Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a wider choice of services than any other IaaS provider, so why look for AWS alternatives? We investigate some of the alternatives to AWS—and the services they offer—and share our thoughts on why businesses may favor certain IaaS providers ahead of the industry leader.
According to the AWS pricing page, the world’s leading cloud services provider offers over 120 cloud services. That’s more than any other IaaS provider by a margin. However, despite the choice of services being a great selling point, it is also a factor that drives businesses to look for AWS alternatives. Why? Because the choice is overwhelming and, for many businesses moving to the cloud, it is also confusing.
Added to the overwhelming choice of services is the fact that AWS has one of the most complicated pricing structures in the industry. Take AWS instances for example. Prices are quoted for 16 different Regions and 10 operating systems. You have to bid for Spot Instances and, if you are looking to save money by purchasing Reserved Instances, there are 12 options to choose from—per instance.
Indeed, one of the major criticisms of AWS is that, in order to take full advantage of what the platform has to offer, businesses have to invest heavily in their IT team´s education. In some circumstances, businesses may have to hire experienced consultants to train their IT teams—potentially negating the benefits of moving to the cloud or delaying the benefits significantly while the IT team gets up to speed.
For some businesses it can be easier and less expensive to conduct the migration process using one of the alternatives to AWS, and then adding selected AWS services to a multi-cloud environment as the need arises. It can also be the case that existing AWS customers may want to take advantage of a service AWS is not fully up to speed with yet, or that another cloud service provider is doing better.
What are the Alternatives to AWS?
Wikipedia lists 265 “cloud computing providers” on its website. Some are duplicated inasmuch as they are owned by a larger cloud computing provider, and not every provider on the list offers a full range of IaaS services. A better source of AWS alternatives comes from Gartner; who, in May 2018, published its “Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service” featuring just six cloud service providers:
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
- Google Cloud
- Alibaba Cloud
- Oracle Cloud
- IBM Cloud
In its analysis of the six IaaS providers, Gartner suggests AWS is perceived as a “safe choice” by businesses moving to the cloud because of its maturity and position in the IaaS market. However, the analysis notes that some of AWS´ competitors have taken the provider´s services and improved them. Gartner also comments on the complexity of AWS´ services and pricing structure, stating:
“AWS´ extensive portfolio of services requires expertise to implement. Customers should be aware that while it's easy to get started, optimal use—especially keeping up with new service innovations and best practices, and managing costs—may challenge even highly agile, expert IT organizations, including AWS partners.”
What do AWS Alternatives Have to Offer?
Each of the alternatives to AWS has strengths in specific areas that could appeal to businesses looking to move ahead in these areas. The exception to this is Alibaba Cloud, which—as yet—does not have a stand-out capability, but which is investing heavily in research and development. Alternatively, businesses may simply want to use a cloud service that is less complex to use than AWS. Of the other four AWS alternatives:
Microsoft owes its position in the IaaS market to its heritage of working with enterprise platforms. Businesses who were already using Microsoft´s enterprise solutions found it straightforward to migrate to the Azure platform, while seasoned programmers used to developing .NET applications and Windows client applications in C# also found it a natural move.
Obviously businesses already using Microsoft products and services found it easier to expand their IT infrastructures into the cloud with Microsoft’s cloud platform, but Microsoft Azure is also one of the easiest AWS alternatives to get started with if you have had no experience of Microsoft products at all. Following the release of Microsoft Azure Stack last year, the process got even simpler.
Microsoft Azure Stack brings the flexibility, agility, and scalability of the cloud to on-premises IT infrastructures. Businesses can deploy services in their data centers, in a hosting partner´s data center, or in the cloud, and remain completely in control of cost, performance, and security. In this respect, Microsoft Azure is an ideal solution for businesses looking to operate in a hybrid cloud environment.
The most often-quoted advantage Google Cloud has over AWS is that it has been developed using the same technology that supports the company’s search engine, web browser, Gmail service, and many more products that integrate seamlessly with the Android mobile operating system. Consequently Google Cloud is fast, secure, and the preferred platform for developers of Android mobile applications.
More recently, Google Cloud has become the industry leader in cloud container deployment, orchestration, and management. Not only is Google Cloud streets ahead in the development and release of container-related services, Google´s container prices are lower than AWS´ or any of the alternatives to AWS (up to 47% after Sustained Use discounts are applied), so it is worth considering on price alone.
However, where Google Cloud is likely to become one the leading AWS alternatives in the future is its investment into Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). We have already seen some examples of what ML and AI can do with the auto-suggest replies on Google’s mobile Gmail app, and what could be coming in this area of cloud computing is potentially mind-blowing.
Oracle was a relative latecomer to the IaaS marketplace despite having developed some of the most innovative software systems for more than forty years. Indeed, AWS´ Relational Database Service (RDS) was developed by Oracle, and businesses using Oracle´s enterprise solutions have also been able to easily integrate them into the Microsoft Azure Cloud.
There is a point of view that Oracle should continue developing innovative software systems and leave the IaaS space alone; but, since the company entered the market, it has reported year-on-year cloud subscriptions increasing by a wider margin each year. Gartner attributes this growth to a well-designed platform with a thoughtful selection of features at a competitive price point.
What may be more important to some businesses is the recent release of Autonomous Database - a “self-driving” database that “automates management to deliver unprecedented availability, security, and performance at a significantly lower cost”. Early adopters of Autonomous Database claim it delivers a 14x performance acceleration compared to workloads running on other AWS alternatives.
The last of our AWS alternatives—IBM Cloud—also has an edge when it comes to performance and security with its bare metal service. In a bare metal environment, each server has a single tenant (i.e. servers are not virtualized) and, because resources are not being shared, no hypervisor layer is needed - allowing more of the server´s processing power to be allocated to the application.
Not only does this mean the application´s performance is improved, but it can cope with more input/output operations per second with more consistent disk and network performance. The isolation from other applications also enhances security and resolves compliance issues for security-conscious businesses who may be reluctant to migrate data to the cloud.
IBM Cloud is not unique among AWS alternatives in offering a bare metal service, but what the company has in its favor is its “Softlayer” service that enables customers to move workloads from a virtualized environment to a bare metal environment and back again with the click of a mouse. If performance and security are concerns in your organization, you just might want to check out IBM Cloud.
Summary of AWS Alternatives and Their Advantages
By providing a guide to AWS alternatives and what they can offer that AWS can´t provide itself, we are not advocating businesses ditch AWS and migrate their assets to an alternative cloud service provider. Our belief is that the cloud works best when customers are able to pick and choose what services suit them best—provided they have mechanisms in place to effectively manage a multi-cloud environment.
The cloud is evolving at such a pace, these advantages may not be so important in a couple of years. Nonetheless, if you are looking for alternatives to AWS for any reason, it may help to review our summary of AWS alternatives and their advantages:
- Microsoft Azure - Best for businesses using Microsoft enterprise solutions, C# developers, and business contemplating a hybrid cloud environment.
- Google Cloud - Industry leader for container technology, often the least expensive cloud provider, and leading the way in Machine Learning technology.
- Oracle Cloud - It may be in its early days at the minute, but Oracle Cloud´s Autonomous Database service could revolutionize data analysis.
- IBM Cloud - Leads the way for performance-enhancing bare metal servers and the ability to switch between bare metal and virtualized environments.
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