Comparison of the top four Cloud Platforms – Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud

Cloud computing has rapidly gained popularity in the modern world. It is projected that by 2025 the global market will hit USD 832.1 billion from USD 371.4 billion in 2020. 

Though enterprises have gradually been embracing this technology, a sharp surge in demand has been noted as enterprises have adopted the ‘work from home’ model due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This is not only for the safety of workers but for operational efficiency too. It has now become a do-or-die state as cloud computing has proven its importance in minimizing IT costs and improving service delivery.

What is Cloud Computing?

In simpler terms, it’s the delivery and maintenance of IT infrastructure offsite. The computing services are over the internet, in this case, “the cloud”, which can include software, networking, databases, servers, storage, analytics, and business intelligence. 

The cloud provider fully manages your IT infrastructure in keeping pace with business demands from apps integration, scalability to functionality. Cloud computing gives you a leeway to choose what you need and pay only for what you use. Hence, this collection of services gives you a cost-effective solution to build your IT capacity and functionality. Your specific needs will determine when cloud computing is appropriate for you.

How is Cloud different from the traditional server model?

The key difference is in how they are run. While the cloud provider oversees all the hardware, security, and performance issues in cloud computing, a professional in-house IT team monitors and maintains the servers in a traditional datacenter setting.  The traditional server model involves using physical datacenters such as desktop computers connected to a network via a local server. All operations are in-house and the employees using the hardware can only access data and applications within the premises. 

On the other hand, cloud computing services are accessible through the internet from any location. All your IT solutions which include servers, software, and networks are provided off-premises. It’s a more efficient IT solution to go for as we will show you below.

What are the benefits of the Cloud?

Cost-Effective – You pay for what you consume. You will also witness an increase in profits in the long run because the chances of downtime are almost zero.

Flexibility and Scalability – You have unlimited access to resources. You can add or decrease storage capacity and install any software to meet your needs. 

Efficiency – Its robust computing power and storage space enable applications and software to run faster and more smoothly. There is no risk of losing data or facing downtime in case one server fails because all information and hardware are evenly dispersed to many servers.

User-friendly – You can access data anytime from any location using the internet.

Is Cloud for big enterprises only?

Cloud-based IT is the solution for all types of businesses. Whether yours is a big, small, new, or old enterprise with core values in responsiveness, speed, and agility, you’re well suited. Moving to the cloud is determined by the sensitivity of data in your industry but size. For example, healthcare practitioners lack the freedom to keep patients’ records in the cloud.  

That said, if you are an upcoming business, freelancer, or sole proprietor, there are cloud-based starter packages that are browser-based and you can easily operate them from your mobile device.  

Top cloud computing service providers

The list below provides the 4 most popular cloud computing companies in the global market.  They come with distinct services ranging from app platforms, servers, storage, and virtual desktops.

Google Cloud  – Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is one of the best providers in the industry with all its services accessible via the internet and dedicated networks. 

Amazon Web Services – This is a subsidiary of Amazon and has garnered a huge market share lending its services mainly to governments, individuals, and companies. Its services are entirely enabled via the internet.

Microsoft Azure  – Microsoft Azure (formerly Windows Azure) is a service from Microsoft. It’s an open-source platform enabled through data centers managed by Microsoft.

IBM Bluemix – It’s a computing solution from IBM built with a robust set of advanced AI tools. You can choose either a private, public, or hybrid model.

Below are other providers in the market among many. 

DigitalOcean – gives you the option to pick standard plans or performance plans. It provides add-on storage, security, and monitoring capabilities.

Vultr – offers software perfect for web application or development and provides a control panel. 

Emc2 – Also known as Dell EMC, it’s a multi-cloud data service provider. Allows you access to data within your premises and simultaneous access from multiple public clouds.

Google Cloud 

Its major types of services include Storage, Compute, Big Data, and Machine learning. This platform boasts of its unique Machine Learning, AI, and the ability to integrate various apps with Google Map services. GCP is the best option if you want to build something with API-driven resources and cost is not an issue.

Pricing

Charges differ depending on variables such as the resources you plan to consume, location, workload, etc. For general use, Google offers a pricing calculator with real-time formulas which helps you to get an estimate. New account holders are offered free credits worth $300.  All customers also benefit from more than 20 free products. 

Pros

  • Live migrations and disk resizing. Virtual machines can be migrated between hosts flawlessly and with the use of Portal or CLI, you can resize persistent disks without any downtime.
  • Easy Accessibility. You can access data on any cloud from any location.
  • Machine Learning and Advance analytics. Automatically processes predict and streamlines operations making smart decisions for you.
  • Efficiency and Speed. Known for its network power and a tiered cloud network. The tier model reduces downtown in the event of disruption by offering at least three separate paths linking any two points. 
  • Absolute Security. All data in transit is encrypted. There is an encryption key for data stored on persistent disks which are further encrypted with master keys whose set is changed regularly.
  • Pocket-friendly. The pay-as-you-use pricing model and discounted rates for prepaid services automatically reduce your monthly expenses. 

Cons:

  • Covers only three regions (US, Europe, and Asia)
  • Limited to Java, Python, PHP, and Go
  • Limited features in comparison to AWS

Infrastructure

Google’s infrastructure covers South America, North America, Europe, and Asia. It holds a 4.6% market share and reported revenue of $4.047 for the first quarter of 2021. The modules of GCP are:

  • Compute engine 
  • Storage and Database components
  • Networking components 
  • Big Data components.
  • Identity and Security 
  • Management features 

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Amazon Web Services

AWS offers storage, data analysis, large-scale computing, and other on-demand cloud platforms. It’s the perfect choice if you need to run a web app using open source tech Linux and a robust pool of technologies. 

Pricing

Amazon EC2 offers a free trial to clients. The payment models are classified into five instances – On-demand, Savings plans, Reserved, and Spot Instances and a calculator is provided to guide you. There is also an option for Dedicated Host pricing on your physical servers.

Pros

  • Flexible – Freedom to choose platforms that you’re comfortable with, namely programming language, operating system, database, and web application. It offers a seamless migration process.
  • Secure – It is an end-to-end encryption approach
  • Cost-effective – Flexibility in data storage space and the pay-as-you-go model favors a user. 
  • Reliable – Has an automatic way to recover from failure. Data is stored in three different zones so if one or two fails you still have one intact. 

Cons

  • Limitations and variations –   default resource limits and price of services vary from region to region. Cost variance also occurs for any additional tech support.
  • Lack of Experts – Customer support is wanting. AWS is complex and companies are finding it hard to hire a professional hand to help them manage the platform.
  • Weak elastic load balancer (ELB) – Cannot handle the high volume of requests.
  • General Issues – Temporary downtime with servers do happen – probably due to connectivity or power failure issues

Infrastructure

AWS infrastructure covers North and South America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, and China. It holds a 32% market share and reported revenue of $13.5 billion for the first quarter of 2021. Products of AWS include:

  • Compute
  • Storage 
  • Databases 
  • Analytics 
  • Networking 
  • Mobile 
  • Developer tools 
  • Management tools 
  • IoT 
  • Security

IBM Cloud

IBM is a security-rich, scalable cloud-native platform. If you’re very particular about security and need a robust platform, IBM is the way to go. 

Pricing

IBM offers flexible pricing options such as Pay-As-You-Go, Reserved Instances, Subscriptions and Commitment with 40+ free products once you open an account. You can calculate price estimates for the structure that fits your enterprise by using the IBM price calculator and compare the costs of available products.

Pros

  • Robust security
  • Hassle-free administration and management 
  • Flexible pricing model
  • Advanced hardware
  • Rigid SLAs with credit compensation
  • State of the art hardware
  • Wide global coverage
  • Easy to use interface and product catalog

Cons

  • Not cost-effective for smaller database needs
  • Lacks explicit documentation 
  • On-going support is costly

Infrastructure

IBM has the widest coverage in the market – South America, North America, Africa, Asia Pacific, Australia, and Europe. In the 1st quarter of 2021, the total revenue from IBM’s Cloud business was $6.5 billion. IBM provides 170+ products and services covering:

  • Data
  • Security
  • Blockchain
  • Containers
  • AI
  • IoT
  • Compute
  • Integration
  • Migration
  • Mobile
  • Quantum
  • Developer tools
  • IBM Cloud Paks
  • Networking
  • Automation
  • Analytics
  • Storage

Azure Cloud

Windows Azure backs the development, test, deployment, and management of apps and services. In basic terms, it installs code on Microsoft’s servers. If your enterprise is a Microsoft tech, Azure will be your best shot. Its major types of services include everything that runs on Windows and Enterprise tech. Lately, Azure’s Cognitive Intelligence has become widely popular thanks to its AI-driven language processing technology.

Pricing

Azure offers a one-year free package of 20+ services and 30 days of free credit worth $200.  Major pricing options include Pay-as-you-go, Reserved Virtual Machine Instances, and Spot Pricing. For every category of product, Azure offers you recommendations on the best price option.

A calculator is also available to enable you to estimate costs depending on the services you opt for.

Pros

  • Easy migration – Azure offers a Migration Tool for a smooth migration.
  • High global availability – in comparison to other platforms, availability and redundancy in data centers are high.
  • Azure portal interface – Allows individual users to build and manage their service
  • Hybrid Cloud –  Microsoft puts a lot of emphasis on this as the best solution to bridge the legacy data center with the scalable Azure
  • Cost-effective  –  Microsoft abolished hourly rates. The per-minute runtime billing is cheaper.
  • Scalability – available additional features for scaling to ensure continuous availability

Cons

  • Requires expertise and knowledge – the interface is complicated to most staff with advanced tasks requiring deep knowledge
  • Requires Management – If not closely managed, it could be expensive, hence the provision of special tools for managing billings
  • Lacks offline access – There exists no solution to access your system during an outage in the main system, 

Infrastructure

Azure infrastructure covers North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa. It holds a 19% market share and reported revenue of $41.71 billion for the first quarter of 2021. Azure products and services include:

  • Application development
  • AI
  • Cloud migration
  • Data and analytics
  • Hybrid cloud and infrastructure
  • Security and governance
  • Industry solutions

Things to do before adopting Cloud 

Get the basic know-how of what using the cloud implies: To start with, you will need to understand the different types of cloud and their features to decide which will satisfy your needs. These are three – Public cloud, Private Cloud, and Hybrid cloud. Secondly, you need to understand the model of available delivery options. There is SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS – based on your technology and business requirement you will need to decide. 

Analyze your current applications: This is a critical step towards leaping to the cloud. Not everything belongs there. Do you have a catalog of all your apps? If not, create a list and assess each item to determine suitability. 

Test the cloud performance: Select an insignificant app but good enough to establish the output and benefits of the cloud.

Plan for the migration: Once you’ve seen the benefits, re-think the impact on your team, impact on business and map out a disaster recovery approach before transitioning.

Evaluation: Give the application enough time then assess the outcome before proceeding to the next app.

Cloud implementation check-list 

Going for Cloud is easier said than done. As an organization, you will need to understand how and why you should adopt Cloud and get the best out of it. There are numerous instances of business owners adopting Cloud and then end up paying hefty monthly fees while under-using the services and products offered by the Cloud Service Provider. Please follow this checklist:

  • User Groups: Determine the resources required for every category (user group/organization)
  • Pricing structure: Is it a default pricing model or an individual structure?
  • Service catalog: Is it required and how should the different request forms look like?
  • Placement rules: Determine the provisioning of the workload from user groups or organizations
  • Default naming: VMS and services. Determine your convention
  • Workflows approval: Are they based on costs or size?
  • Post-processing types requirements
  • Notifications recipient – for service request and approvals
  • Custom attributes – such as picklists, billing, etc
  • Management information – is change management needed? If so, what is required?

Conclusion

Cloud computing has continued to expand its services to customers. Enterprises with large applications have particularly been noted to readily embrace this platform. Though it may be said that cloud computing is still at a somewhat early stage of adoption, the rate at which companies have been moving to the cloud in the past years has been low.  Usage of the cloud is projected to continue increasing as more people get comfortable with their data being somewhere else other than on-site. 

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