A very happy new year from Rishidot Research. As we enter 2018, the pressure on CIOs to modernize their IT is going to increase significantly. Any further delay will hurt the business bottom line. At Rishidot Research, we have our hands full on a research agenda focussed on Cloud Native Computing landscape and CIOs will find our research very valuable for their modernization strategy. As a first step, and also to set the context for our discussions in the coming months, we will take stock of the major public cloud vendors and where they stand against their competition.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the leading cloud vendor by a huge margin. The scale and the momentum in the recent AWS Re:Invent 2017 is a clear indication of this trend. Now AWS’ user conference is comparable to the traditional IT vendors and the number of CIOs and other decision makers I came across in this event indicates that enterprises are eager to embrace public clouds. It is only natural to start our analysis with AWS.
Amazon Web Services
- AWS leads all the cloud providers in the sheer number of services they offer to customers. Their push towards serverless which started two years back is now moving to other areas such as containers (AWS Fargate), Data Services (AWS Aurora Serverless), etc.. At Rishidot Research, we deeply believe in higher order abstractions playing a critical role in enterprise IT (we were only of the early believers in PaaS and ran a conference dedicated to it) and we strongly advocate the “serverless” abstractions as the path forward. AWS serverless abstractions other than Lambda is still in early stages and we would expect the services to become even more seamless and autonomic (eg: Without having to describe the limits on resources. AWS should handle that seamlessly with better ways to limit runaway costs)
- Even though they are slow to push container services and Machine Learning, they are pushing hard in these two areas. AWS Fargate is how container services should be and might provide a competition to many Cars and PaaS vendors in the market. I would characterize their approach to “giving choice to customers” as an underdog marketing approach in areas where they are not a leader in the market. Both containers and ML are areas where mindshare is still not there with AWS. By touting “user choice”, AWS is trying to catch up with other cloud providers
- One of the criticism I heard from users during AWS Re:Invent 2017 conference is on the interoperability of their services. I would expect AWS to focus on fixing the issues and solving the pain points faced by users of multiple AWS services. I would also like to see Amazon cut down the complexity in the consumption of services. The sheer number of services offered by Amazon makes it a daunting task for decision makers as they plot their strategy. Anything Amazon can do to tame this complexity beast will be helpful. A good example is AWS Fargate service. At Rishidot Research, we believe in the composability of the different layers in the IT stack but it shouldn’t come at the cost of increased complexity to consume the services
- Both in terms of their service offerings and the customer momentum, AWS has the lead in the market. One trend I observed during the recent Re:Invent is that the size of the IT team makes a difference in organizations going all in with AWS. Large businesses with smaller IT teams are more open to going all in with AWS. If you are an enterprise decision maker wanting to go all in with a single cloud provider, the size of your IT team will impact the decision making process.
- Microsoft Azure is steadily increasing their public cloud marketplace. The main Azure development is driven mostly by the existing relationship between Microsoft and the IT decision makers but they are changing minds among OSS developers and the younger generation of developers by a strong OSS push. Being the largest contributor in terms of the number of lines of code (because of .NET being open sourced), Microsoft has gained the critical credibility needed to make Azure palatable to OSS developers. By releasing services like CosmosDB, Microsoft has been working hard to gain developer adoption to Azure cloud services
- Microsoft may not be a leader in Containers but they are investing heavily in hiring Kubernetes talent. Many pundits (including myself) have linked AWS’s embrace of Kubernetes and CNCF as an indication of standardization around Kubernetes but Microsoft’s investment is critical because they are now in a position to neutralize Google from pushing Kubernetes in a direction suitable for them
- I would like to see Microsoft focus more on making their services more “serverless”. They have necessary components including service fabric and others to move in that direction. I am expecting some announcements in this direction from Microsoft in the next Build conference
- Microsoft is still an underdog when it comes to ML and AI workloads. They do have a solid technology to make Azure an attractive destination for such workloads. I am yet to see a coherent go to market strategy in this case
- With Azure Stack (AS), Microsoft gave a great story for hybrid cloud/edge computing in last year’s Build conference. The use case with Carnival Cruise Line is a perfect example of Azure Stack. The way they are integrating serverless technologies with Azure Stack will make AS an attractive option for edge computing use cases
- After a slow start, Google Cloud got attention through two open source projects, Kubernetes and Tensorflow. With Kubernetes, Google is uniquely positioned to help enterprises “run like Google”. Even though they showcased some customers in last year’s Google Cloud user conference, they are yet to publicly demonstrate continued success with enterprises. I am hoping to see more customers in this year’s conference
- Even though Google got early momentum with Kubernetes, AWS and Azure have since caught up with Google in terms of both mindshare (in the case of Azure) and market share (in the case of AWS). I would love to see Google showcasing technology that will make their cloud more attractive than both AWS and Microsoft when it comes to container workloads
- Google cloud is a clear leader in ML and AI workloads on the cloud. They took a more opinionated approach with Tensorflow and it is paying off, mainly due to the success of Tensorflow as an OSS project. They need to demonstrate that they can capitalize on this early success this year
- Google has an advantage in Big Data services but AWS and Azure are catching up fast
- IBM started its cloud push much earlier than Oracle and even before Google or Microsoft showed their seriousness towards enterprise adoption of cloud. In spite of their acquisitions around cloud data centers, data services and even DevOps, they are still lagging behind the top three cloud providers in both mindshare and market share (at least, with AWS and Microsoft). More than anything else, there is absolutely no clarity on IBM’s cloud journey. After betting on OpenStack and CloudFoundry early on and, now, Kubernetes, they are yet to demonstrate a clear path towards success in the cloud. In 2018, I expect to see a more coherent cloud story from them
- IBM Watson was supposed to help IBM gain on cloud computing. Even though there are some customer stories based on Watson and IBM Cloud, we need to hear more in 2018
- Oracle was the last to enter infrastructure as a Service business among the top cloud vendors. They are still in early stages even though they have made some announcements related to containers and container orchestration. I expect to see them take a deeper plunge in the Kubernetes ecosystem even though they are yet to demonstrate that they can work well with other vendors in an open source project.
- They need to shore up higher order services if they have to compete effectively with AWS and Azure. They cannot just rely on their database service as the path to cloud success and they need to compete with AWS on the breadth and depth of higher order services. Looking forward to hearing from them on this topic in 2018
We are also closely tracking both Alibaba cloud and Huawei cloud. We do notice that Alibaba cloud is fast adding new features but we are waiting to hear from them on their US traction. We will include these two cloud providers in our future analysis.
Disclosure: AWS, Microsoft and Google paid for travel and stay to attend their user conferences in 2017