For many years Amazon’s cloud platform AWS (Amazon Web Services) has been the champion in the cloud marketplace. Only in the last few years has Microsoft’s Azure platform started to challenge the dominance of AWS in terms of total revenue booked, though AWS still reigns supreme in the IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) category of cloud services. But the times they are a-changin’, as the old Bob Dylan song says, and Amazon’s long-time position on the top of the heap has resulted in challenges arising from cloud vendors who until now have been considered underdogs. What seems to be happening now is that some smaller vendors are partnering up to try and challenge AWS and the result has been an increase in the intensity of the Cloud Wars. To gain some insight into what’s currently happening and what may lie ahead, I recently talked with a couple of experts who have a handle on the cloud marketplace.
AWS cloud: A nice head start
I started by talking with Todd Matters, the chief architect and co-founder at RackWare, a company that offers a Hybrid Cloud Management Platform that helps enterprises migrate to the cloud & protect their workloads. I asked Todd why is AWS still considered the “big kahuna” in the cloud computing marketplace and what qualities make them the “top dog” that everyone else is gunning for. “AWS was the first vendor in the market by quite a big margin,” Todd said. “It really pushed the envelope in terms of the features, services, and options that were offered. AWS was also very good at providing very attractive entry-level pricing. But by the time enterprises purchase the different services that are necessary, AWS is not necessarily less expensive than the other clouds. AWS looks very attractive to enterprises initially, so they tend to get a lot of attention.”
I mentioned to Todd that one of the reasons that several large enterprises I have contact with decided to go with AWS initially was because they have datacenters all over the world. “Yes, AWS also has many datacenters dispersed very strategically throughout the world,” Todd says, “and by doing this people can take disaster recovery into consideration because there’s always a datacenter someplace that they can take advantage of.” And, of course, disaster recovery, is one of the key things you need to take into consideration when you decide to host your workloads and data in the cloud instead of having it in-house where you have more control.
Playing catch up
Another reason many companies I have familiarity with have chosen to go with AWS is because of the breadth of features available in the platform. Asked whether there are any features that AWS has that competitors are still playing catch up on, Todd replied “AWS’s object storage is still a big advantage. It is a very practical solution that solves a lot of storage needs and is also very cost-effective. But Amazon has impressive feature sets in essentially every area,” emphasizes Todd, “from Kubernetes to containers. It may be a little bit of work, but enterprises can implement disaster recovery and auto-scaling. AWS’s list of services and features is almost astounding. There’s basically something for pretty much everybody.”
The biggest news in recent days concerning the Cloud Wars is, of course, the news that IBM has closed its acquisition of Red Hat for the huge sum of $34 billion. Another expert I talked with, Tim Beerman, CTO at Ensono, a company that offers managed services for mainframe, cloud, and hybrid IT, offered up the following thoughts about the acquisition. “IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat is a big win for the companies and their customers. Red Hat’s technology will help modernize IBM’s software services, IBM’s investment will help Red Hat scale its offerings, and customers will be able to go to market faster. Now that this partnership is finalized, we’ll begin to see more opportunity for hybrid IT, as companies that are hesitant to move their workloads to the public cloud will have the option to add an open source layer and manage their data across multiple clouds. The added security and flexibility of hybrid IT allows businesses to keep up with evolving cloud computing capabilities, receive more competitive pricing and see results faster.”
Teaming up to take down No. 1
On top of IBM’s deal to acquire Red Hat, however, is the earlier announcement from Microsoft and Oracle that they were going to partner by making their cloud platforms interoperable with each other. When I went back to Todd and asked him what he thought were the underlying strategies behind both Microsoft partnering with Oracle and IBM acquiring RedHat, he suggested that “the cloud providers are playing to their strengths right now. For example, Microsoft has its own software and by partnering with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, they can be more competitive in the industry without really threatening their core cloud business. In turn, Oracle has an opportunity to increase their revenue by providing services where they are the dominant leader.” So, in other words, these changes in the cloud marketplace aren’t just happening because the vendors involved believe in the idea that bigger is better. Instead, there is more at play here. “Because they can be mutually beneficial,” says Todd, “we are going to see more kinds of those partnerships moving forward.”
So how then is this intense competition happening between top cloud vendors going to impact their enterprise customers? Will it all be good, or will there also likely be some problems? I asked Todd this question and he replied that “competition among the cloud vendors will always be good for customers. It will continue to drive down prices, increase innovation and solve real problems for enterprises.” Let’s cross our fingers and hope that this is the case because the big fish are getting bigger and fewer when it comes to cloud services vendors.
Featured image: TechGenix Photo Illustration