Cloud technologies have revolutionized the implementation, deployment and economics of computing resources. It's transformed the way organizations create and use software applications and services.
So how do you make the most of this revolutionary technology? Let's take a look at the major cloud players and evaluate your company’s options.
If you’re just getting started, picking the right vendor for your organization’s needs can feel overwhelming—so we’re here to help. In this article, you’ll learn more about how to evaluate different cloud providers and choose the best option for your company.
The big three
Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are the three cloud providers most people think of first. They all offer similar services and they all support today’s standard technologies from operating systems to containers to popular languages, so it’s feasible to migrate between them or even combine them to form solutions.
Rooted in Infrastructure-as-a-Service, AWS offers a vast array of infrastructure products beyond basic virtual machines. It’s currently the largest player in this space.
The first choice of: Companies looking to really build out cloud infrastructure.
Azure started out with a Platform-as-a-Service offering, but like the others, now offers IaaS as well. PaaS is still in its DNA, especially in services around Microsoft technologies.
The first choice of: Developers using the Microsoft .NET framework and Visual Studio, and companies using Microsoft's enterprise software.
Google Cloud Platform’s roots lie in managing and searching vast amounts of data, so it's no surprise that its cloud services shine in that area, with multiple database offerings that can support massive scale.
The first choice of: Companies with a lot of data-related needs.
Beyond the big three
It would be a mistake to ignore another set of cloud vendors—those whose strengths lie in providing solutions at the enterprise level. Companies such as IBM, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce provide many of the same cloud services as the big three but are better positioned to offer business-specific advice and complete solutions. They can be a great choice if you’re already using one of their Software-as-a-Service offerings and if you’re looking for a more flexible solution.
When choosing cloud vendors, there's often a temptation to compare them against each other, especially in terms of features and available technologies. This is a mistake. Choose a cloud vendor based on your requirements. To figure out your real requirements, ask yourself these questions:
What’s the problem your organization is trying to address?
What’s the anticipated scale?
How many people and technology resources do you have available?
What other cloud services might be needed? (Immediate and future growth)
In some cases, it will become quickly apparent that a particular cloud vendor is a close fit to the requirements making the choice relatively easy. If that is not the case, which is quite common, you can start thinking more about cost.
A large part of the drive towards using cloud technologies is their potential to reduce costs, but this potential cuts both ways, as they have the potential to increase costs as well. To varying degrees, cloud technologies are all based on a pay-for-use model, and will charge for CPU time, data storage, data transfer, database lookups, monitoring and even DNS lookups. While pricing tends to be transparent, estimating costs requires a good understanding of the resources consumed by applications and services, which isn’t always practical. Costs can scale quickly.
And let’s not forget about IT costs. Cloud technologies require administration and maintenance that can be different but in many cases just as complex as maintaining on-premises servers. And if your IT staff doesn’t have the cloud skills you need, this could increase your costs even more. Mitigate that expense by investing in reskilling your team and even hiring outside consultants with specific expertise during the move.
To ensure a successful transition to the cloud, take the time to define your requirements really clearly, and invest in the personnel or services required to design, implement and maintain your chosen solutions—so you can enjoy the revolutionary power of cloud.