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Top cloud providers to watch in 2021: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud

COVID-19 has led to mass remote working and when coupled with natural technological progression, it has accelerated migration to the cloud. Is a cloud provider just a cloud provider? What are the key separators and where do they players sit in the rankings?


The top 5 cloud providers, according to Gartner, ranked:


The cloud has been around for a while now, for example Amazon AWS having started in 2008, but it has recently become more mature. Gradually applications and companies have been shifting to the cloud to take advantage of the ever growing list of benefits and features. 2020 was a game changer for nearly every industry whether as a challenge or an opportunity and directly impacted the cloud.


Some factors to be considered are:

  • The impact of 2020 is still being felt in 2021 and will continue to be as the work paradigm has changed, likely forever. With the workplace evolving, technology has facilitated this with the likes of Software as a Service (SaaS) such as Google's Workspace. For a nominal monthly fee, employees get email, a cloud based office suite, Google Meet (one of their collaboration tools) and gigabytes of storage. All of this is interacted with in their web browsers and mobile device apps.

  • Depending on which industry a company is in, the pandemic is either a shot in the arm or a punch to the stomach. Uncertainty is a constant and companies are now having to be more judicious with spending and investment. It is safe to say that ROI is more important now than ever.

  • Companies migrating data into the cloud to take advantage of powerful analytics and performance, amongst other features, has created a key avenue for cloud providers to create sticky relationships

  • Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Managed Services will all be key themes in the competition for customers

  • Despite this, multicloud solutions are on the rise where customers are shared between cloud providers. Companies are often trying to avoid being locked into any one cloud provider by keeping their applications agnostic to any specific underlying cloud provider.

  • There is a place for hybrid solutions where companies need to keep some of their application portfolio and/or data on-site or in a local data centre. This can be for various reasons including the jurisdictional impacts of routing of data through other countries or regions.


Let's dig into the Top 5 cloud providers!


1 Amazon AWS


AWS surpassed $45 billion in annual revenue in 2020 and that as well as the below points, solidifies itself as the leader. There are some interesting items in store for AWS this year and moving forward:

  • Development of the second generation of their custom central processing unit called the Graviton2. This is a groundbreaking processor that will serve many different workload scenarios and prove to be a difference maker for AWS

  • The AWS Nitro System will be another difference maker for them. This is the underlying layer of technology (hardware and software) that will be their next generation of cloud platform. It will likely provide faster innovation and further reduce ongoing costs.

  • With 81% of container instances running on AWS and 84% Kubernetes there too, the ability to go serverless with containers will allow customers to run their containers with a promised level of performance without needing to manage a server at all

  • AI and machine learning will be a big factor for AWS as they try to position themselves as the go-to training platform


2 Microsoft Azure


Microsoft Azure is a close and strong second place cloud provider. In fact, it out performed AWS for annual revenue bringing in a whopping $59.9 billion. Azure is the end-to-end solution with many additional features that make it a popular option.


The crown jewel in Microsoft's cloud offerings is its Software as a Service (SaaS) lineup with Office 365, Dynamics, Teams and various other items making up the bulk of it's earnings. Naturally, COVID-19 triggering mass remote working has drastically fueled this. Azure brings with it additional features such as its AI and machine learning.


The combination of the multiple ways to become a Microsoft cloud customer and it's solid history with enterprises makes it a powerful contender.


3 Google Cloud


Google Cloud comes in at 3rd place in the top cloud providers. It earned $13 billion in revenue in 2020. Similarly to Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud offers it's own suite of office and collaboration tools in the form of Google Workspace. Google Meet, a part of Google Workspace, and COVID-19 was a boon for Google Cloud. The combination of cloud platform and suite of office tools makes it attractive to customers.


A key to Google Cloud's growth will be the changes in senior management that have taken place. Pulling strong leaders from various competing companies will provide a solid bench for Google Cloud to navigate 2021 and onward with its target set on growth.


4 Alibaba Cloud


AliCloud is the preferred cloud option in China and continues to build its offerings out and forge new partnerships. Furthermore, it continues to see growth with the region. For companies looking to do business in China, it is the go-to option to be sure. AliCloud's support for MongoDB will certainly provide lift.


However, as it turns its eyes outside of Asia to western markets, especially the USA, it runs into a host of challenges in the form of politics, concerns over data and the frosty trade relationship between the nations.


Despite the above mentioned challenges, it continues to grow within its region and considering the size of the Chinese market alone, it has a large amount of growth potential from sheer revenue alone.


5 Oracle Cloud


Thanks to a Barrons cover story, Oracle Cloud saw a jump in it's stock price as people saw the potential within Oracle to become a bigger player in the cloud game.


Oracle's big draw is it's various Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. They have crafted their cloud infrastructure with their own tech stack in mind. They are a database company first and foremost and couple this with their Netsuite offering, they have a potentially formidable way to make inroads with enterprises of all sizes.


A key customer of Oracle is Zoom which saw a tremendous growth care of COVID-19 as collaborations tools of all sorts become in hot demand.


No matter what, their SaaS options will keep them in the running but it is unclear as to whether Oracle will make advances on its cloud competition.


Outlook


It will be very interesting to see if Microsoft can continue its mammoth quarterly growth or if AWS can hold off the competition as it's quarterly growth slows. The theme for the near future of the cloud is multicloud as companies aim to not get locked into one provider. Can the other providers take advantage of this to fuel their growth? We shall see!

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