So many Clouds, how does one choose?

Here is a situation: you are a small enterprise with 150-200 employees and are leveraging cloud based technologies such as Office365, Slack, Salesforce, etc. for productivity. You are also maintaining a data-center on the premises for your software application development and other Engineering, Finance and Sales needs. As always, the IT expenditure needs to be reduced. Maintaining the software licenses across all the servers, software patches needed on those Operating Systems and other regular maintenance activities are taking a toll on the stretched IT team. You decide to explore this paradigm of public clouds – will it truly solve the problem of reduced maintenance costs and reduced fixed costs? Or are they going to add another dimension to an already multi-dimensioned problem? With curiosity, you start looking into the public cloud providers available and here is what you are likely to find:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are the prominent players in the market
  • There are other niche providers, such as IBM Softlayer, Oracle Cloud Interconnect (OCI) and Alibaba Cloud
  • All of them highlight the excellent services that they provide

Then dawns the realization that this transition needs to be a different project altogether. Enter channel partners or other companies with the expertise and know-how on transitioning workloads to a public cloud space. It is inevitable that a market exists for providers of such services given the gamut of public cloud offerings.

A reality facing multiple organizations across the globe today surrounds the decision to move a “Cloud-first” initiative – which public cloud to choose from? AWS occupies 32% of the market, with Azure coming in 2nd and GCP third. It is no surprise that many more cloud service providers are entering the market, each with their own unique differentiation. AWS has grown phenomenally over the past 5-7 years. The number of services that it offers grows every few months and the documentation to use these services is excellent. It is no wonder then, that it has captured 32% of the market and has been growing sequentially for many years now. On the flip side for AWS, GCP has shown the highest growth in market share recently. Azure made news for being awarded a $10 billion deal with the Pentagon in the past couple of weeks. Plus, the fact that Amazon is a behemoth with wide-ranging interests serves to drive their competition in other spaces away from AWS. This helps the pure-play cloud service providers such as Azure and perhaps, the likes of Alibaba, Oracle and even IBM.

Other vendors have their own set of pros and cons. The decision on which cloud service provider to select is not an easy one. Here are a few parameters to consider in making this decision:

  • Ease of transition – are there documented use cases and templates similar to yours that are available?
  • Automation – how easy is it to automate the transition and maintenance of the workloads in the public cloud?
  • Cost – How much will the workload in the public cloud cost in the long run? Sure, there are benefits in power savings and OS maintenance, but what about manpower and project costs?
  • Support availability – Quality of the support available is important too as is the pricing of the support
  • Security – how can the workloads and information be protected seamlessly between on-prem and public cloud?
  • Visibility – Will the entire system be visible and manageable from a single pane of glass?
  • Brand and longevity – Is it a known and well-established cloud service provider? Has it been in the market for long and is it likely to continue?

Ultimately, many enterprises today are choosing to go with a hybrid-cloud approach to avoid being tied down to a single vendor. Hybrid clouds bring their own set of challenges that I will talk about in a separate post.

Are there any other parameters to consider in selecting a public cloud service provider? Do let me know your thoughts!

Residing in Bengaluru, I am a Techie by profession and a thinker and doer by birth. I muse about any topic under the sun and love to share my thoughts in print when I am not doing something with them. I love reading and at some point, thought that maybe others would like to read what I have to write, too!

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