How Much Do the Differences Between Cloud Providers Actually Matter?

When evaluating public cloud providers, whether to choose the best for your environment or simply to try to decipher the disparity in market share, it can be easy to get hung up on the differences. AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud each have their own service catalog, pricing and purchasing variations, and flavor. But do these differences actually matter?

What’s Actually Different Between Cloud Providers?

Terminology

Obviously, this is not a sign of substantive differences in offerings — and just goes to show that the providers are often more similar than it might appear at first glance.

Compute Options

For our purposes, we can compare what is still the core product for cloud service providers: compute. Compute products make up about ⅔ of most companies’ cloud bills, so the similarities and differences here will account for the core of most users’ cloud experiences.

Here’s a brief comparison of the compute option features across cloud providers:

Of course, if you plan to make heavy use of a particular service, such as Function-as-a-Service/serverless, you’ll want to do a detailed comparison of those offerings on their own.

Pricing

For more accurate results, pull up each cloud provider’s price list. Of course, not all instance types will be as easy to compare across providers — especially once you get outside the core compute offerings into options that are more variable, more configurable, and perhaps even charged differently (in fact, AWS and Google actually charge per second).

Note that AWS and Azure list distinct prices for instance types with the Windows OS, while Google Cloud adds a per-core license charge, on top of the base instance cost.

The table above represents the default On Demand pricing options. However, each provider offers a variety of methods to reduce these base costs, which we’ll look at in the Purchasing Options section below.

Purchasing Options

Reservations

What about if you change your mind? AWS users have the option to resell their reservations on a marketplace if they decide they’re no longer needed, while Azure users will pay a penalty to cancel, and Google users cannot cancel.

Spot and Preemptible Instances

Sustained Use Discounts

Contracts

Revenue & Market Share

Does this matter? In some ways, yes. There’s a positive feedback loop in which larger enterprises will be more inclined to go with the solution that is serving the most large enterprises. And, AWS’s many-year head start and market advantage have let it develop more, and more innovative, offerings at a rapid pace. But ultimately we do not find the market picture to have any impact on functionality or availability.

Competition

“It” Factor

Some appreciate AWS and Azure’s enterprise support and find Google Cloud lacking here, but this is changing as Google onboards more large customers and focuses on enterprise compatibility.

There are also perceptions regarding ease of use, but actually, we find these to be most affected by the platform you’re used to using. Ultimately, whatever you’re most familiar with is going to be the easiest — and any can be learned.

Do the Differences Matter?

And… that’s okay! The fact of the matter is, you’re likely to be using multiple clouds soon, if you’re not already — so you will have access to the advantages of each provider. Additionally, applications and data are now more portable than ever due to containers.

So, prepare yourself and your environment for a multi-cloud reality. Build your applications to avoid vendor lock-in. Use cloud-agnostic tools where possible to take advantage of the benefits of abstraction layers.

Even if you’re only considering one cloud at the moment, these choices will benefit you in the long run. And remember: if your company is telling you to use a specific cloud provider, or an obscure requirement drives you to one in particular — don’t worry. The differences don’t matter that much.

Originally published at www.parkmycloud.com on September 11, 2019.

CEO of ParkMyCloud