Cloud computing has become an essential tool for modern business operations. Small wonder that such well-established technology firms as Apple, IBM, Amazon, HP, Dell, Microsoft and Google compete in this space. So who are the top cloud computing providers of 2014? Before answering that question, we need to level-set on the term cloud computing. For this article, we focus on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); which Gartner Research defines as “A standardized, highly automated offering, where compute resources, complemented by storage and networking capabilities are owned and hosted by a service provider and offered to customers on-demand”. Based on press reviews and on recent investments, it would appear that Amazon, Microsoft and IBM are leading the IaaS provider space in the first half of 2014. Here is a closer look.
1. Amazon Web Service (AWS)
AWS provides such a wide variety of services and well-integrated monitoring tools that its IaaS offering can also be used as Platform as a Service (PaaS). Here are a few reasons why they are considered the leading IaaS provider:
- Gartner, the leading global technology research firm, refers to AWS as the “thought leader” in the cloud computing IaaS space.
- In Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report of leading cloud providers, AWS has more than five times the computing capacity than the other 14 providers combined
- In the face of growing competition, AWS continues to innovate and offer an ever-richer set of services and monitoring tools.
- Amazon has also lowered its prices to remain highly attractive in the IaaS market.
2. Microsoft Azure
The success of Microsoft Azure can be readily recognized by fiscal results, as it is first in terms of year-to-year growth with an 80% increase from the third quarter of 2013 through the first quarter of 2014. Additional evidence of Azure’s success includes:
- Recent reviews of the top IaaS providers of 2014 praise Azure’s administration tools as among the easiest to use, particularly for Windows administrators (Note Azure also supports Linux). And, like AWS, it can also be used as a PaaS.
- Gartner’s most recent research of the top cloud computing services describes how Microsoft’s IaaS and PaaS vision extends past stand-alone offerings to encompass Microsoft’s popular on-site infrastructure and applications as well as its Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings, and on a truly global scale. Although second in terms of market share as an IaaS provider, the team at Gartner, Inc. believes Microsoft is firmly ahead of the remaining competition; thanks in part to its commitment to compete with AWS in terms of general market pricing. The company also offers discounts on Azure cloud computing services for enterprise-level Microsoft customers.
- According to Redmond Channel Partner Magazine, Azure’s IaaS and PaaS components operate and function together “like part of a unified whole” rather than as two separate entities. The magazine also lauds Microsoft for designing the corresponding on-premises infrastructure to provide a similar user experience to that of Azure, creating a sense of continuity and seamless hybrid integration. Microsoft also has plans in the works to integrate Azure with Active Directory, PowerShell, System Center, Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio.
3. IBM Cloud Services
IBM’s cloud computing service offerings have been leading the niche markets of hybrid cloud and private cloud, according to Synergy Research Group. While IBM may not be the household name it once was, the company’s success in the business-software, hardware, and infrastructure markets has held strong over the decades. Here’s how the company is faring in the cloud computing market:
- Although IBM ranks second behind Microsoft in terms of year-to-year growth, the firm did manage to capture nearly 14% of worldwide revenue market shares from the third quarter of 2013 through the first quarter of 2014.
- IBM has also made some smart investments, including the acquisition of SoftLayer, that have helped fuel accelerated growth in this burgeoning market.
- Nearly half of IBM’s top 100 strategic outsourcing clients, who are among the world’s largest enterprises, are currently implementing cloud computing solutions with IBM as they transition into a hybrid cloud model.
While there are other service providers giving Amazon, Microsoft and IBM a run for their money in 2014, it seems safe to say these three will be the ones to beat in 2015. It should be interesting to see how they remain competitive in this market.