Lately, I’ve been speaking with a lot of people, and reading a lot of stuff, about cloud computing and enterprise IT. One thing that strikes me is how frequently Microsoft Azure comes up, especially from folks managing IT budgets, as a viable alternative to Amazon Web Services. Even people who don’t have a vested interest in which cloud providers win or lose now offer up the suggestion that AWS can no longer take its top spot—and certainly not its utter dominance—for granted.
A couple years ago, when AWS was already in full stride and the competition was just getting warmed up, that type of comment would have gotten you laughed out of the room. But today, after (to paraphrase AWS CEO Andy Jassy) giving AWS a sizable head start
, it seems pretty reasonable to suggest Microsoft, or even Google, could find themselves within striking distance soon enough.
1. Cloud adoption among enterprises is still very low
Despite countless examples of large enterprises using public cloud services, the reality is that a relatively small percentage of enterprise workloads are actually in the cloud today. According to a recent McKinsey survey
, for example, more than half enterprises surveyed have moved less than 5 percent of total x86 workloads to any type of cloud environment—public or private. Average cloud adoption is only 19 percent of those workloads.
2. Containers are an equalizer
Container formats like Docker and container-management platforms like Kubernetes are getting increasingly popular, and it’s not just because people love microservices. I mean, they do love microservices (for good reason), but many CIOs and engineering executives also view containers as a key piece of their hybrid/multi-cloud strategies
3. AI and big data workloads are still up for grabs
While it certainly was the pioneer in cloud computing, AWS is arguably a relative newcomer in the worlds of big data and AI. Microsoft and Google have established strong reputations over in these areas over the years, in terms of both R&D and actually deploying large-scale data and AI environments. The results have been a collection of services on Azure and GCP that companies should, and do, take seriously.
4. There’s a new class of companies coming up
Snap’s multi-billion-dollar cloud agreements (including $2 billion with Google Cloud and $1 billion with AWS), could foretell a changing of the guard when it comes to who will win the battle for startup workloads in the coming years. There’s a whole new era of startups coming online that (A) might have little to no interest in running their own data centers and (B) don’t have any tech debt associated with AWS.
Yes, the smart money is still on AWS to be the biggest cloud provider in the world for the next few years, no matter how you measure it. But unless things go horribly awry for Microsoft and Google, we probably won’t be seeing too many more headlines like this: “Gartner: Amazon’s cloud is 10x bigger than its next 14 competitors, combined
.” Because for the first time in a decade, really, AWS finally has real competition.