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AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud: what’s the right cloud platform for my business?

According to a Gartner forecast, the worldwide public cloud services market will grow from USD182.4 billion in 2018 to USD331.2 billion in 2022. In Southeast Asia, cloud computing revenue is forecasted to be at USD40.32 billion 2025, to be fuelled mainly the increasing demand for cloud computing among SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).

In the Philippine settings, a cloud adoption survey performed Asia Cloud Computing Association shows that the country is one of the few countries in Asia Pacific that is still at its nascent stages in terms of cloud adoption. And despite government initiatives such as the GovCloud project, which aims to provide a private cloud computing infrastructure for government agencies, our country still lacks basic ICT and interoperability infrastructures to support more widespread adoption.

However, amid the chaos caused the COVID-19 pandemic, business and government agencies alike have developed a deeper appreciation of cloud computing as a means to increase an organization’s disaster resilience and preparedness.

Amazon Web Services, or simply AWS, is cloud computing’s king of the hill. A research conducted Synergy Research Group in 2019 shows that AWS is a clear leader globally with a market share of 33 percent, followed Microsoft Azure at 16 percent, and Google Cloud Platform or GCP at 8 percent.

Despite this huge market share disparity, however, both Microsoft and Google are continuously proving that they are serious cloud contenders, with Microsoft recently winning a decade-long, USD 10 billion contract with the US military, and with Google ramping up its focus on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data as value propositions for customers.

And so, with AWS, Azure and GCP competing for cloud computing dominance, and with the three offering seemingly similar services and capabilities, the question now for us is: “Which one is best for me and my needs?”

Surely, the answer to this question is a complex, non-binary one. To at least help you in the decision-making process, we assess each one, evaluating them across key features in compute, storage, networking, multi-cloud flexibility, and pricing.

Amazon Web Services: Breadth and Depth

With over 175 services across the platform, AWS benefits from its first-mover advantage and has continuously increased the number of options for compute, storage, database, analytics, networking, mobile, developer tools, IoT and security.

For all-purpose compute requirements, AWS offers EC2 instances, which are easily configurable virtual machines. Services such as Elastic Beanstalk, EC2 Container Service, ECS for Kubernetes, AWS Lambda (server-less computing) and Autoscaling are also available as complementary solutions. In terms of storage, AWS supports both relational and non-relational requirements through its Amazon Relational Database Service and Amazon DynamoDB. Other storage options are also available for varying needs, such as Simple Storage (S3) for object storage, Elastic Block Storage (EBS) for raw, unformatted blocks, Elastic File System (EFS) for file management, and Glacier Archive Backup for achieving purposes. For organizations with multi-cloud requirements, AWS offers Outposts, a fully managed service where the vendor delivers pre-configured racks to its customers and enables running of AWS services on-premises.

Since 2017, AWS has shifted to seconds-based pricing for its EC2 and EBS services. This has made it inline with the pricing strategies of both Azure and GCP. For cost estimations, AWS provides a handy calculator here.

In terms of customers, AWS as a first-mover into the industry counts some of the biggest names its customers: Netflix has been a long-time customer, as well as the US CIA, NewsCorp, AirBnB and Nike.

All-in-all, AWS offers a mature, cloud computing platform that has served customers since 2006. It is the market leader, ranks highly on configuration options, monitoring and policy features, security and reliability. Pricing is also very flexible and competitive. One area for improvement it seems is its hybrid cloud strategy, where both Azure and GCP seems to be more ahead. Its breadth of offering also comes as a disadvantage, to some degree, as having too many options overwhelms users and makes the platform difficult to navigate and master. Lastly, Gartner also notes that certain enterprises that see Amazon as a competitor (due to its continuous expansion to other verticals and industry) will look at other options for their cloud computing options.

Microsoft Azure: The C-Suite Favorite

Comfortably in second place, driven the guidance of cloud-first CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft continues its dominance with enterprise customers. With long-standing C-suite relationships built through decades of Windows and Office use, the company offers a safe bet for organizations looking to dip their toes into the cloud. It also does not hurt that the company’s Office 365 and Microsoft Teams offerings are a curent favorite among enterprise customers.

Azure’s compute offerings are simply called Virtual Machines. Like AWS, it also has helper tools such as Cloud Services, Azure Autoscaling, and Resource Manager to aid customers in fully maximizing its VMs. For storage, Azure SQL Database and Azure DocumentDB are the company’s bestseller solutions for SQL and NoSQL requirements. Other offerings include its core Azure Storage Service, Azure Blob Block Storage, Table, Queue & File Storage, and Azure Backup.

For multi-cloud or hybrid requirements, Azure beats both AWS and GCP through its well-established Azure Stack offering. This provides customers with the hardware and software required to deploy Azure public cloud services from a local data centre with a shared management portal, code and APIs for simple interoperability.

And just like AWS, Azure offers an easy-to-use price calculator for would-be customers.

Speaking of customers, Microsoft Azure boasts (albeit unlike AWS) a reputable list of blue-chip customers such as Ford, NBC News, EasyJet, and the US Department of Defense.

Summing everything up, Microsoft Azure is very compelling most especially in organizations that already have a strong Microsoft install-base, with its natural compatibility to older Microsoft technologies a huge plus. This is proven a recent survey Goldman Sachs of 100 senior executives, wherein 56 percent say they prefer the Redmond giant versus AWS. Also working in Azure’s favor is the well-established, global enterprise salesforce that Microsoft has cultivated, nurtured and trained through the decades that can easily co-sell the platform alongside their other products. As a downside, however, Microsoft Azure has been recently perceived as less reliable in comparison to AWS. A recent major global outage in 2019 illustrates this point and has analysts from Gartner suggesting the movement of disaster recovery capabilities away from Azure in the meantime.

Google Cloud Platform: Artificial Intelligence & Open Source

Perhaps the hungriest and fiercest challenger in the group, Google offers a simple but very compelling value proposition: they are offering same infrastructure technologies that have powered the internet’s most popular applications such as Google Search, YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps at your fingertips. And with an army of the world’s brightest engineering talents, it also stands as one of the industry’s deep experts in using open source technologies at an enterprise scale.

Compute Engine is Google’s answer to the EC2 and Virtual Machine services of its competitors. These are quick-booting instances with persistent storage and high vCPU and vGPU configurability default. For storage, Google offers quite a range of SQL and NoSQL options, with Google Cloud SQL and Google BigTable to name a few.

For hybrid computing, GCP has recently launched Anthos in 2019, which brings together a combination of Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), GKE On-Prem, and the Anthos Config Management Console to integrate things.

Price-wise, customers may estimate their consumption costs easily through this calculator.

In terms of customers, Google Cloud Platform clearly has the least stellar of the Big Three, at least for now. GCP counts Spotify and HSBC as some of its big-name customers.

In conclusion, Google Cloud Platform or GCP has an outstanding reputation with cloud-native companies and their applications, not to mention the open-source community to which Google has contributed greatly. Its massive strength in big data and other analytics applications, and machine learning projects can not be denied, and despite both AWS and Azure offering similar solutions, GCP has emerged the winner in the AI department. GCP seems to have also been very effective in smaller, innovative projects within organizations, and playing a supporting role in the company’s strategic cloud roadmap is a recognized strategy the company as it tries to push its way up the cloud computing rankings. However, it is also noteworthy to state that Google needs to improve its enterprise capabilities and global footprint of data centers, if they it wishes to upend AWS and Azure in the near future.


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