Updated: Aug 20
Comparing The 'Big Three' Providers For Your Business Needs
In recent years, cloud computing has become a popular and efficient way how businesses store, manage, and access data. But with so many cloud providers in the market today, it can be challenging to know which one is the best fit for your business needs. Let’s look at the three major players in cloud computing and learn how to choose the right provider for you.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Before diving into the specifics of different cloud providers, let’s understand what cloud computing is. In short, it’s a way of processing, managing, and storing data on remote servers over the Internet instead of on local hardware or computers, typically in local or self-provisioned data centers. This saves companies time and money since they don’t have to worry about purchasing or maintaining expensive hardware or software systems. Over the last decade, organizations looking to streamline their operations have shifted away from on-premise data centers and embraced cloud technology. By doing so, they can free up much-needed resources while still optimizing IT efficiency, increasing their overall valuation while speeding up time to value and time to market.
Who Are The Major Players
The cloud infrastructure market is fiercely competitive, with companies competing not only for dominance but also to become industry leaders. According to recent statistics from Synergy Research Group, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has consistently been at the forefront of the market's growth, with a reported 34% global market share.
Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud come in second and third place, accounting for
respectively 21% and 11% of worldwide cloud infrastructure revenues.
Q3 2022 saw impressive leaps in expenditure, amounting to an exceptional $57 billion worth of industry investments. This brings the aggregate twelve-month tally to an enormously lucrative $217 billion. Amazon, Microsoft, and Google accounted for two-thirds of the cloud
infrastructure revenues in the three months that ended Sept. 30, 2022, with the eight largest providers controlling more than 80 percent of the market.
The 'Big Three' - Amazon, Microsoft, and Google
Many cloud service providers are available today, but three of the most popular ones are AWS, Microsoft Azure, and GCP. Each provider has its strengths and weaknesses that make it suitable for different types of businesses. Let's delve into these in more detail.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Amazon Web Services (AWS) was one of the first cloud service providers in the market, launching in 2006. AWS offers a wide range of services designed to meet companies' storage, computing, networking, application development, database management, and analytics needs.
AWS's advantages include scalability, cost-effectiveness, and its wide range of features that make it easy for businesses to deploy applications quickly without worrying about managing hardware or software systems.
AWS is considered the most mature and reliable cloud service provider among the three popular ones - AWS, Microsoft Azure, and GCP. It offers many services and options ranging from networking to robotics. AWS is known for its gold standard in cloud reliability and security, with all major software vendors making their programs available on this platform.
However, newcomers may find it overwhelming due to the many services and options available. Dev/Enterprise support must be purchased separately. Additionally, AWS has comparatively limited options for hybrid cloud.
Originally launched in 2010 as Windows Azure, before being rebranded as Microsoft Azure, this cloud platform was initially designed primarily for Microsoft customers who want an integrated experience with their existing products such as Office 365 and Visual Studio Code. But in recent years, Windows Azure has been targeting the Open source community to expand beyond the typical MS TechStack.
Some advantages of using Azure include its ability to run Windows Server workloads natively without any additional setup or configuration and its support for hybrid architectures that allow customers to connect their private networks with public clouds like AWS or GCP.
Microsoft Azure is a good choice for companies already using Microsoft tools, as it offers easy integration and migrations for existing services. It provides many benefits, including best-in-class AI, ML, and analytics services. Compared to AWS and GCP, it is relatively cheaper for most services and has excellent support for hybrid cloud strategies (i.e., it is 5x cheaper to host Windows Server and SQL Server on Azure than on AWS.)
Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
Google entered the cloud space relatively late compared to other providers but has made up ground quickly since its launch in 2012. Google offers a wide range of services, including storage solutions and machine learning offerings such as TensorFlow and BigQuery analytics tools, allowing businesses to analyze large datasets efficiently and cost-effectively.
One advantage over their competitors is GCP’s pricing model, which charges customers based on usage rather than upfront costs; this makes it easier for businesses to budget their costs while still getting all the features they need.
Data Residency is an essential aspect of cloud computing, as it refers to the physical location where data is stored and processed. Organizations are increasingly concerned about data residency due to data privacy regulations, data sovereignty, and latency considerations. Among the three major cloud providers, Microsoft Azure boasts the most extensive coverage, with 60 regions and 116 availability zones spanning the globe. Additionally, Azure ensures the resilience of its services by maintaining a minimum of three separate availability zones in all availability zone-enabled regions.
On the other hand, Amazon Web Services (AWS) currently spans 99 Availability Zones within 31 geographic regions worldwide. AWS has announced plans for further expansion with 15 more Availability Zones and five more AWS Regions in Canada, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Thailand, increasing its reach to cater to its expanding customer base.
Meanwhile, Google Cloud offers a comprehensive network of 35 regions and 106 availability zones currently in operation, strategically located across the United States, Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific. With an eye on the future, Google will likely continue expanding its network to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for cloud services worldwide.
Regions And Availability Zones Among AWS/Azure/GCP
Service Offering and Differentiators
AWS, Azure, and GCP all provide a range of services to their customers. AWS has the most comprehensive offering, with over 200 different services tailored to developers and enterprise customers. Azure offers a similar number of services with a solid selection of services better suited to enterprise customers, while GCP, with close to 100 product offerings, is more suitable for developers and startups due to its smaller range.
Key Services Offered By AWS/Azure/GCP
Cloud providers AWS, Azure, and GCP all offer web consoles that are user-friendly and comprehensive, with documentation to help users get started. However, there is a difference between the three. AWS offers a wide range of services through its own comprehensive console, which can be overwhelming for beginners. On the other hand, Azure's web console is considered more intuitive and easier to use than AWS, featuring a streamlined interface and clear navigation. GCP takes this one step further by offering the most user-friendly web console out of the three providers, with a clean and simple interface that makes it easy for beginners to find what they need quickly. Cloud provider web consoles show that Azure and GCP provide an experience far easier to navigate than AWS’s offering.
Pricing models for cloud computing can be complex and intimidating, but understanding the differences between them is essential to make the best choice for any business. AWS is known for its wide range of products, but its pricing structure is multifaceted. Azure tends to have a more straightforward pricing model, providing discounts with long-term commitments to those with predictable workloads. GCP is widely considered the most cost-effective option, particularly if someone is willing to take advantage of its optimization tools. No matter how you look at it, it's important to understand each provider's pricing structure to come out ahead in the long term. Below is a breakdown of the different pricing models.
All three providers offer pre-pay options for their services. These options provide discounts for customers who commit to using a certain amount of resources over a fixed period of time. AWS offers a range of pre-pay options, including Reserved Instances and Savings Plans, which allow customers to commit to one or three-year terms and save up to 72% on compute costs. Azure offers a similar pre-pay option called Reserved VM Instances, which can save customers up to 72% on VM costs over one or three-year terms. GCP offers Committed Use Discounts, which provide up to 57% savings for customers who commit to using resources for a certain amount of time. Customers can select commitments ranging from one to three years and use their discounts across various services. Pre-pay options provide cost savings for businesses with predictable workloads and are an important consideration when choosing a cloud provider.
All three cloud providers offer pay-per-use billing options, which means you only pay for what you use. However, GCP stands out by providing a pay-per-second billing option, whereas AWS and Azure only offer pay-per-minute billing. This can benefit short-lived processing, dynamic workloads, cost predictability, and experimentation.
AWS offers the most affordable options for storage services, with its S3 storage starting at $0.023 per GB per month. Azure's Blob storage starts at $0.0184 per GB per month, while GCP's Cloud Storage starts at $0.020 per GB per month.
When it comes to database services, AWS offers the most affordable options, with its RDS starting at $0.0095 per hour for MySQL and PostgreSQL databases. Azure's SQL Database starts at $0.0115 per hour for basic databases, while GCP's Cloud SQL starts at $0.0157 per hour for MySQL and PostgreSQL databases.
AWS usually provides more cost-effective solutions across various categories than Azure (except for hosting MS SQL & Windows Servers) and GCP.
AI & ML
When it comes to AI and ML services, AWS, Azure, and GCP are the top cloud providers. AWS has the largest selection of services, with over 15 available for building, training, and deploying ML models. AWS SageMaker provides a managed platform with an extensive set of algorithms, making it a favorite for developers who want to use pre-built models.
Azure is well-known for its AI and machine learning strength, offering tools and services to support such applications. Azure's Cognitive Services provide pre-built AI models for vision, speech, and language. Azure ML Studio is a drag-and-drop workspace that simplifies building, training, and deploying ML models with its various features, like AutoML, which builds and tunes models automatically with high accuracy and cost-effectiveness.
GCP's AI and ML offerings focus on pre-built models and APIs to help developers create intelligent applications. Google's Cloud AI Platform provides machine learning services, including pre-trained models and a hosted version of TensorFlow. It also has APIs that developers can use to integrate features like image analysis, speech recognition, and language translation into their applications.
AWS provides the most extensive range of services, Azure is the choice for those who want to build and deploy custom ML models, and GCP offers pre-built models and APIs to add intelligent features to applications. Each provider has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice depends on specific needs and use cases.
AI / ML Services Offered By AWS/Azure/GCP
Internet of Things (IoT)
AWS, Azure, and GCP offer Internet of Things (IoT) services tailored to different user preferences.
AWS provides an extensive suite of tools for developers to create interconnected systems, with a comprehensive set of IoT services (i.e., AWS IoT Core, Greengrass, and IoT Analytics), allowing them to customize their deployments according to their needs. Still, its complexity and steep learning curve can make it daunting for beginners.
Azure IoT is designed to be much more user-friendly, featuring a streamlined interface geared toward ease of use. Azure optimized its own interface for ease of use and greater accessibility; Azure IoT Central is a fully managed SAS solution that allows beginners to quickly create and connect to their networks without prior cloud experience.
GCP focuses primarily on breaking down data sets and running machine learning algorithms - making it perfect for those who want to do more advanced data analysis.
GCP's highlighted strengths are data analytics, machine learning, and edge computing; its services include IoT Core, Cloud IoT Edge, and Cloud IoT Devices. Although Google’s services are beginner-friendly and intuitive, they lack the versatility of either AWS or Azure regarding development needs.
IoT Services offered By AWS/Azure/GCP
All three cloud providers, AWS, Azure, and GCP, provide a wide range of database services to meet any data storage and management requirement. For example, AWS offers purpose-built databases like relational, key-value, in-memory, wide column, graph, and document databases, while Azure has a service suite including fully managed relational and NoSQL databases such as Azure SQL Database, Cosmos DB, and Data Lake Storage.
On the other hand, GCP boasts its Cloud SQL, Cloud Spanner, Cloud Bigtable, and Cloud Datastore. As customers have a different focus on their specific requirements for data storage and management solutions, all three cloud providers provide robust scalability features and the flexibility that customers need when choosing from these comprehensive database offerings.
(SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc.)
Data Warehouse/ Data Lake
Database And Storage Offered By AWS/Azure/GCP
Low Code/No Code Services
Low code/no code services efficiently create and deploy applications without writing any code. All three major cloud providers - AWS, Azure, and GCP - provide customers with these services. AWS has a comprehensive collection of low code/no code solutions, such as AWS Honeycode, allowing customers to build applications quickly without programming. AWS App Runner and AWS CodeStar leverage prebuilt templates. Additionally, there is the Glue ETL service which helps customers extract, transform and load data for analytics.
Similarly, Azure has Logic Apps and Power Automate to help customers automate business processes and Azure Databricks, which lets anyone build machine learning models with no coding required. Customers interested in choosing GCP have only one option with Cloud Dataflow that enables quick data processing pipelines. However, regarding the sheer range of low code/no code options, both AWS and Azure are the clear winners.
When it comes down to deciding which cloud provider is best for you, it's essential to understand each provider's unique strengths and weaknesses. Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers reliable and robust services while having a global reach in its vast data network centers. Microsoft Azure specializes in leveraging AI and machine learning technologies. The company supports many tools and services and is well-suited for companies based on the MS tech stack. Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is open, flexible, and backed by an array of open-source tools allowing for various container services (i.e., Google created Kubernetes) and serverless computing services. Ultimately, each provider has its distinct features, and it is up to the company to carefully assess its needs and choose the most suitable platform. To that end, all three providers offer free or discounted trials in order to make a more informed decision about which cloud solution would be best for your business.
About the Author
Clinton Browne is a seasoned technology leader with over 28 years of experience in delivering innovative solutions and driving business growth. He holds an MBA in Technology Management, a B Tech Honors Degree in Information Technology, and a BSc in Business Information Technology, in addition to multiple certifications, including ITIL® (Expert), MCSD, and MCP. Clinton has held C-level leadership positions throughout his career across various sectors, including FinTech, start-ups, and multinational organizations.
Clinton is recognized for his expertise in cloud technology, application development, and Agile & DevOps methodologies, and is skilled in system design, ALM, CI/CD, SDLC & automation.
Clinton has a proven track record of delivering change, implementing best practices, coaching & mentoring, and has successfully completed over a hundred M&A due diligence projects for clients on both the buy-side and sell-side.
Contact Clinton at firstname.lastname@example.org