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AWS vs. Azure vs. GCP: Which cloud platform should you choose?

The cloud is everywhere in 2023. It's no longer the future. It's the present. Cloud computing allows companies to rent the required IT infrastructure to store and access data or programs instead of building and operating their own physical resources: servers, storage, and network. The cloud is cost-effective. It offers turnkey solutions for all major infrastructure needs like disaster recovery, scalability, mobility, regular updates, and flexibility. Resources can be scaled up and down on demand, taking out the guesswork of forecasting product usage. Companies that deploy their infrastructure in the cloud benefit from reduced maintenance costs and typically get all of the benefits of the newest infrastructure innovations.  

Worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services in 2021 reached $410.9 billion. According to the latest forecast from Gartner, Inc., in 2022, it is expected to grow 20.4% to a total of $494.7 billion, and in 2023 it is expected to reach nearly $600 billion. In terms of a more specific breakdown of expected growth – Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is forecast to experience the highest end-user spending growth in 2022 at 30.6%, followed by desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) at 26.6% and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) at 26.1%.

The cloud market has three leading players (see stats here https://www.srgresearch.com/articles/q2-cloud-market-grows-by-29-despite-strong-currency-headwinds-amazon-increases-its-share). Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the biggest and oldest player in the space. It is a true pioneer and maintains the largest market share of almost 34%. Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are semi-distant second and third, with popularity reaching 21% and 10% of the market, respectively. The question on many people's minds is how durable AWS dominance is and in what scenario either Azure or GCP would overtake it. The chart below shows a breakdown of market share since 2017. When it comes to picking a platform for your own project, all three have active enough communities to merit strong consideration, so it will come down to the pros and cons each provider offers. We've compiled a summary analysis of each platform to help you make an educated choice. 

The AWS website describes the platform as the world's most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform offering over 200 fully featured services across multiple data centers globally. AWS is truly the pioneer in cloud computing. It has completely changed the way companies are built. To provide context on just how innovative AWS was at its time of launch, it wasn't until four years later that the first major competitor emerged. It was officially launched in 2006 and has been the undisputed industry leader since then. The AWS cloud spans 84 Availability Zones within 26 geographic regions worldwide and recently announced plans for 24 more Availability Zones and eight new AWS Regions across multiple countries. If you choose to make your cloud home on AWS, your neighbors will be such companies as Netflix, BBC, Adobe, Pinterest, Capital One, and millions of other companies, including new startups and huge corporations.

AWS includes a mixture of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and packaged software as a service (SaaS) offerings. It has a number of services that help users to deal with databases, analytics, management, deployment, and any other computing tasks you can imagine. The number of these services continues to grow steadily. AWS is flexible – it enables you to select an operating system, programming language, web application platform, database, and other configuration settings you might need. To put it bluntly, AWS has significantly more services and features within those services than any other cloud provider. So, whatever you may need, AWS definitely has it. It also has excellent customer support.

When it comes to pricing, AWS offers a free 12-month trial period for small projects. It gives startups a number of benefits, including AWS credits, AWS support plan credits, and architecture guidance to help grow their business. There is always a free usage tier for tools like AWS Lambda, AWS Storage Gateway, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Glacier, and Amazon CloudWatch. Once the trial period has expired, you can choose your subscription between one of the following plans: "Pay as you go", "Save when you commit", and "Pay less by using more". With the first plan, you only pay for the service you use and exactly the time you use it, which is on an hourly basis. Even though this plan is flexible, it can incur high costs, and you may quickly run out of budget. The second plan means making a commitment to use some services for a one- or three-year term to save up to 30% more than the on-demand payments. The amount of the discount depends on the amount of the upfront payment - the more you pay upfront and the longer the commitment, the more you save. This plan makes costs more predictable and allows you to save, but you should be ready to pay for the service regardless of the actual usage. In the plan "Pay less by using more," AWS offers a discounted rate when several resources are purchased in bulk. It is essentially a volume-based discount. The more AWS resources you use, the lower your hourly rates become. For any extra resources you may need later, you will have to pay according to the "Pay as you go plan". This approach requires accurate foresight into your future needs, i.e., infrastructure, storage, processing power, etc., and if you guess wrong, you might pay more. 

It is also worth mentioning that AWS is a technical platform; if you do not have technical knowledge, it might be challenging to get started with AWS. It is infamous for being complex and overly documented, so you might need to sift through a lot of text to find the exact information you are looking for. Since AWS has grown a lot over the years and the quantity of services has expanded, the user experience is not always intuitive, meaning AWS may seem not user-friendly. It also works best for companies that run non-Windows services. 

Microsoft Azure was the first competitor of AWS. It was released in February 2010. It also provides SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS business model offerings and supports many different programming languages and frameworks, including Microsoft-specific and third-party software. Its hardware infrastructure of cloud computing services leverages the global network of Microsoft data centers. Azure now covers 140 countries, and availability zones are present in every one of these countries. It offers a similarly large variety of services as AWS. Leading Azure clients include Boeing, Coca-Cola, Lufthansa, Samsung, BMW, Bayer, and many other companies ranging from small businesses to critical life services and Fortune 500 companies.

The important advantage of Microsoft Azure is its intuitive configuration with the Microsoft family of software. It will perfectly complement companies with existing Microsoft infrastructure, software, and applications. Some think this built-in Microsoft integration makes Azure less complicated than AWS. Azure also offers a free 12-month trial period which includes access to all popular services, a $200 credit for any service for 30 days, and 40+ permanently free services, including–Azure Cosmos DB, Azure App Service, Azure DevOpts, and Dev TestLabs, Azure App Configuration and others. Azure's pricing plans also have "Pay as You Go" and "Azure reservations" options. Using the "Pay as You Go" model, services are billed on a per-minute basis, and you can start or stop the service at any time, paying only for what you use. With "Azure reservations," you can forecast your resource needs and make a one- or three-year commitment to select Azure services to pay less. If comparing AWS and Azure, the latter is expected to be less costly to use. 

GCP, launched in 2008, is the youngest cloud service platform on the list. The reason that AWS considers Azure to be its first competitor rather than GCP is that AWS and Azure provided IaaS services, while GCP initially focused on PaaS services and its Google App Engine product (GAE). GAE is much closer to what Heroku offers. Both GAE and Heroku are PaaS offerings that provide a ready-made environment to deploy your application very fast. The downside is GAE and Heroku only host a limited range of OS, languages, and databases. With IaaS services you can install and customize your software environment anyhow according to your needs. In 2010 Google added storage to its cloud services. Subsequently, in 2012 and 2013, BigQuery, Compute Engine, Cloud SQL, and other tools were launched, thereby completing GCP's evolution into a full-service cloud provider. The fact that GCP launched its full array of cloud services about five years after AWS and Azure are often cited as a core reason for its much smaller market share. In 2023, the Google Cloud Platform provides IaaS, PaaS, and serverless computing environments. It still lacks some advanced features and diversity of services. For instance, its security features are not as impressive as AWS, its Compute Engine is less functionally rich, and its storage and backup options are also fairly basic etc. It puts it far behind its competitors. It also has fewer availability zones (GCP is available in 29 regions and 88 zones). To compensate for these shortcomings, GCP offers a really attractive pricing model. It has a 12-month trial period, during which Google provides a $300 credit that can be used across all services. It also has 20+ permanently free products. Once you've used your free credits, Google will bill you on a per-minute basis (for paid products), ensuring you get the best price for what you pay.  

An added benefit of GCP is that the interface is exceptionally intuitive and easy to use. It can be an excellent choice for those just entering the development world and requiring computing infrastructure. Being new to the market, GCP is growing very quickly and is widely expected to make up ground against its larger competitors in the years to come. It boasts its own big name roster of clients, including PayPal, Twitter, Etsy, Airbus, Spotify, and P&G.

It would be fair to conclude that at present AWS and Azure are the two titans in the space, with GCP considerably behind but working diligently to catch up. Microsoft Azure has grown its market share over the years to be a clear number two, but not to the extent that there is real competition with AWS for clear market supremacy. AWS is the apparent winner when it comes to cloud computing market share. It is mature and versatile in its offerings. If you have ambitious plans, it can offer you any infrastructure you might need as your business grows. Even though a significant portion of their revenue comes from large enterprise customers, it can also be a good fit for small businesses (just pay attention to your usage levels!). To summarize, if you are looking for IaaS or the broadest range of services and tools, then choose AWS. If you are looking for windows integration or a good PaaS cloud provider, then you can safely select Azure. GCP will be an excellent choice if your budget is your main priority.

Author:  Maryna Kharchenko

Maryna is research analyst at ScrumLaunch responsible for tracking the latest trends in the technology industry and providing insights to our clients and the broader startup community.


Charlie Lambropoulos


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