cache: 6TB.
- Load balancer: 50TB I/O.
As we see, the price difference is rather negligible in the first category between all three. It is just a question of four dollars per month between AWS and GCP, and a mere five dollars separate GCP and Azure. If you don’t need Google services integration and if you are not planning to settle in a very distant region (where other providers might not be available), just go for AWS.
When it comes to standard apps, the gap widens. Google’s offer seems to be far too expensive, asking more than $149 in comparison with Azure, who is a clear winner in this segment. However, if you are looking forward to advanced apps, then GCP is your “go-to” choice with a $586 economy over Azure. The gap between AWS and Google is almost three times smaller ($200) but still considerable.
Quick Service Comparison of Other Cloud Solutions
There are three notable cloud providers worth mentioning here: IBM, Oracle, and Alibaba Cloud. As we said in the beginning, Gartner’s research views them as niche players with the potential to grow bigger in perspective. Due to this fact, we will briefly talk about these clouds as some of our readers might find them useful for their particular needs.
This platform provides an experience equal to standard workstations but with access to files and resources from any part of the world where stable internet connection is available. IBM Cloud features multiple anti-theft functions as well as mechanisms that prevent content loss.
For graphics-intensive apps, IBM offers a GPU technology that accelerates access to the required materials while also providing functions for scaling computing and storage options hosted in different data centers. All in all, a good alternative for bigger enterprises looking for ways to save funds on their workstation’s maintenance (paying only for the resources used).
Oracle Cloud Platform
Oracle Cloud comes with a wide array of options, including PaaS (platform as a service), IaaS (infrastructure as a service), and DaaS (data as a service) solutions. All Oracle systems can be organized in Private/Public Environments. The company is constantly looking for ways to expand its range of cloud services. One of the latest additions to the list is Oracle’s Object Storage that contains all your unstructured data that can be used for building applications. For direct backups and monitoring, the platform offers Oracle Database Backup.
Oracle is all about flexibility and operational expertise but is certainly not enough when competing with giants like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
Alibaba Cloud is a rather small provider with 20 data centers around the world and 61 availability zones. Originating from the East, there is no wonder why it mostly focuses on China Mainland and proudly wears the crown of the industry leader there (almost 50% of Alibaba’s data centers are located in this country).
This provider can boast of ultra-fast sorting capabilities and smooth server performance. But the lack of features does not allow the service to grow beyond current limits. Why would someone outside of China want to use it while there are competitors that offer more? The only logical answer would be reasonable pricing, but it is hardly enough to give it a go.
Main Factors to Consider While Choosing a Cloud Platform
From our standpoint, there are three main factors that define which service you will end up using for your business. We see them all equally important, but hierarchical order still prevails:
- Data centers coverage
- Available services
Yes, it simply comes down to these three. The very first thing you should check is availability zones and data center coverage. When you are aiming at a certain region and see that only Azure, for example, is available there – no need to waste time on other details.
However, when you’re preparing to launch in a crowded zone in Europe or the US, where all cloud platforms are ready to get down to business, then you need to compare the services. Depending on the project, some of them will have a higher priority, so start deducing what means most for you. Focusing on machine learning and big data? No one does it better than Google. Want an all-round platform for basic apps? Check AWS.
Not all companies can afford the best solutions. Also, “best” in many instances is not a synonym to “cost-effective,” so you must adapt. Choose a provider depending on the scale of your project and its specific features. We mentioned this in the pricing comparison section and determined what platforms should be used for creating basic/standard/advanced apps when location and available services do not really matter.
Here is a quick reminder of the main strengths of each cloud service: