There are many reasons why people choose to support their favorite sports team: geography, a beloved star player, following in the family tradition etc. Yet there are also times when you’re free to make a more impartial analysis, based on a detached assessment of the relevant pros and cons.

It’s similar to selecting your preferred cloud service provider: how to choose the one that best fits with your company’s short- and long-term requirements? Do you go for the biggest franchise or the established track record? The ambitious new entrant or the niche offering following its own path to potential glory?

Get to know your options

In making your choice, it might help that there are five ‘main’ cloud options to choose from: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud, Google Cloud, and VMware. Between them, they offer a mix of:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service: where you typically work with virtual machines that you configure yourself.
  • Platform-as-a-Service: where you deploy your applications on a platform – created and maintained by the PaaS provider.
  • Software-as-a-Service: the most familiar type of cloud service, where you work with applications that are deployed and managed by a third party.

AWS

One of the two big cloud giants (the other being Microsoft Azure), AWS is seen as a dominant player due to its public cloud offering – though it’s never been considered the strongest in hybrid (to bolster its hybrid portfolio, AWS is now partnering with VMware). The company also offers tools for making the most of AI and machine learning.

Microsoft Azure

The other cloud giant, Microsoft obviously offers the breadth of product capabilities needed to support large-scale public and private cloud deployments. In addition, a broad portfolio of services, including the ever-present Office 365 suite of tools, SaaS, and growing AI capabilities, help bolster the Azure story – alongside their Azure Stack hybrid message.

IBM Cloud

IBM is one of the earliest companies to commit to a hybrid cloud vision, and it shows in their product portfolio. The data center footprint is omnipresent to reassure most enterprise customers. On the AI front, IBM’s Watson system is seemingly more tightly integrated with its services than most of their competitors.

Google Cloud

From its humble beginnings with Google App Engine (2008), Google has grown its Google Cloud Platform (GCP) into one of the premier cloud offerings on the market and continues to invest in the product to make it more attractive to big customers. In addition, GCP also incorporates an IaaS component (Google Compute) to support the use of virtual machines.

VMware

One of the more varied options, VMware is seen as a specialized solution whose main strength lies in private cloud – through vSphere and vCenter. That said, its hybrid portfolio has been strengthened through partnerships with the main players – including Microsoft, IBM, and AWS. As a result, the virtualization specialist also remains a leading hybrid provider, aiming to be the ‘glue’ between private and public cloud environments.

Making the right choice

So, there are different options. But which one’s right for you? And what are the critical factors to consider when measuring?

A focus on cost

Comparing prices among the major IaaS cloud vendors is not as easy as simply checking the cost of one virtual machine versus another. There is a wide range of factors that influences price: size of the virtual machine, its type, and contract length, to name a few.

So how are you supposed to know which vendor offers the best deal? In deciding this, it should be kept in mind that the most expensive way to pay for cloud-based virtual machines is on-demand: the longer you plan and commit to using these resources, the more you save.

So for example, with Azure and AWS the way this is done is by using Reserved Instances (RIs), and the more you pay for usage up front, the greater the discount (ranging from 24-75% when compared to on-demand). With Google, their model for incentivizing usage is called Sustained Usage Discounts (SUDs), and again, the more you spend, the more you save.

Factors that influence cost

It’s also difficult to offer a generic assessment of which provider offers the cheapest virtual machines, due to the options available and how these tie into specific use cases, and whether:

  • Your company is using solid-state memory drives.
  • Your virtual machines will be running Windows or an open source OS.
  • The deployment covers a domestic or international user audience.
  • Workloads can be separated out to let you pay by the minute rather than by the hour.

Finalizing your assessment

Outside of pricing and discount options, where there is little to differentiate the major providers, what other factors could impact your choice? Well, one aspect is developer affinity with a particular platform and tool set.
Then there are the more contractual concerns that include:

  • Ease of purchase: and the relative ease by which discounts can be applied to any instance and region (a category that Google typically does well in).
  • Ease of adaptability: and modifying the use of RIs and SUDs across different business units (for example, AWS/Azure RIs can be converted but require manual intervention, while Google’s version is automatically applied to any instance in a region).
  • Ability to cancel: the speed and ease of ending the engagement due to shifting business demand (for example, Azure is unique in allowing you to cancel all your reserved instances – but charge a 12% fee for doing so).
  • Most flexible payment options: it’s here that AWS is usually seen as offering the widest range of payment options, as well as enabling you to increase savings in line with what you pay up front.

Time to get choosing

Navigating the complexity that comes with your choice of cloud service provider can be difficult. What’s more, to make a wrong decision is in part to contribute to the estimated $10 billion waste in public cloud costs estimated for 2018.

Make a well-informed decision

COMPAREX offers a cloud inspiration workshop that ensures you closely align what you buy with what you need.

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