14 May 2022
Are you ready to make the move to the cloud and facing the daunting process of selecting an ideal public cloud vendor? As the cloud services market heated up, everyone from technology behemoths to startups jumped into the market, so now there are many to choose from.
Not all public cloud vendors are created equal though, so it’s critical to find the right partner for this ultra-critical service.. This article is intended to give you a starting point for this decision. We’ll discuss important evaluation factors, who the best public cloud vendors are, and why they’re the best.
Table of Contents
Factors to Consider
When it comes to evaluating the best public cloud vendors, there are many criteria that you should consider. Below, we’ve focused only on the factors that are most relevant based on our experience.
The public cloud is nothing more than computing infrastructure, designed for reliability and uptime, deployed in a datacenter. Properly building these environments takes a lot of money. Cloud providers that take advantage of economies of scale can offer services to customers as cost effectively as possible. To illustrate why this is the case, let’s say that you decide to launch a public cloud company. You buy a few servers, rent a rack in a datacenter, and start selling that infrastructure as a service to clients. You don’t have any negotiating power when making these small infrastructure investments, and so you don’t obtain the best pricing available. You must pass those costs, plus your gross margin, on to your customers.
Now compare that to a public cloud giant that owns datacenters and purchases thousands of servers at a time. That larger public cloud company is going to have a lower cost, per server or unit of storage, giving them the ability to be more cost-effective for clients. This anecdote was oversimplified, but I just want you to understand that pricing varies between cloud services providers. Also, size matters due to the efficiencies it provides on the required infrastructure investments.
Plan pricing is not the only relevant cost factor. Cost management tools are also important, especially in the following scenarios:
Many cloud vendors offer management and reporting tools that help you analyze the utilization of your public cloud resources and adjust your subscriptions or resources dynamically to align with your needs. These tools help you optimize your cloud services spending. Some of these tools can also help you manage costs with other cloud vendors.
Large public cloud vendors operate a staggering array of servers and storage infrastructure, often dispersed across the country or the world. They invest millions, or in many cases, billions in deploying robust computing and storage technology. They design their cloud environments in ways that eliminate all single points of failure (2 or 3 levels of redundancy is very normal). Most mid-to-large public cloud vendors have a level of systems redundancy that allows them to move the entire computing load from one datacenter to another should a whole datacenter go offline. They also employ teams of engineers and tools to monitor and manage their environments in order to deliver on uptime and performance guarantees.
All public cloud vendors claim to have redundancy, performance guarantees, and be totally reliable. There’s a broad spectrum in terms of reliability in practice though, and you can only assess that by digging into details. The levels of infrastructure redundancy, datacenter redundancy, geographic dispersion (geo-redundancy), and the level of proactive management over their public cloud, varies greatly vendor to vendor. If uptime and performance matters to you, it’s important to understand the layers of redundancy and fault-tolerance built into their cloud. A screaming deal on price is a terrible deal if it’s going down every few months and grinding your operations to a halt.
When I refer to ecosystem, what I specifically mean in this context is the public cloud vendor’s network of approved VAR (value added resell) partners, developer partners, and the availability of APIs to integrate their public cloud with other party’s systems and software. The relevance of this factor depends on your use-case for the public cloud, so weight this accordingly. Public cloud vendors are far from equal in terms of their ecosystem. Third party ecosystem partners naturally focus their efforts on building their products and services first around the market leaders. As a result, the market leaders in the public cloud space have the most robust partner ecosystems and integrations to connect with other systems and software. On the other end of the spectrum, smaller public cloud players often have either no partner ecosystem, a limited partner network, or may simply provide an open API, and you’ll have to pay developers to integrate it to the others systems or software you want to use.
One of the buzzwords around the public cloud is flexible. This is more vendor-dependent than most people realize though. Some public cloud vendors offer highly flexible packages that allow you to scale resources up and down as needed. Other vendors provide a more fixed fee model with minimum commitments you must meet. Depending on your needs, the ease of scaling resources up or down may be very important or less impactful. Either way, make sure you anticipate potential future needs in the next 3-5 years, assess the vendor’s level of flexibility, and determine if the two are comfortably aligned.
When you turn your infrastructure over to a public cloud company, their security and security management tools are important factors to consider. Public cloud security is a shared responsibility between the public cloud vendor and you as the client. The public cloud vendor secures the infrastructure, but it’s still on you to secure your applications and data. That’s why it’s important to investigate the security measures the cloud vendor has in place to protect the infrastructure, but it’s equally important to review the tools they offer to aid your own security management responsibilities. Also, if you’re in a compliance sensitive industry, it’s critical to review their certifications and the auditing standards they adhere to.
AWS led the way on rolling out cloud services, enjoyed almost a decade without a serious competitor, and captured a great deal of the early adoption as a result. With a comprehensive range of cloud service options, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the market leader in the cloud computing space. AWS, according to Gartner research, boasts 47.8% market share for infrastructure as a service in 2018. On the ecosystem front, AWS is matured with a strong ecosystem of partners and developers. For many companies building platform and software offerings on top of public clouds, AWS is often their first stop due to its market share and its robust tools for ecosystem partners. The rich ecosystem is also why AWS supports services for Internet of Things, AI, cybersecurity, cloud management tools, and more. Additionally, AWS has a huge array of options to align to your needs and allow flexibility to add or remove capacity quickly. AWS offers reliable and cost-effective cloud infrastructure solutions to meet various needs.
Microsoft Azure is the second most dominant player in the public cloud space. Azure commands 15.5% market share in 2018, according to Gartner Research. Azure is Microsoft’s public cloud service, but Microsoft also delivers several Software as a Service offerings, such as Microsoft Office 365. Due to its long history as a dominant tech player, Microsoft has a robust ecosystem of partners and developers in general. Microsoft Azure’s open-source platform boasts and impressive array of ecosystem partners to layer in additional applications, services, and integrations. Also, Microsoft Azure also has a variety of cost-effective options, management tools, and flexibility to scale resources up and down as needed. The Azure public cloud is also reliable, secure, and offers plenty of value-added security features.
Google is a top 5 cloud provider as well, with a 4% market share in the Infrastructure as a Services space, according to Gartner Research. Google offers Infrastructure and Platform as a Service in the cloud, as well as Software as a Service via its G Suite tools. Google has a robust partner ecosystem, though not as robust in this area as AWS or Microsoft Azure. Google’s public cloud services also plays on one of their core competencies as an organization, layering in in machine learning (AI) services to bring greater intelligence to your cloud, security, and data management. Also, Google offers a robust toolset to manage security and for its developer community to build value-adding applications for their cloud service offerings. In its bid to catch up in the public cloud market, Google targeted small and mid-sized enterprises, instead of focusing on the big enterprises where AWS and Azure were already fairly-well embedded. That said, Google Cloud still boasts plenty of global behemoth clients at this point in the game, so it should not be thought of us a SME-only provider by any means.
The largest public cloud vendors have the best pricing relative to value and reliability, robust cost control and security tools, flexible packages and diverse options, and rich ecosystems. For these reasons and more, we strongly recommend that start your search with these public cloud vendors. Only pursue lesser known public cloud vendors when your needs are unique, and their offer is particularly tailored to your needs. Even if you do go an alternative route, still evaluate around the factors we’ve discussed in this article.
If you’re looking to move to the Public Cloud, and need migration or ongoing cloud management and support, we’d love to help. We’re extremely focused on the cloud and partnered with AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, as well as a few others. Contact Us Today if you’d like to explore this further!