THE CLOUD! One of the biggest buzzwords these days. Despite some skepticism around cloud solutions, it is undeniably one of the major trends in the IT landscape of the past decade. Surprisingly, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic only further accelerates this technology. In this blog, you will get an in-depth review of the notorious “Big Three” cloud providers; Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Let’s find out about their computing capability, storage, AI / machine learning ability, and pricing model!
Cloudy with a chance of innovation
So, do you have to be cloud to be good? Cloud solutions have gained a certain momentum to the point where IT systems running in the cloud are being perceived as better. Misconceptions like “Money is the key driver for moving to the cloud” or “Once I have moved to the cloud I can sit back and relax” could trouble your vision when it comes to planning IT strategies. Moving to the cloud, just because it is a trend or because you believe that it will make your business stronger, should not be your goal. Instead, use the cloud to HELP you reach your goals!
With your head in the clouds and feet on the ground
There are so many cloud providers, each with its own unique set of services. So how do you choose between them? Should you go with a hybrid solution (on-premise combined with cloud), or maybe a multi-cloud strategy (combination of multiple cloud providers)? Like many enterprise software and IT-related questions in general: It all depends…To guide you through this cloudy landscape, let us focus on the three major players; Amazon Web Services (AWS). Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). What follows is a comparison between them in different areas, such as offered services and pricing.
Cloud provider overview
Amazon Web Services
Being the first cloud provider offering infrastructure as a service, Amazon Web Services has been the leader in public cloud computing ever since. It has become a strong player in AI, machine learning, storage solutions, data analytics, and serverless computing. With over 175 services, AWS is by far the most complete public cloud vendor. Their services are divided between regions, availability zones, and edge locations. AWS now spans 77 availability zones within 24 geographic regions around the world and has announced plans for 15 more availability zones and 5 more regions in India, Indonesia, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland. Edge locations are zones that cache content nearer to the location of the user for faster response times. This type of infrastructure is why AWS scores high on availability, performance, and reliability.
As a strong number two, we have Microsoft Azure. It is no surprise that Azure integrates well with other Microsoft services such as Office 365 or Teams, making it attractive for companies that already rely on the Microsoft stack. Other strengths are big data and predictive analysis, DevOps, IoT integration, app development, and hybrid solutions. Azure is one of the easiest clouds when it comes to service configuration and operation, especially when compared to AWS. To build and run resilient applications, Azure uses a model like that of AWS, based on regions and availability zones.
Google Cloud Platform
Of the three biggest cloud vendors, Google Cloud Platform is the relatively new kid on the block. It has fewer regions and availability zones compared to the other two players but is trying to make up for that in other ways. Google stands out for its expertise around open-source technologies like Kubernetes and for its reputation on data management, AI, and machine learning.
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.
Cloud computation is all about high scalability, per-second billing, speed, and security. All three providers offer serverless compute capabilities, containerization, and virtualization.
We can categorize storage services in three areas:
- Backup service
3. Machine learning
4. Pricing model
Comparing the pricing models is like comparing apples and oranges. But there are some similarities. All three offer a free tier with limited options and they all charge on-demand for the resources you use. While AWS and Azure offer a pay-per-minute pricing, Google provides a pay-per-second billing option. Google really tries to stand out with their pricing model and offers provides nice discounts and incentives to gain market share. It is the most transparent and customer friendly, whereas AWS’s pricing model is the most complex. All three offer a cost calculator:
The final verdict
The things that all three platforms have in common are on-demand pricing, a free tier, great support, and an emphasis on security. All are brought to you by reputable companies that exemplify tech innovation. However, there are some important distinctions.
With an expansive list of tools and services, along with its enterprise-friendly features, AWS is a strong proposition for large organizations. Meanwhile, its huge and continuously growing infrastructure provides economies of scale that enable aggressive price cuts. It continues to be the clear market leader, but the gap is slowly closing.
It appears that Microsoft has started to bridge the gap between the two, and will continue to do so with its ongoing investment in building out the Azure cloud platform and further plans to strengthen ties with its on-premise software. Microsoft Azure is best suitable for organizations that are already heavily invested in Microsoft in terms of technology and developer skills.
Then there is Google, which could prove a more serious enterprise competitor under its new leadership. It was already making good progress with certain customers, especially with its Kubernetes and machine learning expertise, but has much more work to do to prove itself a viable enterprise option.
Choosing the right cloud platform can be tedious. With extensive experience using all of the three cloud providers, our experts can help you choose the right cloud solution for your project! In the meantime, you might want to check out one of our cutting-edge projects where we develop an IoT connectivity platform using AWS as the cloud provider.
This blog is written by Maarten Neyens – Software Engineer at Mediaan