The Best Cloud Platform: A Comprehensive Critique
Amazon, Microsoft and Google dominate the public cloud landscape providing the safest, flexible and reliable cloud services. Their respective cloud platforms, AWS, Azure and GCP offer clients a range of storage, computing and networking options.
Some of the features common among the three platforms include instant provisioning, self-service, autoscaling, identity management, security and compliance among others.
Presently AWS can be considered to be much bigger than both Azure and GCP offering the widest range of functionality and maturity.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
A pioneer of cloud computing, Amazon has been the first entrant into the cloud services market over a decade ago and leads in terms of both the number of products and customers, with AWS considered to be the benchmark of cloud service quality.
AWS offers a range of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings that can be classified into compute, database, content delivery and storage, and networking.
AWS enables a smooth and flexible data collection flow using serverless services such as Amazon Kinesis Streams, Amazon SQS Queues and AWS Lambda Functions. It provides organizations with the option to choose the web application platform, operating system, database and programming languages, among others as per their requirement.
Cloud infrastructure resource usage can be monitored using AWS management tools such as AWS CloudTrail and Amazon CloudWatch for tracking user activity and AWS Config for managing the resource inventory and changes.
AWS contributes to significant enhancement in productivity and business growth of organizations. A few drawbacks of AWS include the complex infrastructure and default service limits which are set in accordance with average user needs.
Amazon data centers are the largest among the three cloud providers and are located in 9 regions across the world, including 3 in the US.
Microsoft Azure platform has been designed for building, deploying and managing various services and applications through the huge network of Microsoft managed data centers. Azure’s offerings include compute, networking, data management and databases and performance.
Azure Site Recovery enables organizations of all sizes to orchestrate site-to-site replication and data recovery to VMs hosted on Azure itself. Azure offers Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS) or data storage redundancy across multiple data center regions.
Azure ExpressRoute facilitates connectivity of the data center to Azure through a private link without using the Internet, thereby providing higher security, greater reliability and lower latency.
Azure also has extensive networking capabilities including support for multiple site-to-site connections to virtual networks, along with the ability to connect virtual networks across different regions to each other.
Azure has the lowest on-demand and discounted instance pricing. Specialist developers can write, test and deploy algorithms using the Azure Machine Learning Studio.
Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
With an intuitive interface, lower costs, preemptible instances and flexible compute options, GCP is an attractive alternative to both AWS and Azure. Google uses a full-scale encryption of all data and communication channels including the traffic between data centers.
Some of the areas where Google Cloud strongly competes with AWS include instance and payment configurability, privacy and traffic security, cost-efficiency, and Big Data and Machine Learning.
While all the three cloud providers offer discounts up to 75 percent for a commitment of one to three years, Google additionally offers a sustained use discount of up to 30 percent on each instance type running for more than 25 percent each month.
AWS’s 1-year-free trial has matched by GCP’s credit of $300 for 12 months along with a free tier that isn’t time-limited. GCP’s credits model is more suited for organizations newly venturing into cloud services.
Google offers several off-the-shelf APIs pertaining to computer vision, natural language processing and translation. Machine learning engineers can build models based on Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine’s open source TensorFlow deep learning library.
A Three-way Battle
The differences between the three major cloud services can be seen by evaluating them using different parameters such as compute, storage, databases, locations and documentation.
- Compute: AWS offers the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) that handles all compute services by managing virtual machines which have preconfigured settings and can also be configured by the users as required. On the other hand, Azure offers Virtual Machines and Virtual Machine scale sets while GCP provides the Google Compute Engine (GCE) which perform the same functions.
- Storage: Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) is the best option for storage with extensive documentation, tried and tested technology, proper community support. Microsoft Azure Storage and Google Cloud Storage also offer reliable storage services.
- Databases: Multiple tools and service options pertaining to databases are offered by all the major service providers. Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) supports major databases such as Oracle and PostgreSQL and manages everything from updating to patching. Azure SQL database offers SQL database handling features for Azure, while for GCP it is Cloud SQL.
- Location: AWS, Azure and GCP offer great coverage across the world and ensure peak application performance by having the least possible route to the intended customer base. While Amazon has 42 availability zones, Azure has a presence in 32 regions and Google in 33 countries, with newer regions being added regularly.
- Documentation: All three vendors offer high quality documentation though AWS is slightly ahead of Azure and GCP.
|Compute||Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)||Virtual Machines and Virtual Machine Scale Sets||Google Compute Engine (GCE)|
|Storage||Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service)||Microsoft Azure Storage||Google Cloud Storage|
|Databases||Relational Database Service (RDS)||Azure SQL database||Cloud SQL|
|Location||42 availability zones globally||Presence in 32 regions across the world||Presence in 33 countries|
|Documentation||Best in class||High quality||High quality|
|Pricing/ Discount Options||One-year free trial along with discount of up to 75% for a 1-3 year commitment||Up to 75% discount for a commitment ranging from one to three years||GCP Credit of $300 for 12 months apart from a sustained use discount of up to 30%|
AWS is the clear market leader among all the major public cloud providers in terms of enterprise adoption across various industries irrespective of the size of companies.
The RightScale 2018 survey covering around 1000 respondents shows that the percentage of organizations running applications on AWS stands at 68%.
Azure closely follows behind with an adoption rate of 48%, an increase of 15% since 2017.
The Selection Dilemma
The war for cloud supremacy is on between the Big Three. While a number of other players like IBM and Oracle have ventured into cloud services, they are still a long way off from cornering a significant share of the market.
Each of the three cloud platforms AWS, Azure and GCP are unique in their own way and offer a plethora of options for organizations to select from based on their specific requirements.
Whether AWS will retain its eminence or whether the others will catch up in the near future remains to be seen.