Understanding the Cloud Service Providers — Comparison between AWS, Microsoft Azure, and GCP

What is Cloud Service Provider?

Often, while we discuss the impact of Cloud Computing in our daily life, we hear certain names associated with the domain. For example Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Alibaba Cloud, and so on. It confuses the clients about what are these and why are so many companies providing Cloud Computing services. These companies are nothing but called “Service Providers” who have corroborated to provide Cloud Services to clients all over the world.

Cloud Service Providers (CSP) are various multinational organizations that offer various Cloud services via networking, infrastructure, or business applications in the Cloud. They are located in regions around the globe and have private Data Centers (DC) to manage the servers accessed by their respective customers. These companies are backed by their parent ventures and thus their initials are named after them.

Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) often provide the three major Cloud Services ie., SAAS (Software as a Service), PAAS (Platform as a Service), and IAAS (Infrastructure as a service). Often, few companies do not provide all the three services and they usually focus on a single service, as a result, the extent of these service providers is huge in the market and the customers can choose any services based on the requirements. This lead to the growth of more than one CSP’s.

(Detailed explanation about SAAS, PAAS, and IAAS): https://medium.com/@sudiptobanerjee14/getting-started-with-cloud-computing-what-is-cloud-computing-2c42d72483f8)

Responsibilities of Cloud Service Providers

As an IT manager or client, choosing the right CSP is very important to meet the purpose of using it. For example, Gmail requires a SAAS service to hold its sovereignty, and therefore it cannot deploy its model under IAAS because the underlying infrastructure is entirely managed by Google. Similarly, as a CSP, it has few responsibilities that are very crucial for the continuation of the overwhelming services:-

  1. Security:- The main focus of shifting from On-Prem to Hybrid Cloud or fully Cloud-Based applications is the extra layer of security that Cloud Computing offers. Data stored in the On-Prem frameworks are quite prone to DOS or DDOS attacks where an unlimited amount of traffic requests are flooded through different IP addresses. CSPs have added extra layers of security to prevent such attacks and also enabled tracking of DDOS subnets.
  2. Reliability:- Reliability is a major issue while using a service and non-reliable services might often lead to component failure or permanent loss of data. Storing data over on-prem or Cloud requires investments and while On-Prem has no provision to monitor or optimize cost, CSPs have different ways of optimizing the cost and also allowing the customer to use “Pay as you go” pricing model.
  3. Cost:- Investments made using On-Prem are usually quite high and the upfront commitment is extremely towering. Few people who use the On-Prem hardware often delete their resources within months as the pricing plans exceed their budget. CSPs have a unique “No upfront commitment” rule where the customer only pays for what they use. This allows the user to launch only those services that cover the entire purpose and terminate the unused ones.

(To know more about DOS and DDOS attacks please refer: Mahjabin, T., Xiao, Y., Sun, G., & Jiang, W. (2017). A survey of a distributed denial-of-service attack, prevention, and mitigation techniques. International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks. https://doi.org/10.1177/1550147717741463)

AWS vs GCP vs Microsoft Azure

Cloud Computing has impacted the “Line of Technology” since its inception and now the users are facing the dilemma of which Cloud Service Provider (CSP) to opt for and why? The battle for dominance has led to the revolutionary growth of the three most famous and reliable Cloud Service Providers — Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure. According to research from Gartner’s latest figures, these companies have fuelled the cloud revenue up to $38.9 billion in 2019, $49 billion in 2020, and still counting.

Overview of Detailed Comparison

The comparison between the three Cloud Service Providers would be based on the following categories:-

  1. History of the Organisation.
  2. Features and Availability Zones (AZs)
  3. Market Share and Growth Comparison.
  4. Who uses them?
  5. Services Provided.
  6. Pricing Models

History of the Organisation

Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of the multinational company Amazon, was founded in 2006. It is the oldest and the most dominant Cloud Service Provider in the market. Initially, it started with the launch of few limited services like Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Simple Storage Service (S3), and so on. Slowly, by 2009, it occupied the biggest shares in the Cloud-native world and it is still the most experienced and reliable cloud offerings in the market. Later, it started other public services such as Content Delivery Network (CDN), Elastic Block Storage (EBS), and CloudFront. It is an on-demand cloud computing service provider and runs on IAAS deployment modeling.

Microsoft Azure, formerly known as Azure is the second most popular cloud-native provider after AWS. It was launched in 2010 and the name Azure was renamed to Microsoft Azure in 2014 under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Microsoft Azure has been establishing a great impact on the Cloud market and it holds a strong competition to AWS in the future.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP), the newest cloud-native competitor in the market, was launched in 2011 to provide a Cloud infrastructure to the most popular search engine “Google”. In less than a decade, GCP has proven its impact on the cloud industry, and under the legacy of Mr. Sundar Pichai, this platform has promised to bring about revolutionary domination in the market.

Features & Availability Zones (AZs)

Availability zones (AZs) are isolated locations, comprising of discrete Data Centers (DC) through which the cloud services operate globally and interconnect the geographical locations or regions. Regions are broader areas of operation and each region will have at least two Availability Zones (AZs) to manoeuver the cloud-based applications. To understand it clearly, let us discuss it with an example. US-East (North Virginia) is a geographical location or a region and it contains at least two AZs (US-east 1-a and US-east 1-b) for fault-tolerance and low latency. Azs of the different regions are completely isolated from each other however Azs of the same region are interconnected through low latency links.

AWS, being the oldest cloud architect in the market holds the count of maximum Availability Zones of 66 with 12 already being deployed for production.

Microsoft Azure has 54 regions worldwide and it is already available in 140 odd countries in the world. Being a tough competitor to AWS, it has already started deploying more regions to occupy the major share of Cloud demand.

GCP, being the latest cloud-native service provider is available in 20 odd regions and it is slowly started to migrate all its focus from Google and Youtube to end-customer content delivery.

Services Provided

AWS offers more than 170+ services, Microsoft Azure has 100+ services whereas GCP has only 60+ services to offer to their customers respectively. Services in Cloud Computing are distributed based on four major domains:-

  1. Compute
  2. Database
  3. Networking
  4. Storage

Compute

Database

Networking

Storage

Who uses them?

Since AWS is the oldest cloud provider company, it has a lot more users and bigger community support. Companies like Netflix, Airbnb, Unilever, BMW, Samsung, MI, Zynga, etc are heavily reliant on AWS Cloud services. These companies are considered as one of the biggest contributors to the AWS Global share market.

Microsoft Azure has also occupied various multinational companies and those are a major contributor to the overwhelming growth of Microsoft Azure. Companies like Johnson Controls, Polycom, Fujifilm, HP, Honeywell, Apple, etc have been using this service since its inception.

GCP has turned its insights from Google and Youtube to major companies and users to provide cloud services and since then, the investment has turned its head on to tremendous global success. Companies like HSBC, PayPal, 20th Century Fox, Bloomberg, Dominos, etc have been served by Sundar Pichai’s Cloud-Service provider GCP.

Pricing Models

Pricing can be an important factor and significant attraction for customers, agreeing to shift from on-prem to Cloud-native applications. As a result of the tremendous competition between the three highlighted Cloud-based companies, there is a decrease in the trend of the pricing models of each service. This leads to an increase in customer’s attraction towards the services providers and their market value gets populated with more clients.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) have a complicated pricing model compared to the other service providers due to their heavy demand and the continuous increase in the number of services. It provides agility and the best ROI (Return on Investment) compared to any cloud service provider. For the majority of the services, the computing, storage, and outbound data transfer play a vital role in estimating the total price of the user “per month”. Nothing is charged for integrating any data into the AWS native applications, but there is a cost for any outbound traffic that is detected. Storage is paid per GB basis whereas computing is paid hourly. The following pricing models determine the cost of the user, who has consumed the services in AWS:

  1. On-Demand:- User is charged according to the “Pay as you go” basis and there are no upfront commitments that need to be made.
  2. Dedicated Instances:- The AWS hardware is dedicated to every user opting to go for this model, hence there is no shared hosting between any two users. This pricing model is the most expensive out of all the others listed.
  3. Spot Instances:- This pricing model is for those who are quite flexible with the instance timings as a result it offers the most discounted rate per hour at 90% off on the instances. It is therefore risky to use this model whose data are extremely critical and cannot be compromised upon timings.
  4. Reserved Instances:- It is the most widely used model which offers a 75% discount and a “3 years all Reserved Instance” commitment. It can also be used as a “Pay as you go” model but the discount rates might vary with the number of years of commitment.

Microsoft Azure, on the other hand, has one pricing model that charges “per minute” unlike AWS (per hour). Discounts are often given to bulk monetary returns either through a flat 5% discount on the purchase bill or through Microsoft Enterprise Agreement(EAs), where higher discounts can be expected in return for an upfront monetary commitment by the end-user.

Google Cloud Platform, being the only service provider who does not require any upfront commitments for providing discounts. It also charges “per minute” like Microsoft Azure and called as Sustained price model, whose discounted prices automatically apply to the services used at the end of the month ie.., billing cycle. Although, the pricing model is not very popular among the CSPs as it complicates the forecasting at the end of the cycle yet it is the most cost-effective model in the market.

Market Shares and Growth Comparison

AWS undoubtedly is the most popular Cloud Service Provider in the market and holds a significant amount of shares. It is leading with 52% of the total cloud computing revenue and thus dominates the platform by a large margin.

However, Microsoft Azure is also booming its presence and by due 2020, it is predicted to hold almost 21% of Global shares in Cloud Enterprising. The impact of Azure has really given a tough competition to AWS in spite of having lower than half the revenue. It is because of the cost optimization that Microsoft Azure has recently brought up with Azure Cosmos DB and many such services.

(Recent updates): https://www.infoq.com/news/2020/06/azure-cosmosdb-new-updates/

Google, on the other hand, confirms to hold at least 18% of Cloud-native shares and it will continue to put an impact on the industry, thereby providing good competition to the other Cloud Services Providers.

Conclusion

Concluding from the services and the comparison between the three giants of Cloud-Computing, the major takeaways are as follows:

  1. Foundation:- With an expanded time span of 5 years, AWS is clearly the winner in terms of a head start.
  2. Availability Zones:- With around twice the number of AZs than the other two companies combined, AWS leads the way.
  3. Services:- When it comes to the count of the number of available services, AWS is the clear winner however when it comes to the integration with open-source frameworks, Microsoft Azure is ahead of the other two.
  4. Usability:- According to the reports, all three services provide equal user support and better customer satisfaction, but the count of MNCs that rely on AWS is more because it provides reliability and offers long term commitment.
  5. Pricing:- With more discounts and no upfront commitments, GCP is the most cost-effective Cloud Service Provider.
  6. Market Growth:- Considering the amount of time, GCP was established, it has really given a tough competition to other CSPs in terms of market growth rate.

The comparisons between the three dominating Cloud-Computing giants infer that while choosing the Cloud Service Provider, one needs to focus on the type and the usability of the business and not choose the best out of the three. Choosing the best CSPs won’t really make a difference to a company’s Cloud-native development instead choosing the right one as per needs will enhance their credibility in the market.

References

  1. https://intellipaat.com/blog/aws-vs-azure-vs-google-cloud/.
  2. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3429365/aws-vs-azure-vs-google-whats-the-best-cloud-platform-for-enterprise.html.
  3. https://medium.com/@jaychapel/aws-vs-azure-vs-google-cloud-market-share-2020-what-the-latest-data-shows-9afd4accf8d7
  4. https://www.sdxcentral.com/cloud/definitions/what-are-cloud-service-providers/.
  5. https://www.threatstack.com/blog/7-factors-to-help-you-choose-the-right-cloud-service-provider.
  6. https://cloud.netapp.com/blog/aws-vs-azure-vs-google-cloud.
  7. https://www.cloudyn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/AWS-GCP-Azure-May-2016-final.pdf.
  8. Dutta, Pranay & Dutta, Prashant. (2019). Comparative Study of Cloud Services Offered by Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. International Journal of Trend in Scientific Research and Development. Volume-3. 981–985. 10.31142/ijtsrd23170.
  9. Mahjabin, T., Xiao, Y., Sun, G., & Jiang, W. (2017). A survey of a distributed denial-of-service attack, prevention, and mitigation techniques. International Journal of Distributed Sensor Networks. https://doi.org/10.1177/1550147717741463

For more articles on Cloud Computing, please stay tuned to my medium profile. If you want me to write on a particular topic, do leave a comment below.

Hi, I am a Cloud Developer and Artificial Intelligence Enthusiast, pursuing my B.tech degree in ECE from the SRM Institute of Science and Technology.

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