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AWS vs. Azure vs. Google: Which One Puts You on Cloud 9?

Leslie Moran
06/16/2021
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Are you ready to take the plunge and move your company to the cloud? It’s a crowded market, dominated by companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google. But don’t be intimidated -- if you know what you’re looking for, moving to the cloud can make your business more adaptable and profitable.

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.

The total market is projected to be worth a total of $64.3 billion in 2021, up from $50.4 billion in 2021, according to research firm Gartner.

AWS was the early leader of this market, but Microsoft has gained ground under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, building a huge global cloud network of its own. A third giant, Google, has been busy with its public cloud services and IaaS business under the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). What differentiates the 'big three' cloud providers? And how can you start to decide which IaaS platform is best suited to your organization?

How Can you Tell One Cloud from Another?

Selecting one cloud vendor over the others will come down to your needs and workloads. It is often the case that organizations will use multiple providers within different parts of their operations, or for different use cases, which is called a multi-cloud approach.

Starting with AWS, the key strength for the market leader continues to be the breadth and depth of its services across compute, storage, database, analytics, networking, mobile, developer tools, management tools, IoT, security and enterprise applications.

Microsoft on the other hand tends to be a popular choice with C-level executives that have long-standing relationships with the vendor and know that they can get a great deal of their enterprise computing needs all in one place, from productivity and enterprise software all the way down to flexible cloud computing resources for their developers, with one hand to shake.

Meanwhile, Google is the upstart in this field, offering less depth and less mature offerings, but aims to help smaller but fast-growing organizations make the jump to the cloud.

All three vendors 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 tap either cloud to variously build 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. 

AWS

Key Customers:

US Central Intelligence Agency, Netflix, which shut all of its own data centers in 2016, and AstraZeneca, NewsCorp, AirBnB, Aon, Channel 4, Financial Times, Nasdaq, Nike and Pfizer.

Pros:

AWS had a head start on the competition, building out its suite of cloud services since 2006. All of these are 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. Its partner ecosystem and general product strategy are also seen as market leading, and its AWS Marketplace has a large number of third-party software services.

Cons:

AWS was slow to embrace a hybrid cloud strategy, where it has tended to be dismissive of the benefits of on-premise private clouds. It can also be difficult navigate the large number of features that are available.

Microsoft Azure

Key Customers:

Pearson, Ford, NBC News and Easyjet, and a recently announced $10 billion US Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract – known as JEDI.

Pros:

The big pull for Azure is where Microsoft already has a strong relationship within an organization and can easily play a role in helping those companies transition to the cloud. Azure naturally links well with key Microsoft on-premise systems such as Windows Server, System Center and Active Directory.

According to a survey of 100 senior IT executives by Goldman Sachs in January 2020, 56 said they preferred Azure versus 48 who opted for AWS. In addition, Microsoft has also become increasingly open to open source technologies, with around half of its workloads now running on Linux.

Cons:

Some customers have noted the increasing cost of support and availability of field solution architects. (This is where working with a Microsoft partner can be an advantage.)

Google Cloud Platform

Key Customers:

Spotify completed a migration to GCP in the summer of 2018. UK bank HSBC has also opted for Google Cloud.

Pros:

Google has a good track record with innovative cloud-software companies and has a solid standing in the open source community but has traditionally struggled to break into the enterprise market.

It has largely been focused on smaller, innovative projects at large organizations, rather than becoming a strategic cloud partner.

Cons:

Because it has lagged the other two, Google’s overall enterprise solutions is behind its competitors.

AWS continues to lead the way in terms of offering the widest range of functionality and maturity. But Microsoft has quickly bridged the gap between the two and will continue to do so with its ongoing investment in building out the Azure cloud platform and further plans to strengthen ties with its on-premise software. Google is making progress with many customers but has work to do to prove itself a viable enterprise option.

The Cost of the Cloud

Pricing can be a huge attraction for those considering a move to the cloud, and with good reason: there has been a continued downward trend on prices for some time now as the big providers compete. Of course, not all customers will pay the sticker price either, especially at the enterprise level.  The good news is that a partner is often able to offer you better pricing by mutual negotiation with the vendor and more direct customer support. 

If you’d like to learn more about moving to the cloud, hybrid cloud strategies and moving your Microsoft Office applications to O365, talk to the cloud experts at Elevity.

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