Feb 13, 2020 By Team YoungWonks *
Which are the major cloud service providers today? This blog takes a look at the leading players in the cloud services market. But before we go into that, let’s first understand what the term cloud service provider means.
What or who is a cloud service provider?
Cloud service providers (CSP) are, as their name suggests, companies that offer network services, infrastructure, or business applications in the cloud. A cloud here refers to the Internet; cloud computing then is essentially the storing and accessing of data and programs over the Internet servers instead of the hard drive on one’s computer.
This means that CSPs basically host cloud services in data centers that can be accessed by companies or individuals using network connectivity. One of the key advantages of using a CSP is the efficiency; another one is economies of scale. Instead of individuals and organizations creating their own infrastructure from scratch and supporting internal services and applications, these services can in turn be bought from CSPs.
In fact, there are many different types of services that CSPs offer. So for instance, there’s software, often called Software as a Service (SaaS). Similarly, there are computing platforms for developing or hosting applications which are called Platform as a Service (PaaS); and there are also CSPs providing an entire networking or computing infrastructure, known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). It is important to note that the distinction between these services is not always clear-cut, as often several of these CSPs - including traditional web or application hosting providers - sell multiple types of cloud services. For instance, Rackspace is a web hosting company but they are also CSPs in that they sell PaaS or IaaS services too.
To understand this concept better, one can read our blog on cloud computing (https://www.youngwonks.com/blog/What-is-Cloud-Computing---An-Introduction-for-Absolute-Beginners)
It is important to note that several CSPs also provide website hosting services. This means that they also offer technologies and services that are required for a website or a webpage to be viewed on the Internet. This blog focuses on leading CSPs today; if you wish to read about leading web hosting sites, you can read our blog here: https://www.youngwonks.com/blog/Leading-Web-Hosting-Services-With-Free-and-Paid-Plans
Leading cloud service providers today
In alphabetical order, here are the big 10 cloud service providers in 2020:
• Alibaba Cloud
Founded in 2009 and built initially to serve Alibaba’s own e-commerce ecosystem, Alibaba Cloud is registered and headquartered in Singapore and its services are now open to the public. The largest cloud provider in China, Alibaba Cloud offers several products and services across categories such as elastic computing, storage and CDN, networking, database services, security, monitoring and management, domains and websites, analytics and data technology, application services, media services, middleware, cloud communication, Apsara stack, and Internet of Things (IoT).
It is important to note that Alibaba Cloud has a rather complicated interface. But at the same time, it does have a huge coverage in that it is available in 19 regions and 56 availability zones around the globe. Also, it has detailed documentation which is a big plus. However, it has been said that their customer care is more South East Asia-centric.
Alibaba Cloud offers new users a free trial worth up to USD $300 or $1,200. This lets users learn about and experience the range of products on offer. For more details, visit: https://www.alibabacloud.com
• Amazon Web Services
Amazon Web Services, aka AWS, is easily among the biggest names in the cloud services sector today. Their clients include businesses, non-profits, and governmental organizations. What’s more, there’s a wide variety of options on offer, irrespective of it being a marketing, rich-media, or an ecommerce website.
AWS’s primary clientele consists of sellers although it also provides third-party programs and application programming interfaces to customers. Virtual Private Cloud, EC2, AWS Data Transfer, Simple Storage Service, DynamoDB, Elastic Compute Cloud, AWS Key Management Service, AmazonCloudWatch, Simple Notification Service, Relational Database Service, Route 53, Simple Queue Service, CloudTrail, and Simple Email Service are among the services provided by AWS. Its web hosting is supported on both Linux and Windows servers, so you have a choice. Some of the key pros of using AWS are its broad platform support (with AWS, you can use whatever CMS you prefer including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and more, plus it supports popular platforms like Java, Ruby, PHP, Node.js, and .Net); scalability (AWS infrastructure can grow and shrink to meet the changing needs even as traffic changes); worldwide data centers; flexible pricing and good customer support. They are also known for offering scheduled backups, elastic load balance, and content delivery.
On the downside, AWS has rather complex Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions provider. While initial setup may be easy, customizing one’s account to optimize performance as per one’s needs could be quite tricky.
And while it is true that AWS does have flexible pricing (AWS free tier allows one to explore more than 60 products for free for the first year after which, it costs around $8 – $10 USD per month), it is still rather expensive for new businesses. Overall, it is preferred since it is known for being fairly reliable. For more information, visit: https://aws.amazon.com/
• Google Cloud
Google Cloud Platform (GCP), offered by Google, refers to a package of cloud computing services that run on the same infrastructure that Google uses internally for its end-user products, such as Google Search and YouTube. Along with a set of management tools, it offers a series of modular cloud services (over 90 products) such as computing, data storage, data analytics and machine learning, infrastructure as a service, serverless computing and platform as a service. Google App Engine is its platform as a service and computing platform. Google Cloud allows users to store their data in all the major regions across the world; think North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Like all major players, Google Cloud too offers high durability, which means the data stored can survive even in the event of the simultaneous loss of two disks. Integration is another key advantage: it is rather easy to integrate with other Google Cloud Services such as Kubernetes Engine, App Engine or Compute Engine. Plus it offers different storage classes for different needs; so there’s the Regional option for frequent users, Nearline storage for not so frequent use and Coldline option for long-term storage. Also, Google Cloud boasts impressive documentation; there is a detailed API Reference guide. Additionally, the Console tab in the documentation lets developers try out different SDKs (Software Development Kits) for free.
That said, the support fee, at a $100 per month per user, is rather high. Downloading data from Google Cloud Storage is also rather expensive. There have also been reviews stating that the SDK APIs here seem less stable than the Amazon S3 counterparts.
Regarding the pricing, as mentioned earlier, the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) support fee is not very easy on the pocket. However, it offers one of the best free tiers in the industry. So there is a 12-month free trial with $300 credit to use with any GCP services. For more details, visit: https://cloud.google.com
• IBM Cloud
Developed by IBM, IBM Cloud is a set of cloud computing services for businesses. Much like other cloud service providers, IBM Cloud offers IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS services through public, private, and hybrid cloud models. Services span categories such as compute power, network, storage, cloud packs, management, security, database, analytics, AI, IoT, mobile, development tools, blockchain, integration and migration. These offerings are shared under three umbrellas: SmartCloud Foundation, SmartCloud Services and SmartCloud Solutions. SmartCloud Foundation covers services pertaining to the infrastructure, hardware, provisioning, management, integration and security for private or hybrid cloud, whereas SmartCloud Services include PaaS, IaaS and backup services. SmartCloud Solutions meanwhile refers to several collaboration, analytics and marketing SaaS applications.
IBM also creates and offers clients cloud environments that are not necessarily on the SmartCloud Platform (which in turn comprises only of IBM hardware, software, services and practices). For example, features of the SmartCloud platform—such as Tivoli management software or IBM Systems Director virtualization—can be integrated separately as part of a non-IBM cloud platform.
Among its advantages are its relatively lower cost, high customizability, great performance with high-quality customer service and the fact that their products often support many languages. That said, IBM Cloud does have a rather complicated pricing model and setup; at times it is said to have been slow and delays of synchronization too have been observed. Moreover, it is said to be not so beginner-friendly.
Like its major competitors, IBM Cloud too offers patrons opening a pay-as-you-go account a credit of $200 and around 40 plus free services. The bare metal server charges are around $241 per month per user. For more details, visit: https://cloud.ibm.com/
• Microsoft Azure
Microsoft Azure Web Sites is a web-hosting platform by Microsoft that supports multiple technologies, and programming languages such as .NET, node.js, PHP and Python. So users with Microsoft Azure subscriptions can build websites on this platform, and deploy content and code into the websites. Microsoft Azure Web Sites supports a website creation wizard which lets the user make a blank site, or create a site based on one of several available pre-configured images from the website gallery.
Its pros include easy availability, high security, scalability of computing power as per the need and flexible pay-as-you-go pricing. Increased automation is another big plus: with Azure, one can automate an array of repetitive tasks, allowing one to manage large, complex applications with the tools one prefers to use. This in turn lets the user speed up the app delivery without compromising the quality of his/ her work.
However, it also has some cons. For instance, it needs to be expertly managed and maintained and this includes patching and server monitoring. Platform expertise is also needed with Azure, unlike local servers. Also, in some parts of the world (such as South America, Africa), speedy data access can be a problem.
On the price front, Azure’s paid services start at 0.15 USD per GB for the first 50 TB per month and so on. Of course, it also has a free account where one can avail of more than 25 services for free for up to a year. For more details, visit https://azure.microsoft.com
The cloud offering from Oracle Corporation, Oracle cloud platform provides services such as IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and Data as a Service (DaaS). Its IaaS offerings cover compute power, storage, networking, governance, database, load balancing, DNS monitoring, Ravello, and FastConnect. Data management, application development, integration, business analytics, security, management and content and enterprise make up the PaaS offerings. Oracle SaaS offerings include IoT, analytics, data and blockchain applications while Oracle DaaS is essentially the Oracle Data Cloud.
Oracle Cloud boasts a posse of advantages: be it the integrated stack of technologies on offer under one roof, easy customization, a powerful DaaS, hyperscale architecture where the elaborate infrastructure lets companies easily expand their IT landscapes as they grow, competitive pricing and helpful customer support.
The disadvantages meanwhile include bare-bone offerings for the low end (often it’s just scanty minimum viable product for the low end), and limited performance with .NET solutions.
Oracle too has the pay-as-you-go pricing model that lets one quickly avail of services with no commitment, and pay only for what is being used. There is no upfront commitment nor is there a minimum service period. Both Oracle IaaS and PaaS services are metered hourly and charged only for the resources consumed. For more information, visit: https://www.oracle.com/cloud
• Rackspace Cloud
Rackspace Cloud refers to a suite of cloud computing products and services offered by the US company Rackspace. Services include cloud storage (cloud files), virtual private server (cloud servers), load balancers, databases, backup and monitoring. Rackspace clientele ranges from small business users to enterprise users. They provide dedicated private clouds built on servers in one of their six worldwide data centers, cloud storage management on an outside service (like Azure or Amazon AWS) and hybrid solutions. They also engage in offline solutions like NAS (Network Attached Storage) building and installation and VMWare support.
One of the biggest pros is the fact that Rackspace is an effective replacement for a system administrator, plus they often end up being much cheaper than having an in-house admin. They also boast a vast offering of additional services and highly responsive tech support. For instance, For instance, the Managed Infrastructure service level has a minimum monthly service charge of $50 across all Cloud Servers (virtual and bare metal). On the other hand, Rackspace is also said to be slightly less convenient and slower than its competitors and thus not the best option for easy integration or high scalability. For more details, visit: https://www.rackspace.com/
A cloud-based software company headquartered in San Francisco, California, Salesforce, it was founded as a SaaS provider. It offers customer-relationship management (CRM) service, which covers categories such as commerce cloud, sales cloud, service cloud, data cloud (including Data.com aka Jigsaw), marketing cloud, community cloud (including Chatter), analytics cloud, app cloud, and IoT with over 100,000 customers. There’s also a complementary suite of enterprise applications focused on customer service, marketing automation, analytics, and application development. Lightning Platform (also known as Force.com) is Salesforce’s PaaS provider arm, and last year saw the company roll out its blockchain platform as well. Salesforce’s subsidiaries include several acquisitions such as Quip (software), MuleSoft (SaaS and integration platform as a service aka iPaaS), Tableau Software (data visualization software) and Heroku (offering PaaS). This has further cemented its position in the CSP sector.
Salesforce products and services come with a fair share of pros and cons. Some of its advantages include a customizable dashboard (with a huge range of report widgets), easy-to-navigate software (with separate tabs for various categories) and the fact that it comes with efficient social media tools. In fact, the social media function and news feed operate a lot like Facebook, thus making it very familiar as well as easy to use for users.
In terms of the cons, Salesforce can be a tad overwhelming for microbusinesses that do not really need such a complex software solution. Prices are quite high for such businesses as well, especially if they want customization at affordable rates. Other disadvantages include uncontrolled administration, tricky reporting of issues and technical support that can do better.
Salesforce charges anywhere between $25 and over $300 per user per month. The monthly fee differs as per the needs and scale of the client business. For more details, visit: https://www.salesforce.com/
• SAP Cloud Platform
SAP Cloud Platform is a PaaS developed by SAP SE; it integrates data and business processes. It is used for creating new applications or extending existing applications in a secure cloud computing environment managed by SAP. This means it can be used for advanced analytics, blockchain or machine learning; building and deploying new enterprise business cloud and mobile apps; integrating and connect enterprise applications irrespective of the application location or data source; and connecting enterprise applications and data to IoT.
Advantages of SAP Cloud Platform include monthly pricing, quick return on investment, no need for hardware management, automatic software updates, good data security, scalability and efficient utilization of resources. The disadvantages include data compliance issues for confidential data, restrictions on customization and integration, and the fact that existing infrastructure cannot be utilized with SAP Cloud Platform.
SAP Cloud Platform has both consumption-based model and a tier-based pricing scheme. In case of the latter, the price is defined per unit within each tier or range. For each subsequent tier, the price per unit in the tier decreases. The number of units starts from 0 at the beginning of each month. For more details, visit: https://cloudplatform.sap.com/
VMware, Inc. is a publicly traded software company that provides cloud computing and virtualization software and services. One of the first commercially successful companies to virtualize the x86 architecture, VMware’s desktop software runs on Microsoft Windows, Linux, and macOS.
VMware’s most notable products are its hypervisors (aka virtual machine monitors or VMMs) which are essentially computer software, firmware or hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. VMware ESXi, for example, is an enterprise software product, that can deliver better performance than the freeware VMware Server, because of the lower system computational overhead. It is important to note that VMware ESXi, as a “bare-metal’ product, runs directly on the server hardware, letting virtual servers use hardware more or less directly. In addition, VMware ESXi integrates into VMware vCenter, which offers extra services.
Under its cloud management software packages, there’s VMware vRealize Suite, a cloud management platform purpose-built for a hybrid cloud; VMware Go - a web-based service to guide users of any expertise level through the installation and configuration of VMware vSphere Hypervisor and VMware Cloud Foundation which offers an easy way to deploy and operate a private cloud on an integrated software-defined data center (SDDC) system. VMware Horizon View is a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product. VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC) is their hybrid cloud service.
Good disaster recovery software, decent flexibility in network structures and easy and straightforward setup are the main pros of VMware, whereas its cons include compatibility issues and need for better integration. Using VMC on AWS in particular comes with its share of benefits such as the ability to maintain and expand to the public cloud, helping businesses reduce their datacenter footprint and greater workload flexibility that makes it the ideal choice for companies wishing to treat their private cloud and public cloud as equals.
VMware Cloud on AWS service can be purchased on-demand, or as 1-year or 3-year subscription. In case of the former, one is billed at the end of the month in arrears and with the 1-year or 3-year subscription option, one has to prepay the entire sum. For more details, visit: https://cloud.vmware.com/
*Contributors: Written by Vidya Prabhu; Lead image by: Leonel Cruz