A comparison of public cloud providers: AWS, Azure, and Google (Part 2)

01-03-2018

Public cloud and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions are key to digital business success nowadays. On an enterprise level, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform are the industry-leading solutions. 
In the first part of this post, we focused on AWS. Now, we're moving on to Azure and Google. We'll explain the differences between the solutions and look at which solution is the best fit for which type of company.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is the second largest Public Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) according to Gartner. Microsoft Azure was launched in 2010 as a cloud-based development platform and Platform-as-a-Since (PaaS) but entered the IaaS market a few years later. Microsoft has also transformed from a perpetual license selling organization releasing software yearly to a cloud provider launching new innovative services and features monthly in their cloud platforms. Each year they are closing in on the head start that AWS got, as can be seen in Gartner’s Magic quadrants.

Microsoft has chosen another strategy than AWS when it comes to building out their global presence and made enormous investments in building their hyper scale data centers in a larger number of locations and are as of today available in 36 regions and 6 more announced. In selected regions Microsoft is now investing in Availability Zones and can today be used as a preview service.

Azure has often been chosen as the strategic cloud solution by customers who focus on Microsoft technologies or have a good fit with their cloud strategy which spans IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and the hybrid strategy including Azure Stack. However since 2014 when Microsoft made a strategic shift towards the open source community, Linux is now a first class citizen in Azure and  several PaaS services uses open source (e.g. Hadoop, Kubernetes, Spark).

Enterprises are still the primary focus for Microsoft even though they are reaching out to startups. This is seen through their large local customer teams in all countries, their focus on compliance, [NÅ1] certifications, security and hybrid strategy. With their push in the market we also start to see large enterprises moving their mission critical systems or creating hybrid cloud strategies with Azure.

The speed of innovation in the cloud has a cost, and this cost has been seen in slow support, lack of documentation, training and a slow partner eco system. These issues have been actively addressed and improvements are being done continuously.

Google Cloud Platform 

In 2011, Google joined the swathes of providers venturing into the cloud market with its PaaS solutions. Since then, it has also added IaaS services to its portfolio. The Google Cloud Platform now offers all the core functions required for enterprise workloads, and Gartner even rates the company as a leader in the fields of application containers, big data management, and machine learning. Google's open-source, platform-independent machine learning platform is a unique feature of its portfolio.

Google has added SaaS solutions to its IaaS and PaaS portfolio, including productivity tools that incorporate traditional Office components. Google does not offer any discounts for these tools via enterprise agreements, but instead employs its own program in which customers pay less for each software unit the more they use the cloud platform.

The company's regional presence is often cited as a limiting factor, but Google is currently expanding its international decentral data center capacity. The other enterprise functions, such as the role-based access controls and user management tools, are, according to Gartner, also ripe for expansion. Google is working on a solution and is expected to have gained ground on AWS and Azure by the time the next Gartner analysis is conducted.

Which cloud provider for which type of company?

The analyses and comparisons highlight differences, individual strengths, and potential areas for expansion. With all these factors to consider, companies seldom choose to put all their eggs in one basket by partnering with a single cloud provider. According to Gartner's findings, most opt for a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy. Depending on the application area, companies use services from at least two, and sometimes even all three leading public cloud providers.

With this in mind, we recommend that companies develop their own assessment criteria based on their own application scenarios – then use their assessments to decide which public cloud provider is the best fit for their organization. One of the challenges is the many technology choices one has to make when implementing a service or creating an application. Unclear guidance on when to use what makes it harder and more complex to pick the right implementation.

If a hybrid or multi-cloud solution is on the table, it is a good idea to obtain external expert advice. At least for the time being, it is unlikely that a single provider will be able to satisfy all the requirements of a company.

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