A CIO’s Guide for Choosing the Right Cloud Services Provider
This article walks you through an in-depth comparison between AWS, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle Cloud to empower organizations to choose the right cloud services provider. If there were a social media challenge for the most pervasive IT trend, cloud services would win hands down. What was labeled an emerging technology a decade ago has now grown into a mature $597.3 billion market according to Gartner’s predictions for 2023, and the growth is not slowing down. In fact, look at what Gartner predicted back in 2017:
Worldwide Public Service Revenue Forecast
|Cloud Business Process Services (BPaaS)
|Cloud Application Infrastructure Services (PaaS)
|Cloud Application Services (SaaS)
|Cloud Management and Security Servicess
|Cloud System Infrastructure Services (IaaS)
Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding; BPaaS = business process as a service; IaaS = Infrastructure as a service; Paas = platform as a service; SaaS = software as a service.
Source: Gartner (April 2017)
What Makes Cloud Services So Popular
The emergence of cloud services has enabled organizations to cut down on unnecessary expenses while improving their operational excellence. These benefits, along with a directive to deliver digital innovation, continue to drive more adoption of a cloud strategy.
Some of the lesser-known advantages that organizations experience when they move to cloud services include:
Software Updates Without Any System Overhaul – SaaS companies make the latest versions of their applications readily available to their customers. In a cloud model, employees don’t have to wait for upgrades to be rolled out or make any changes to their existing system. They can easily update their applications in just a few clicks.
Team Collaboration – Tools such as Trello, Asana, and Google Suite bear testimony to the fact that companies prefer to use cloud-based programs to collaborate with teams across multiple countries and time zones. The most significant advantage of a cloud-based tool is its ability to manage projects in real time. As companies shift to more remote and collaborative approaches, cloud-based tools make the work more inclusive.
Faster Disaster Recovery – Business continuity is one of the major concerns that cloud services address. Over 20% of cloud users claim disaster recovery is achieved in less than 4 hours compared to only 9% of non-cloud users. Cloud services are well equipped to back up data in the event of a power outage or a natural disaster and to provide.
Cost and Spend Flexibility – With cloud technologies, you don’t have to invest in the infrastructure and cost of office overhead. You save time on system configurations, server maintenance, and time-consuming installations. There is greater flexibility and reduced deployment times with the pay-as-you-go model associated with most cloud technology as well. With cloud, capacity can be increased on demand during peak times or unexpected spikes, and then decreased when no longer needed. Cloud solutions also enable you to shift your CapEx spend to an OpEx spend for more predictability.
First Step to the Cloud
If you are planning to move to cloud technology, there are two approaches to consider:
- You can build your on-premise cloud infrastructure to support your in-house applications. The advantage of an on-premises cloud environment is better control over your data and greater security. However, it can be an expensive solution. You have to purchase the hardware, server, software licensing, and resources to build and support the infrastructure. It is also a time-consuming process.
- Alternatively, you can opt for a cloud service provider that will offer you everything from network services to infrastructure and applications in the cloud that can be accessed by your organization using network connectivity. Using a cloud service provider is more efficient and economical than an in-house infrastructure. You can also benefit from the different forms of cloud services such as database management (DaaS), software applications (SaaS), a computing platform to develop and host applications (PaaS), or an entire networking and computing infrastructure (IaaS).
Top 4 Cloud Services Providers
1. Amazon Web Services (AWS)
With over 100k customers in more than 190 countries, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a low-cost, scalable IT infrastructure to large enterprises, the public sector, and start-ups. With an annual run rate of $20.4 billion,AWS offers the following services:
- Flexibility. From seamless migration of legacy applications to the cloud to instant availability of new features and services and the choice of running the IT infrastructure in AWS or your own data center, AWS offers flexible solutions to help you manage your services the way you desire. The best part is that it is platform agnostic to operating systems and languages, so you can choose any programming model or development platform of your preference.
- Cost-Effectiveness. There are no upfront costs involved in AWS. It operates on the pay-as-you-go model, so you only pay for what you use whether you use one server or multiple ones. It also allows you to terminate the services whenever you want.
- Scalability and Elasticity. With AWS, you can increase or reduce resources based on demand. The elasticity feature of AWS allows organizations to auto-scale and balance the load according to a situation.
Service model: IaaS, PaaS
2. IBM Cloud
With over 170 products and services and 60+ data centers globally, IBM Cloud offers a full stack cloud platform that can operate on private, public, and hybrid cloud environments. IBM cloud allows you to leverage their advanced data and AI tools to use your data in new ways and to accelerate your move to AI.
IBM continues to invest in its cloud business with acquisitions like Red Hat and supports both an open by design methodology as well as a hybrid cloud approach. Considered an ideal partner for developers, here are a few benefits of IBM Cloud:
- Access to Reusable Services. Development teams can save their time on developing and testing software assets by leveraging IBM Cloud’s reusable service catalog that houses assets created by others. From big data to security management, IBM Cloud has all types of services that allow organizations to develop and deploy their applications quickly.
- Agile and DevOps Approach. With organizations adopting the agile and DevOps practices, IBM cloud fuels the entire approach by providing support in planning, developing, testing, and optimizing the applications that you develop. This leads to faster time to market.
- Easy Migration. With IBM Cloud, it’s easy to migrate and manage workloads across different cloud environments and innovate and modernize your apps on public and private cloud platforms. You can also avail yourself of their expertise to make your transition seamless.
Service model: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS
3. Microsoft Azure
With more than 200 services divided into 18 categories, Microsoft Azure provides cloud services to 95% of the Fortune 500 companies. It also has the highest number of data centers, clocking in at 54 around the world. Here are a few benefits that you can enjoy by using Azure:
- Hybrid Adoption. The best part about Microsoft Azure is that it allows you to design, deploy, and manage your applications on-premises as well as on cloud. You can enjoy the best of both systems. You can also manage your data irrespective of whether it is on-premises or on the cloud.
- Data Security. You can connect your on-premises active directory with Azure’s active directory to have a single identity and a single sign-in option for your users. This will prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing your data.
- Improves Productivity. Microsoft Azure helps organizations to reduce their market cycle with more than 100 end-to-end services. It enables you to build native mobile apps and responsive web apps and connect application, data, and devices with Azure logic apps such as Salesforce, Office 365, and Google services.
- Stringent Compliance. Microsoft Azure has established itself as the leading player with strong security and privacy requirements in place from international regulations such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ISO 27001, HIPAA, FedRAMP, SOC 1 and SOC 2, and country-specific compliance rules such as Australia IRAP, UK G-Cloud, and Singapore MTCS.
Service model: IaaS, SaaS, PaaS
4. Oracle Cloud
Oracle Cloud helps organizations move their on-premises workloads to the cloud in a seamless manner. It offers a complete cloud application suite that enables businesses of all sizes to connect their operations anywhere, anytime from any devices. Here are a few benefits of Oracle Cloud.
- Expedited App Migration. Oracle Cloud expedites app migration process by reducing the migration time from 2-3 months to 2-3 weeks or less. Oracle has a set of automated migration tools that migrates the workload with minimum retooling.
- Centralized Hybrid Environment. You can easily manage and maintain all your apps in a centralized way. You can choose from an array of options such as application-specific tools like App Mgmt Suite for EBS or cloud-based tools such as Oracle Management Cloud for policy-based resource management, and performance monitoring and analytics for complete visibility across on-premises and cloud deployments.
- Application and Database Provisioning. Oracle Cloud addresses the software deployment issue by importing baseline components from the migration tool, or using an updated, pre-packaged version of your application from Oracle’s Cloud marketplace. You can deploy the application and database tiers to the cloud by configuring the servers, installing the OS, application, and the database.
Service model: IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, DaaS
Which cloud service provider fits your bill?
In one of the tech talk videos of Aldridge (a Texas-based IT outsourcing firm), Chad Hiatt, the CIO of the company, advised organizations not to choose a service provider based on their name or reputation, but to choose them based on what you are trying to achieve by moving to the cloud. Do you want to run your servers on the cloud or are you looking at a provider who offers end-to-end solutions in one platform, so you don’t have to rely on multiple solutions at the same time? Once you are aware of your objective, choose the provider who is a leader in that category. Let’s look at when you should choose the aforementioned service providers for your organization.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
You can choose AWS in the following situations:
- You are not willing to enter into a long-term commitment or pay upfront expenses. The pay-as-you-go model enables you to save cost and pay for as much as you use. If your organization is a start-up, AWS will help you save cost on managing and maintaining your cloud infrastructure.
- If you want to scale up your IT infrastructure during peak times and scale down during quiet times within minutes. AWS’ elasticity feature enables you to scale the infrastructure based on its utility. That’s exactly how Beat, a Greece-based car rental app was able to manage their volume of traffic on the app during peak hours and quiet hours. Their app, website, and CRM application run on AWS, which handles its fluctuating application load. By moving to AWS, they can manage over 100 to 10,000 rides in an hour efficiently.
- If you are looking for a blockchain solution that can track and verify your transactions with centralized ownership and execute transactions with decentralized ownership, AWS can help you do that efficiently. It helps you to build a scalable blockchain network and ledger application for your business. Some of the businesses that can benefit from this include manufacturing, banking and insurance, and retail.
Choose Microsoft Azure in the following scenarios:
- If your organization belongs to the finance or legal industry where data security and compliance is of paramount importance, then you can choose Microsoft Azure. It is compliant with international and local compliance certifications, which makes it the most secure cloud service provider.
- If you are planning to use the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, you need cloud services to send and receive sensor data to perform certain tasks. Azure offers a bundle of IoT services such as DocumentDB, HDInsight, and Event hubs for data collection, data analysis, and much more. It strengthens your IoT infrastructure. XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil was looking for a cloud service provider who could help them monitor and optimize their 90,000 square mile reservoir in western Texas and southeast New Mexico. The harsh, humid climate and the distance between oil wells made it difficult for field technicians to collect data about well conditions. The weak cellular and radio reception made it even more difficult for them. XTO deployed Azure’s cloud and IoT solutions to receive real-time analysis and high-resolution data to gain insights about the well operations and future drilling possibilities.
- If you have a complex database, Microsoft Azure can help you manage it. It works seamlessly with several systems and stores information easily.
Opt for IBM Cloud in the following scenarios.
- If you want to migrate your complex legacy architecture to the cloud. IBM Cloud offers flexible infrastructure that supports a wide range of features and manages them through a common API.
- If you want to deploy your apps and services on a responsive cloud infrastructure, IBM’s Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), offers the control and flexibility you need to support the cloud applications.
- IBM offers high performing computing (HPC) to organizations that are involved in product development, research, discovery, and breakthrough science. HPC is an end-to-end personalized computing solution tailored to suit the organization’s needs. If your organization is in financial services, engineering, and research, or oil and gas industry, IBM Cloud can make your move to the cloud seamless and hassle-free. Halliburton, for example, has moved its large reservoir simulations to the IBM Cloud to streamline its oil and gas business. The company believes that the move to the cloud will help them manage and sustain their infrastructure.
Choose Oracle Cloud in the following situations:
- If you are looking for a simplified cloud solution to save costs and time, Oracle Cloud helps organizations to migrate their applications such as ERP, analytics software, and even your existing architecture to the cloud within a few days.
- If you need more value than just subscription services, Oracle Cloud is not limited to only subscription pricing; it also helps you to save costs on hardware.
- If you are looking for a flexible solution, Oracle Cloud helps you to create new, disruptive technology for IoT applications quickly and add virtual servers when the demand increases.
The cloud services provider industry is growing at an incredible rate due to the many advantages it provides like quality development tools and processes, reduced time to deployment, the ability to scale capacity up or down on demand, and flexible cost models with lower TCO. Whatever your drivers are for moving to a cloud services model, there are solid providers with robust solutions to choose from and who can help you reach your business goals.