As cloud FinOps specialists one of the common questions we’re asked by our customers is which cloud service provider is cheapest. Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple answer and it all depends on the requirements of your business/use case. When you consider that cloud spending is increasing at over 30% per quarter, cost efficiency certainly is an area that many businesses should be reviewing. Regarding both cost and performance each cloud provider has things it does better than others and some things it does less well. A lot of the technical services across the top three providers of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are quite similar, although the technology to price comparison covered in my next blog shows that some things aren’t quite as simple as they first appear.

To give you some insight into how to work out which provider(s) you should use, we’ve outlined some key benefits of AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.

Amazon Web Services

AWS is the market leader by a long way with over 30% of the global market, especially if you  focus on standard cloud services and ignore the SaaS Office suite expenditure. AWS traditionally worked with small & medium businesses but has also become enterprise friendly and has a lot of resources to help businesses get onboard and migrate into its cloud. From that strong market lead and through early entry into the cloud market, it has created a huge depth and breadth of services, along with a strong ecosystem of other vendor products easily available through the AWS marketplace. This enables applications to be built out very quickly using standardised services. AWS currently hosts in 24 geographic regions around the world (with 77 Availability Zones), and has announced plans for 3 more AWS Regions to follow.

There are AWS services for almost any task, but mainly AWS does the basics well, with Compute & Storage providing a very strong offering, with excellent long term archive capabilities. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) offerings are well regarded as mature services in the market. While there is a continuous evolution of services, AWS  provides good long term stability as it very rarely retires any of its service offering, so if you need to deploy and use older cloud compute services to perfectly match a legacy offering then that’s very easy to achieve.

However, there are a few challenges for AWS. The first challenge is that its hybrid cloud offering is not the strongest, although there is VMWare on AWS and its recently launched Outposts for on-prem operation to assist. Also, due to the huge number of services available there is a significant skills gap to overcome when first starting with AWS, and its cost management and cost optimisation solutions have grown organically over the years making it complex to understand, but Strategic Blue offer FinOps services to help companies understand and reduce their cloud costs. Another challenge for AWS is that it’s part of the Amazon behemoth, and is seen by many as a competitor in their industry as Amazon expands its range of products and services.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure has around 20% of the cloud market and is seen as the easiest choice for large corporate customers, where there is a long term relationship with Microsoft Software. The integration of Office 365 and Teams into the cloud services provides an easy story. The simple hybrid cloud options for Hyper V to Azure migration can make cloud migrations and hybrid operation much simpler than for the other cloud providers.

The Azure focus on DevOps and the IoT offering is good, especially now it has full support for Linux operating systems. Azure has 57 regions, which is more than the other cloud providers, although only 12 of those Regions have multiple availability zones, which does limit resilience options.  Unsurprisingly the Azure cost to operate Microsoft platform & application software is cheaper than AWS or Google. 

Azure also has some challenges, most of which are from a support and performance point of view. The stability of the services generally and the limited capacity and high availability options in many geographies have caused large corporate customers to question the Azure approach. Many backend management services seem to be operating only from US data centres, and if these services are unavailable this affects global availability. Moving between the multiple purchasing options available is complex and time consuming. Its also been said that support has unfortunately not met expectations in many cases. Finally, the regular changes to and depreciation of services may be manageable for some customers, but others find it difficult to keep up with those changes. 

Google Cloud

Google Cloud is the latest to join the cloud service and has about 6% of the global market, but is growing faster than the other providers. It now has 24 multi-AZ regions around the world, although there is a strong US bias in their distribution. 

Google has had a strong focus on community and start up development, with its investment and support of open source technologies. It’s now starting to be more enterprise friendly and has gained some larger customers over the last year. As a late starter in the cloud market it has seen the mistakes that other providers have made and managed to avoid them. The documentation is clear and the platforms are generally easier to configure and consume, but there are a lot less platform services available than with AWS or Azure, so you’re more likely to be managing more of the solution yourself. 

Costs have been priced competitively on Google Cloud, with many services significantly cheaper, but cost management options are limited, so if you have a higher priced service there is generally no capability to reduce the price. Overall the technical approach is a bit better and more flexible than its competition. There is a strong focus on AI and ML solutions, and the Google Kubernetes solution allows you to manage your clusters on-prem or in any other cloud provider, making it the only provider to really engage as a multi-cloud provider. 

In some areas Google Cloud can feel a bit immature and the number of platform services available is much lower than its competition, but that does make the whole platform easier to understand and navigate.

Summary

  • If you want a reasonably standard stand-alone cloud service, with a wide range of components and are willing to buy into the AWS ecosystem & services then AWS may be the cloud for you. 
  • If you’re already a heavy Microsoft user and/or require the hybrid cloud model then Azure may be a good choice. 
  • If you are looking for technology leadership in AI or use Kubernetes and/or want to get into multi-cloud operation then Google Cloud could be right for you. 
  • If you want a mixture of any of these, then you may need to consider a multi-cloud strategy.

Regardless of which provider you choose, Strategic Blue can help you to understand and manage your cloud costs effectively.