According to IDC the public cloud computing market is on pace to double over the next four years, climbing from around $70 billion in 2015 to more than $141 billion by 2019. That huge market offers a tremendous opportunity for those companies that establish themselves as leaders in the cloud computing space.
So clearly, the top cloud computing companies are addressing a large and growing market. In turn, they work in concert – or actually provide – a wide array of cloud-related products and services, including infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service solutions. (See a comparison of IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS.)
Given the enormity of the infrastructure needed, it’s no surprise that leadership in the public cloud market has coalesced in the hands of a few winners. To compete in the public cloud it takes an investment in the tens of billions of dollars, including the legions of tech talent to support that infrastructure.
Consequently, if a public cloud provider is not already in the race by 2017, it’s going to be a very steep uphill climb to be a player in the future. There are, to be sure, a few dark horses. Alibaba clearly has ambitions, and possibly some smaller players will merge and offer some kind of high service option – a public cloud boutique, of sorts – and be a contender. But it’s generally understood that leadership in the public cloud market is a closed club.
As the enterprise transitioned to the cloud, there was a period where many thought private cloud would be the dominant model. This view worked in the favor VMware, whose virtualization software is a default choice for in-house data centers. But with time – surely by 2010 or so – most vendors realized the inevitability of public cloud computing. More and more businesses saw the advantage of renting out an external computing infrastructure. It was easier and offered fewer headaches.
Most important, as it developed, public cloud offered competitive tools that few businesses could afford to develop in-house. For instance, as of 2017, one of these competitive tools is artificial intelligence, delivered as a service though the cloud. Very few enterprises can develop the sophisticated AI tools that the public cloud vendors now offer as part of their tool set. So the public cloud has morphed from a way to offload your computing to a rich source of advanced competitive advantage. In short, if a business is not leveraging the public cloud, it is falling behind.
What all this means is that the public cloud providers you see listed below play a very vital role in shaping today’s enterprise IT landscape. The way they develop new tools, the prices they post, the level of service they offer – each of these factors influences the services that their many customers can in turn offer their customers.
Bottom line: the race for leadership among the leading public cloud companies is the race to dominate enterprise IT itself. There is no doubt it will be fought with the deepest investment possible in the years ahead.
Best Public Cloud Providers
Amazon Web Services
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the undisputed market leader in cloud computing, from overall market share to most expansive cloud offering. It has vast resources, allowing it to design and execute new solutions at a dizzying pace, sometimes – or often – faster than customers can understand or incorporate them.
The company offers a complete range of IaaS and PaaS services. Among the best known are its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Elastic Beanstalk, Simple Storage Service (S3), Elastic Block Store (EBS), Glacier storage, Relational Database Service (RDS), and DynamoDB NoSQL database. It also offers cloud services related to networking, analytics and machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile services, development, cloud management, cloud security and more.
Get an in-depth look at AWS.
Most market analysts put Microsoft squarely in the number two spot behind Amazon. Its cloud portfolio is exhaustive: in addition to its Azure IaaS and PaaS offerings, Microsoft also has several SaaS offerings, including its Office 365 products, the online versions of its Dynamics line of enterprise software and its online developer tools.
Naturally, Microsoft’s long legacy in corporate IT helps it grow its cloud business. Pundits say that Microsoft has “enterprise IT in its DNA.” Azure is leading edge on all the newest cloud technologies, from serverless (FaaS) to microservices to containers. It is set up to handle a broad range of clients, from SMB to larger enterprise, from multicloud to – especially – hybrid cloud. To fill out its offering, it has longstanding alliances with other legacy vendors, from VMware to Oracle.
Get an in-depth look at Azure.
Although it hasn’t always been considered one of the “big three” cloud computing vendors, IBM’s cloud business has been coming on strong. Particularly advantageous was IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat, which allows it to leverage Red Hat’s OpenShift cloud platform, a PaaS solution geared for containers. The company is also strong in hybrid – befitting its customer base of large enterprise clients, which in some cases are working on a classic lift and shift migration to the cloud, for which IBM is well suited.
One of IBM’s key cloud service is its Bluemix PaaS, which is aimed primarily at enterprise development teams. The company also a lot of enterprise software on a SaaS basis, and it sells cloud infrastructure, cloud management tools and cloud managed services.
Get an in-depth look at IBM Cloud.
Google Cloud Platform
While it may run third behind AWS and Azure, Google is a major contender in the cloud market. Its deep strength and data analytics and artificial intelligence is only growing, and will likely be a major force in the years ahead. Its industry leading creations with TensorFlow and Kubernetes are examples of the sophisticated solutions that earn GCP leader status in the cloud market.
Like Amazon and Microsoft, Google offers an extensive range of IaaS and PaaS services that span compute, storage, networking, big data, machine learning, developer tools and security. Some of its best-known cloud offerings include Compute Engine, App Engine, Container Engine, Cloud Storage and BigQuery.
Get an in-depth look at Google Cloud.
Oracle Cloud Infrastructure
Having invested aggressively after its initial slow start, Oracle has come a long way to earn to spot in this leader’s list. Indeed, look to Oracle to continue to grow in the cloud sector – the company has certainly signaled its intention to be a major cloud vendor in the years ahead. It is expanding availability zones both domestically and internationally.
The Oracle cloud is generally favored by larger enterprise and existing Oracle customers, as opposed to SMB and developers, two cohorts that have fueled AWS’s rise. It has a strength in hybrid cloud computing, which is a good fit for larger customers that have a legacy investment in on-premise IT infrastructure and data centers. The company’s Oracle Dedicated Region Cloud Customer solution is an on-prem offering that is a well designed, technologically advanced mirror of the cloud version. Oracle has a partnership with Microsoft Azure for those cloud functionalities it can’t currently support.
The clear leader in the Asian cloud market, Singapore-based Alibaba is forecast to grow rapidly as cloud computing continues to grow in a variety of Asian countries. Given that, Alibaba is the best fit for international customers who also want to do business in Asia, and, of course, Asian companies. It benefits from its deep strength in ecommerce, which is Alibaba’s core business. With this deep expertise, it enables customers to access new sources of Internet-based income.
The company offers a cloud-based AI service, which will almost certainly be a major growth area in near term future. Indeed, Alibaba is well regarded for its data solutions, with interoperability with myriad other data platforms. Again, this is a major strength for its ecommerce clients. While the company is currently largely an Asian player, it’s entirely possible that it will expand into other geographic markets as its cloud and data offerings mature.
Get an in-depth look at Alibaba Cloud
|Compute||EC2||Virtual Machines||Compute Engine
|Database and Dataware house||Aurora
|Data Lake Storage
Bfg Data Hosting
|In-Memory Technology||ElastiCache||Redlis Cache|
Cloud Speech API
Cloud Vision API
|Internet of Things||IoT Platform
|Internet of Things|
Read our Comprehensive Guide to Cloud Computing for an in-depth look at your cloud computing options.