In the US cloud market, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are the top three vendors, with AWS having a commanding lead in first place. The three companies compete in an array of industries and sectors, with each one occasionally taking a major contract away from the other.
For the developer, however, having an understanding of what makes each platform unique can be a big step toward deciding which one to specialize in and become certified for.
AWS: The Market Leader
As stated, AWS is the current market leader, having been in the lead for years. That experience and maturity translate into one of the most comprehensive cloud platforms for customers.
As a result, AWS is often seen as having the most well-rounded and capable tools and services, a reputation that has some merit. The company’s platform is also heavily used by the US government, with AWS being the first company to achieve Impact Level 6 security clearance, allowing it to store sensitive government data in the cloud. Microsoft has since been certified but, again, AWS was the first.
AWS also has the largest partner ecosystem, in large part as a result of its long history in the market. This can be a boon for developers and companies looking to integrate other services. In fact, according to a report by Accenture, AWS was seen as the most developer-friendly cloud platform.
In addition, AWS has the largest global footprint of any of the major cloud vendors. This can be a big factor for an international company.
That much power and ability doesn’t come without a cost, however. In particular, AWS is not always the best option for hybrid cloud computing, where a company needs to marry its private cloud service with a public cloud platform. AWS has been ramping up its hybrid cloud offerings, but that has largely been to better compete with rivals who have focused on hybrid options.
AWS is also notorious for its complex pricing structure. In fact, some experts recommend using a third-party analysis tool just to figure out how much an AWS deployment will cost.
Microsoft comes in second place with its Azure cloud platform. Essentially, Microsoft took all the applications and services they rely on internally and made them available as cloud-based solutions.
In spite of AWS’ market-leading position, Azure has been making strong headway, especially among companies that are already heavily invested in Microsoft’s ecosystem. As a result, developers and system admins who are already well-versed in Microsoft’s products will likely feel at home in Azure much faster than AWS.
Another significant, albeit intangible, benefit of Microsoft Azure is the fact that it doesn’t compete with large sections of its own client base as much as AWS. Because AWS is part of Amazon, there are a number of industries that don’t feel comfortable relying on it to power their business. Retail is a prime example. As a result, Microsoft has been making increasing headway in these industries, positioning itself as a partner rather than a competitor.
While Azure’s licensing can often be just as complicated as AWS, companies that already have Microsoft licenses can apply those toward their Azure setup. This results in a solution that can be substantially cheaper than AWS.
At the same time, Azure’s Windows-centric focus can be a downfall for companies that rely on other platforms. While Microsoft does support them, ultimately, Azure’s true power lies in its focus on Windows, and non-Windows shops may find themselves limited.
Currently in third place in the cloud market, Google is nonetheless growing in popularity.
One of Google’s biggest advantages is its emphasis on open-source software. In addition, Google is seen as a strong option for big data and machine learning efforts. According to the report by Accenture, many developers view Google Cloud as being the most innovative of the three.
As one would expect, Google Cloud also integrates with corporate G Suite accounts. This can be a big help to small businesses and startups already relying on G Suite.
Google also has decent pricing options, especially for small businesses and startups. This is likely motivated by the company’s desire to gain market share as quickly as possible, but customers are certainly the beneficiaries.
At the same time, as the third cloud provider, Google doesn’t currently have the same degree of polish or global reach as its two bigger rivals. In some respects, parts of Google Cloud seem experimental, almost as if it were still a startup itself. This is to be expected with a company trying to gain as much ground as Google is, but can be unsettling for developers or companies looking for a more “blue chip” experience.
As with most things in the world of development, there is no clear answer as to which platform is best. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
AWS has the biggest global footprint, the most mature services and the biggest partner network. Azure is ideal for Microsoft shops and companies leery of relying on a competitor for their infrastructure. Google is an excellent choice for open-source developers, and those with a focus on big data and machine learning.
All three platforms offer certification programs, which any serious developer should pursue. In the meantime, while there’s no wrong choice, weighing the pros and cons of each platform will help you make the best choice for you.