AWS vs Azure vs Google: Cloud platforms compared

Amazon Web Services is the consensus leader of the IaaS public cloud computing market according to industry watchers, but they credit Microsoft for closing the gap with Azure and say Google with its Cloud Platform has made considerable strides as well.

Gartner says as much in its annual in-depth comparison of these three cloud players based on a list of 234 evaluation criteria. This criteria consists of features that are either required, preferred or optional for cloud providers to host enterprise workloads.

Three years ago, AWS was a clear leader, meeting 92% of what Gartner considers required criteria for enterprise-grade IaaS public cloud providers, whereas Microsoft was back at 75%. AWS held steady at 92% last year, but Microsoft jumped up to 88% and Google came in at a respectable 70%.

Gartner estimates the IaaS market stood at $25.3 billion in 2016, on its way to a $45 billion market by 2018. With more and more workloads going to the cloud, and the top vendors being as competitive as they’ve been, deciding on which provider to go with isn’t getting any easier. This handy guide will outline the pros and cons of each provider and deliver tips about which one to go with.

STEPHEN SAUER

Amazon Web Services

AWS is credited with creating the IaaS public cloud market with the launch of its Simple Storage Service in 2006 and because it was first to market, it got a head start on competitors. Today, Gartner says that AWS is the most mature provider and because of its breadth and depth of features it is the natural choice for the widest range of use cases.

AWS has built out a global footprint of 16 regions with 42 Availability Zones (each region has at least two AZs, which consist of one or more discrete data centers). Last year Gartner estimated that AWS has more compute capacity in its cloud than its competitors do combined. AWS boasts a plethora of features, from compute (Amazon EC2 virtual machines, EC2 Container Service, LightSail for virtual private servers, to the Lambda Serverless computing platform), storage (S3, Elastic Block Storage, low-cost archival Glacier) as well as databases (Aurora, a relational database, to Amazon RDS for MySQL, PostreSQL, Oracle, SQL Server, and the NoSQL database DynamoDB, among others).

It also has a range of networking, mobile application services, messaging, and business productivity tools, along with an Internet of Things platform, game developer products and desktop and application streaming services. In addition to this broad platform of products and services, AWS also has the largest marketplace of third-party cloud products and services.

Perhaps AWS’s biggest weakness is that it is a big platform, and a completely new model for most organizations that use it. It takes time to learn about how to best use AWS, and many times requires organizations to pay for experts to help them, either from AWS or a third-party consultancy. Simply lifting and shifting existing enterprise apps to AWS is not a natural process for many and it requires some rearchitecting.

Also, AWS’s granular pay-as-you-go pricing model has its advantages for short-term computing needs, but can be complicated and potentially expensive if used inefficiently. AWS offers a range of discounted pricing options, such as reserved and spot instances, but figuring out exactly how much of those to buy can be tricky.

From a technical standpoint, AWS is constantly innovating, which is a good thing for the industry, but can make it difficult for customers to keep up with all the changes. AWS also has some finicky rules about service-level agreements – for example workloads must be backed up across two Availability Zones to get credit for an SLA, and that can be an added cost. Despite all these challenges, AWS has emerged as the “safe choice” for using the cloud, Gartner says.