Amazon might face some significant cloud competition in 2020.
While the e-commerce giant’s Amazon Web Services platform (AWS) still holds a comfortable marketplace lead, a new survey by Goldman Sachs suggests that executives are increasingly inclined to use Microsoft’s Azure platform instead. Of the 100 executives surveyed, some 56 said they were using Azure for cloud infrastructure, versus 48 for AWS; in addition, 66 said they’d use Azure for their cloud-infrastructure needs within the next three years, versus 64 for AWS (executives also use both platforms, which is why the numbers total more than 100).
Of course, 100 executives is an insanely small sample size, and doesn’t reflect the actual realities of the cloud-infrastructure market. In October 2019, research firm Canalys pegged AWS at 32.6 percent of the global cloud market, followed by Azure with 16.9 percent and Google Cloud with 6.9 percent; other vendors took up 43.6 percent of the pie. Gartner has offered similar estimates over the years that put AWS at roughly two or three times the size of Microsoft, in terms of customers.
For CIOs and other technology executives who must make critical decisions about their tech infrastructure, it’s clear why the cloud market seems to be coming down to Azure vs. AWS. Amazon, of course, enjoys something of a first-mover advantage: It popularized the idea of renting compute via the cloud, it has steadily updated its offerings (at this year’s re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, Amazon unveiled a number of products that heavily leverage artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning, for example), and it’s been around long enough for technologists to develop a robust ecosystem of certifications and documentation around the platform.
But Microsoft also has an advantage as it tries to convince more businesses to throw their dollars behind Azure: Its cloud offerings integrate with its existing products, offering stressed-out sysadmins and engineers the ability (at least in theory) to create a unified stack with less muss and fuss. Microsoft has also worked hard to make its various cloud tools compatible with other enterprise platforms.
Meanwhile, Google Cloud is struggling to catch up to AWS and Azure, although it has racked up partnerships (including SAP and Rackspace) that should make this easier for some customers. With a new product, Anthos, Google is also making a hard push into hybrid cloud services, which it is positioning as a key differentiator.
For many companies, choosing a cloud vendor isn’t just a matter of tools; it also comes down to cost. Fortunately, it’s easy to perform a very basic breakdown of expenses via the AWS Simple Monthly Calculator, Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator, and Google Cloud Pricing Calculator. Overall trends suggest that cloud-related costs have been flattening over the past year or so, which is great if you’re trying to predict out costs for the next few quarters—but it also means fewer “special deals” or discounts as cloud vendors begin to “cluster” their pricing in order to match each other.
According to Goldman Sachs’s analysts, some 23 percent of IT workloads are in public clouds, a number that should rise to 43 percent by 2023. In theory, that will mean that the top three cloud vendors will only expand their customer counts—and that their competition will grow fiercer.