Indeed, when you consider how cloud computing has changed the world in the last decade, it’s been a dizzying period of change. We’ve seen the datacenter turned into a private cloud and the rise of cloud native. Technologies like IaaS and PaaS and SaaS are now the foundation of IT. Container technology has vaulted from emerging technology to mainstream adoption. Cloud and artificial intelligence are now deeply intertwined.
More than anything, the way companies now see the benefits of cloud has shifted from “optional upgrade” to “absolute business necessity.” Meanwhile, the confusion around cloud costs and cloud security remains – and there are cloud startups springing up all the time to address these cloud concerns. To help with it all, many cloud management platforms have sprung up.So please keep in mind that the list of cloud leaders below is a snapshot of a sector undergoing rapid change. Please check back – we expect the group known as “top cloud companies” to shift soon – and constantly.
Top Cloud Computing Companies
One of the difficulties in listing the top cloud companies is that one might ask: top cloud companies for what? Now in 2020 there many uses for cloud, from accessing HR software to hosting the core of your infrastructure.
Still, in an effort to create a more revealing portrait of this churning sector, we’ve divided the list into two areas, Leader and Key Players. The line between them (if in fact there is one) is blurry, and open to opinion.
Cloud computing companies operate in a profitable sector: the cloud market continues to grow rapidly.
Top Cloud Service Providers: LEADERS
Widely considered the top cloud company – truly the company that pulled the world into the cloud – AWS continues to grow and innovate at a pace that shows no sign of complacency.
In Q2 2020, AWS reported that it expects revenue in the annualized rate of $43 billion – and that it enjoyed 29% growth rate – a stunningly high figure given the already massive size of its cloud business. The 29% percent growth rate was the first sub 30% growth rate since the cloud pioneer began breaking out figures. (Indeed, a hefty chunk of Amazon’s profit flows from AWS.)
The challenge for AWS in its rivalry with the other top cloud vendor, Microsoft Azure, is that Microsoft has historically had a closer relationship with the enterprise. Yet AWS has largely overcome this advantage by sheer depth and quality of its cloud-based toolset
VMware Cloud on AWS is a virtualization technology that allows companies (especially larger, slower moving companies) as bridge from the traditional data center to the public cloud, which is AWS specialty.
In terms of revenue, Microsoft’s Azure is number two, but Azure is essentially a head to head competitor with the big dog Amazon Web Services. Its greatest strength is its legacy strength in the enterprise; the long dominance of the Windows OS and the many Microsoft productivity applications mean that corporate clients were long married to Microsoft before cloud was even a factor.
In keeping with this close enterprise relationship, Azure is strong in hybrid cloud – a critically important offering for companies with a large data center investment, an expensive facility they need to pair with a remote public cloud. Microsoft’s other key strength is in software as a sevice, SaaS. It offers a long menu of enterprise SaaS tools, most notably Office 365. Azure has a top-notch PaaS offering that integrates with its public cloud.
Azure is well positioned to serve cloud customers as automation and AI become dominant. Azure MachineLearning is a full-featured production platform, enabling the creation of all manner of customized algorithms and ML solutions.
Holding the number three spot behind AWS and Microsoft Azure, GCP has a robust IaaS offering with a deep technical strength from its dominance in the search market. Starting with strength in networking and automation, GCP offers arguably the sector’s greatest strength in AI, machine learning and – particularly – data analytics.
GCP is top contender for applications and mix deployments that are cloud native, a growing sector and one that will surely be dominant at some point – probably sooner than it now appears. The cloud vendor is entrenched in open source and open systems.
Historically, GCP has not been closely aligned with enterprise customers, a situation the company is working to correct. As such, the move toward multicloud is good news for GCP; if it can’t be a company’s primary cloud platform, it will certainly be “one of” a company’s cloud providers. GCP can then use this foothold to gain greater marketshare.
With one of the most in-depth and highly developed portfolios of enterprise solutions of any provider across the tech sector, the IBM cloud is one favored by the company’s base of mid and large enterprise clients. As a cloud provider, IBM has a global footprint, offering its IaaS and PaaS solutions from data centers from Brazil to India to Germany to Korea.
The company’s acquisition of Red Hat in 2019 confirms IBM’s deep commitment to building out its cloud infrastrucsture, with an open, hybrid approach. Indeed, IBM is well positioned to be a player in emerging multicloud landscape.
Also highly significant is IBM’s focus on AI with its Watson initiative; while not strictly a cloud-based offering, today’s companies often buy (or at least shop for) their AI services from their cloud providers. Additionally, IBM offers major strength in data analytics and machine learning, which interoperates with its cloud platform.
Entering the cloud market later than other competitors, Oracle launched Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in 2016. Despite its late start, Oracle has played catch-up aggressively and has gained credibility as a cloud platform.
Oracle is a not seen as a full-featured public cloud provider as are, say AWS and Azure. This despite the company’s clear commitment to building out IaaS and PaaS offerings. Yet its focus is in offering its legacy strength in database and other core enterprise offerings on a flexible, advanced cloud platform. In essence, it’s Oracle software on the Oracle cloud.
Still, the company is growing its marketshare at a significant pace – and its cloud platform generally garners positive reviews.
VMware’s first heyday was back before cloud, back when the datacenter ruled IT. As the undisputed top provider of virtualization to the enterprise, VMware minted money and gained a foundational presence in corporate IT. As the datacenter began to migrate to the cloud, some industry observers wondered how VMware would fare in this new landscape.
Now in 2020, the answer is: quite well. VMware serves as an effective and much needed “bridge” between the dinosaur datacenter and the many complications of the cloud. Given that there are so many companies (particularly large ones) have invested so heavily in their on-premise, but now see a nonnegotiable need to migrate ever more workloads to the cloud, VMware is perfectly positioned.
In the VMware portfolio, the virtual machine now lives side by side with containers.
In keeping with the times, VM has alliances with AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Owned by Dell, VMware has the deep-pocketed resources – and is so key to Dell’s cloud strategy – that it will likely be a hybrid cloud leader for years to come.
Sure, it’s the titan of software as a service, but SaaS format does not fully describe the Salesforce empire. From its early days as the top purveyor of CRM software, Salesforce has kept expanding, now with an essentially complete menu of cloud-based enterprise software, from marketing to commerce to integration.
It snapped up leading data analytics player Tableau in 2019, enabling it to offer in-depth metrics in a world that now depends on data mining. This was just a year after Salesforce bought Mulesoft, an IT integrator that connects applications, data and devices.
Topping it off, Salesforce is developing its Einstein AI platform, which it touts as the “smart CRM assistant.” In sum, Salesforce is positioning itself at the very center of ahyper-connected, cloud-based world.
A strong player as Asia, the Sinapore-based Alibaba is the cloud leader in China, and also is succeeding with its sales pitch to clients across the globe. To put it in persepective, Alibaba claims about $6 billion a year in cloud revenue (in contrast to AWS’s $40 billion yearly). The company does not have significant cloud market share in North America.
In 2020, Alibaba boldly announced that it will spend some $28 billion on its cloud infrastructure over the next three years, adding an array of server, networking and operating system build out. This additional investment will bulk up what is already a robust platform of IaaS and PaaS, a container service, a private cloud offering that’s geared for enterprise customers, and an machine learning platform for AI.
In short, while Alibaba doesn’t have quite the full-featured offering that quite rivals that of the US-based cloud leaders, it is the leader in China and could well compete aggressveily in many global markets in the years ahead.
Top Cloud Service Providers: KEY PLAYERS
The concept of edge computing continues to fly under the radar; while cloud computing gets the headlines, edge computing remains nascent. Expect that to change. From IoT to computing everywhere to an entire universe of embedded real time applications, edge computing is emerging rapidly. To take a leadership position in this emerging technology, HPE offers Aruba, a provider of network access technology; HPE in 2020 acquired SD-WAN vendor Silver Peak.
Think of HashiCorp as the toolbox for the cloud. The company provides a wide array of tools – many of them open source, but plenty of proprietary tools – that allow developers and IT professionals to deploy cloud infrastructure. To make it simpler, some of the applications are plug-ins.
SAP is a good example of a legacy vendor that is now making a home for itself – and its customers – in the cloud. The company’s HANA is a high powered in-memory database with a significant enterprise following, a following that pre-dates the cloud. To enable this migration, SAP offers the same reference architectures as used by the leading public cloud providers. This is approach is working: SAP has seen major growth in cloud revenues.
The vast networking needs of cloud computing and the Internet already provided a fertile market for Cisco to address, given that the company is synonomous with networking. Now, as multicluod emerges as a dominant cloud model – probably the domninant cloud model – Cisco is likely to be not only a dominant player, but also to shape the development of both the cloud and edge computing. Keep an eye on the company’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) offering, which helps monitor-manage applications in heterogeneous cloud environments.
Along with software-defined storage, Nutanix offers a cloud platform that clients use for computing and virtualization. It also a leader player in hyper-converged infrastructure, and it also has a DRaaS (disaster recovery as a service) offering. Founded in 2009, the company is a good example – among many – of firms that aren’t leading IaaS providers, but still find a useful and revenue-generating niche in the cloud sector.
Solidly aimed at the mid- to large enterprise sector, ServiceNow provides a SaaS solution that facilitates – and automates – a wide array of technical management, including IT services management (ITSM) and IT operations and business management. To expands its reach, the ServiceNow platform allows clients to manage and monitor third party applications. Based solidly in the cloud era, ServiceNow’s employee workflow management solutions are clearly on the rise.
Users weren’t thrilled when Abobe – the maker of leading creative software like Photohop and Premiere Pro – adopted a SaaS model in 2013. Many users like the “one time purchase” model. Yet in pushing its market to SaaS, Adobe could more carefully control the version of its users, not to mention boost its own revenue. With its success, Adobe is expanding its cloud-based market considerably, to data, analytics and commerce. It even has its own AI platform, Sensei, the goal of which is to help creators work faster and more efficiently.
Building on a well regarded SaaS offering in human capital management – think HR, payroll, benefits – Workday is building out is cloud-based portfolio in a natural direction: cloud-based financial management software, along with planning and procurement. In short, Salesforce’s success is an inspiration for Workday. The company is clearly growing rapidly: Workday has acquired more than a dozen companies in the last several years, greatly bulking up its SaaS management offerings.