Don’t be distracted by bells and whistles. Align with how you’ll actually use the cloud.
By Brandon Ebken, CTO, Digital Innovation, Insight
By now, the benefits of moving your business to the cloud are well-known: reduced costs, improved security, employee connectivity and more. But it can still be challenging for businesses to identify the right cloud for their needs. There are a variety of providers in the marketplace, and though they are ostensibly selling the same service, there are some differences. So, how do you determine which one is right for you?
What are my options?
The main three providers most businesses are looking at are Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. At their core, all three offer the same product: Infrastructure as a Service. This means they all provide storage and computing power.
However, where these services differ is in their platform-based services. These offerings go well beyond using the cloud as a server, providing a platform for things like Internet of Things-enabled devices, advanced analytics, cognitive services and application services. Each cloud provider has a different way of approaching these types of solution-driven services.
What are the key considerations?
The majority of enterprise organizations (62%) have failed to implement a strong foundation for transforming IT by both documenting and communicating their plan across the organization, according to a new IDG Research Services survey commissioned by Insight Enterprises’ Cloud + Data Center Transformation division on “IT in Transition.” That’s why every consultant harps on the importance of strategy.
Strategy should dictate your company’s IT needs — you shouldn’t be over-procuring based on wanting the “shiny new thing.” Pick a cloud provider that helps you achieve your goals and focus on your long-term vision. While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, here are the top considerations after you’ve nailed down your strategy:
· Industry. What industry do you operate in? A retailer’s needs may be very different from a financial services company. Most retailers compete directly with Amazon and are not interested in an AWS solution or Software as a Service solutions that are hosted on AWS. Global organizations have different data sovereignty requirements based on the industry and laws of a specific country. As with strategy, don’t be distracted by bells and whistles; align with how you’ll actually use the cloud.
· Cost. Many companies make the mistake of making this their primary or only determining factor. I’d argue that this is short-sighted; however, as with any vendor or service you procure, it is important to think about what your budget will allow. With this approach, organizations tend to over-focus on the cost to lift and shift — the cost of running the exact software in the cloud versus maintaining it within their data center. This approach does not take into account the efficiency of moving to Platform as a Service, the speed to delivery, and the innovation possibilities that the cloud brings.
· Business size and existing infrastructure. Some cloud service providers play better with certain independent software vendors (ISV) than others, and some have native services of third-party solutions, which greatly improves the management overhead of these services. Although every cloud provider has its own marketplace, there are varying levels of product in those marketplaces. Depending on your existing infrastructure, you may be able to bring your own license from on-prem to the cloud, or you may need to re-purchase licenses. Additionally, cloud service providers often have different discounting tiers based on the type of organization. If you are public sector, an ISV, a small business or in education, there may be different offers to help meet your needs.
Biases and Perspective
There is a certain amount of lock-in that can happen when you choose a provider — and that’s a good thing. It means you can take full advantage of the services available to you and fully realize the benefits. It also can be extremely costly to switch providers, so doing your homework and understanding each provider’s biases is an imperative for successful IT leaders.
· Of all public cloud providers, Amazon has the most market share in terms of customer spend. Amazon was first to market around a public infrastructure as code offering, which made it easy for customers to adopt early. As a result, nearly all vendors have first-party support on AWS, and these vendors often take an AWS-first mindset for product development.
· Amazon excels at commodity services such as data storage. S3 is incredibly powerful, efficient, and cost effective. Amazon’s “lowest tier” services are often very robust and exceed the other cloud platforms.
· Amazon is a little less mature than some of the other providers when it comes to platform services. Customers often have to stitch together tools in an IaaS model, where other providers are PaaS-first. This can impact overall cost from a management perspective, and reduce the speed to innovation (versus using others’ platform services)
· It’s very easy to get support and similar to the retail experience, Amazon makes it very easy to understand pricing and transact.
· Whereas Amazon was built up from IaaS, Azure was built around PaaS. First-party services are robust in Azure and simple to deploy. The building blocks of innovation — big data, cognitive services, IoT, microservices, machine learning — are easily unlocked within Azure.
· Microsoft has a long history of working with enterprise customers both on-prem and in the cloud. For customers who require a hybrid solution, or want to leverage their existing investments in technology, Microsoft provides outstanding solutions and tooling.
· Similar to Amazon, Microsoft has embraced openness, including open source and even competitive technologies. Further, Microsoft provides a premier developer experience through Visual Studio, Code, and the recent acquisition of GitHub.
· While flexible, Microsoft is often criticized as being the most difficult to understand from a licensing and cost management perspective.
· For our customers, Google has mostly lagged behind the other providers in terms of market share. Historically, Google did not have the same level of investment in the field and the partner channel as Amazon and Microsoft. This caused customers to sometimes struggle with enterprise-level support.
· Google is a serious player in the Data and AI space, and provides a robust set of solutions that compete with and surpass the other cloud providers. Google’s out of the box cognitive services, such as its Vision API, is often considered best-in-class.
· The perception of privacy and trust is often a major issue still when utilizing Google.
The bottom line
Cloud providers do not provide “one-size-fits-all” solutions. In fact, there are a variety of models businesses can pursue based on their needs. Some may choose to use multiple cloud services, while others might embrace a hybrid model that allows them to complete some tasks in the cloud and some on-premises.
Cloud computing can be a powerful asset to your businesses, which is why it’s imperative to spend the time to find the right solution for yourself.
Brandon focuses on strategic delivery efforts and new technology initiatives in his role as Chief Technology Officer for Insight Enterprises’ Digital Innovation team. He educates customers on the business value of IT, helping them innovate smarter and drive differentiation across digital experiences via cloud technologies.