Just a few years ago, the majority of companies hosted their IT systems on-premises. Today, that dynamic is shifting as more and more organizations switch their operations to the cloud. In 2018 alone, the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market grew 31.3% totaling $32.4 billion, up from $24.7 billion in 2017.
To meet the growing demand for cloud services, three key players have emerged: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
Amazon was first on the scene in 2006 and has been a leader in the cloud services landscape ever since with a dominating 47.8% market share in 2018. But Microsoft and Google have made strides in recent years to compete and are continuing to close the gap with 15.5% and 4% market share in 2018, respectively.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
AWS is a popular choice for organizations large and small, including enterprise-level customers like Netflix, Airbnb, and Samsung. Because of its early foray into the IaaS and PaaS cloud markets, AWS is well-positioned as a leading cloud service provider compared to its nearest competitors who joined the industry a few years later.
As a result of this head start (and Amazon’s deep financial pockets), AWS has the largest cloud infrastructure and an impressive catalog of 175+ mature services for customers to choose from.
Amazon Web Services review
AWS has a large set of compute, storage, database, analytics, application, and deployment services to support organizations’ evolving and growing needs.
What you pay will depend on the services you need and how much you actually use. AWS uses a pay-as-you-go model that lets you decide exactly which services you want and charges you based on consumption (similar to utilities payments).
Pay-as-you-go gives businesses the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and scale operations without breaking the budget or missing capacity due to inaccurate forecasts. Use the AWS pricing calculators to estimate your costs based on your projected service needs.
AWS has a variety of storage options. You can pick and choose or combine services depending on your preference and needs.
A few key storage services include:
- Amazon S3: Scalable object storage in the cloud
- Amazon Glacier: Long-term, archived storage in the cloud
- AWS Storage Gateway: Hybrid storage integration
AWS has a strong portfolio of compute services to help you develop, deploy, run, and scale your applications and workload securely and effectively.
A few key compute services include:
- Amazon EC2: Create virtual servers hosted in the cloud
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk: Lets you run and manage web applications
- AWS Lambda: Allows you to run your code in response to events
It’s no surprise that AWS has a lot in its favor. Here are just a few advantages of AWS:
- Extensive, mature cloud service options that serve SMEs to large enterprises
- Unlimited server capacity
- Instant scalability
- Trusted vendor with reliable stability of services
- Training and certification resources
- Pay-per-use and pay-as-you-go pricing plans
AWS’s size and dominance in the cloud ecosystem make it a great choice for companies of all sizes, including enterprise-level customers who require extensive and reliable computing capabilities with the flexibility to scale.
Despite its dominance, there are potential disadvantages of AWS. Depending on your needs and priorities, the following cons could make a difference in your choice of cloud service provider:
- High learning curve
- Fewer (and less specialized in) hybrid cloud services
- Complex and potentially overwhelming number of options
- Price breakdowns can be complicated and billing can be confusing
Although the management dashboard is straightforward, AWS requires deep computing knowledge to effectively manipulate and leverage their menu of services. You may need to invest in dedicated IT support through AWS or in additional training and AWS certification for your in-house IT specialists.
Additionally, though AWS does have hybrid cloud services, they are not AWS’s core focus (but the company is working to improve their hybrid offerings). Companies that need to keep some of their systems on-premises (e.g., for compliance or security reasons) might not find the support they want.
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Despite AWS’s large market share, Azure is proving to be a worthy competitor. Azure boasts good scalability options, a strong security and compliance profile, and first-in-class interoperability.
Microsoft Azure review
Azure has a robust set of compute, application, and storage solutions to meet the needs of growing businesses of all sizes.
Similar to AWS, Azure offers both pay-as-you-go and reserve payment options. Azure also provides calculators to help you compare the costs of Azure cloud services to your on-premise infrastructure as well as cost management tools that help you:
- Monitor your cloud consumption and associated costs.
- Efficiently allocate cloud costs to the right projects and business units.
- Optimize your cloud usage by identifying and eliminating wasted resources with virtual machine right-sizing.
Azure also offers a free trial to demo their services and discover if they are the right fit.
One of Azure’s biggest strengths is its focus on quality enterprise-level hybrid cloud solutions. Their priority on interoperability makes them unique compared to other cloud service providers.
Their offerings include:
- Azure Arc: Lets you integrate and leverage Azure services on any infrastructure
- Azure Stack: Build and run hybrid applications across cloud boundaries for a seamless experience
- Security Center: Helps you unify your security management and protect your operations across hybrid cloud environments
Azure provides a range of hybrid connections to improve usability and performance, including virtual private networks (VPNs), content delivery networks (CDNs), and caches. Azure makes it easy to move between public and on-premise cloud environments with a reliable and consistent platform.
Azure has several products to help you access and manage your cloud compute capacity and scale on demand:
- Virtual Machines (VMs): Create and deploy Linux and Windows VMs in seconds.
- Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS): Easily deploy and manage containerized applications.
- SQL Server on Virtual Machines: Host your enterprise SQL Server apps in the cloud.
There are several advantages and benefits of Azure:
- Specialization in serving enterprise customers
- Focus on hybrid infrastructure solutions for optimal interoperability
- Intuitive transition for enterprises already using and familiar with Microsoft services
- Discounts for transitioning to Azure when you have existing Microsoft licenses
- Flexible pricing options with Azure pay-as-you-go or pre-paid “Reserved Instance”
Additionally, Azure has availability in 54 regions, representing a wider reach in global markets compared to AWS and GCP.
There are a few disadvantages of Azure when compared to AWS or GCP:
- Fewer service options compared to AWS
- No long-term data storage or retrieval options yet
- Data hosted globally so companies with data restrictions may need to work with Microsoft to verify proper compliance
Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
GCP is Google’s cloud services suite. GCP launched in 2011 and, like Azure, brings its own flavor to the cloud services industry. Though it trails both AWS and Azure in market share, GCP boasts high-profile customers of its own, including Spotify, Home Depot, and Best Buy.
Google Cloud Platform review
GCP offers over 90 cloud products to meet the diverse needs of their customers.
Google cloud has a flexible competitive pricing model compared to both AWS and Azure. GCP bills in second- and minute-level increments (minimum of 10 minutes), so you only pay for what you use.
Google also has a robust discount program that gives you discounted prices for long-running workloads. Plus there is no commitment required (unlike AWS, which requires pre-purchases of “reserve instances” to earn discounts).
This model makes GCP especially attractive for SMBs with smaller budgets and enterprise businesses who want to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
GCP offers a free trial as well as a free tier with no limits attached.
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GCP has a strong portfolio of computing solutions.
- App Engine: GCP’s PaaS that manages your applications. Services include auto-scaling and automatic system updates.
- Compute Engine: An IaaS solution that enables you to use virtual machines to build your application among other things.
- Kubernetes Engine (GKE): Part of Google’s container as a service offering. Container-based computing enables you to deploy applications quickly and easily in public, on-premise, or hybrid cloud environments.
Google specializes in big data services, which help you process and query big data in the cloud so you can get fast answers to complex questions.
- BigQuery: Conduct data analysis tasks like creating custom schemas, loading data from a variety of sources, and querying massive data sets.
- Cloud Dataflow: Perform batch and streaming data processing tasks through this managed service.
- AI Platform: Train machine learning models using TensorFlow applications so you can get predictions about new data.
GCPs primary strengths lie in machine learning, big data tools, and extensive container support.
Other GCP benefits include:
- Strong reputation with open-source community
- Flexible and affordable pricing model
- History of innovation in the tech world with an established computing reputation
- User-friendly interface
- Integrations with Python, Java, Ruby
GCP is a strong contender in the cloud services field. However, there are a few drawbacks and disadvantages when compared with other vendors:
- Documentation and customer support isn’t as robust as other services.
- Google traditionally focused on the consumer market, so enterprise customers may be reluctant to go with GCP.
- GCP offers fewer features and services than AWS and Azure.
Which cloud service is best for you?
Ultimately, which service provider you choose will depend on your needs and priorities. Between AWS, Azure, and GCP, you will have competitive pricing, storage capabilities, and overlapping features.
If you have a big workload and anticipate rapid growth and cloud service needs, AWS is a safe bet. If you aren’t ready (or can’t) migrate fully to the public cloud, Azure is a solid choice for hybrid cloud solutions. And if you are a cloud-native organization, have a tighter budget, or prioritize big data solutions, Google may suit you well.
Weigh your needs and budget and don’t be afraid to test out services through the free tiers and free trials. The right cloud provider will help you achieve your business objectives and optimize your operations. Choose wisely.
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