The public cloud computing market is forecasted to reach a value of $208 billion by the end of 2019, which is, staggeringly, an increase of over 95% over the last ten years. And over the last 6 months in the UK, there have been over 91,000 job vacancies advertised with a requirement for cloud computing skills. Although growth looks likely to be slowing as the market perhaps reaches saturation, it has already developed into a significant industry with the key players emerging as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and now seemingly Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
But how do these solutions differ from one another? Who is currently the top of the competition? And, what sort of projects is each platform suitable for?
Amazon’s AWS was the first to market and has consequentially been able to establish a major dominance in terms of market share at just over 47%, helped by their wide range of over 200 service offerings that include application integration, data base, machine learning, migration and transfer, storage and more.
Currently, there are 50,698 professionals in the UK that have AWS as a skillset, which is more than any other cloud computing software can boast. Though on the contrary, these skills have been of the slowest growth amongst those highlighted here at 51%.
In terms of partners, AWS have proven themselves as successful in moving more traditional business to the cloud, with notable partners including Netflix, Financial Times, Nike and Channel 4. Their size, geographical reach and market leading position have enabled to provide secure solutions to some truly massive companies and successfully so too. Though their service in terms of relationship building with big partners has sometimes been in question, they remain a natural and logical choice for certain transformations, but how safe is their current market position?
Microsoft Azure was also an early entrant to the cloud computing market and comfortably has the second greatest market share at 22%. Their range of offerings is narrower than that of AWS though still over 100 services, with a primary focus on whole transformations. Their most notable offerings include artificial intelligence and analytics, developer tools, DevOps, Hybrid, media, web and much more. Currently, there are 36,936 professionals in the UK with Azure as a listed skill, which is a figure that has increased by 59% from last year.
Under Satya Nadella’s tenure, Microsoft has adopted 2 main areas of focus: cloud-first and customer centricity. This has allowed them to excel beyond all other competitors in building strong relationships with partners and end users in the industry, as well as offering unrivalled customer service. Notable partner organizations include Ford, NBC News, EasyJet, ASOS and HP. Microsoft Azure’s most widely used tools are arguably their software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools and the platform is the leader in speed of cloud computing solutions, whilst also offering a great infrastructure for scalability.
Azure’s strong growth over the past few years has seen it carry greater threat to AWS’ dominant position. What has given this greater significance is their recent $10bn Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract – a 10-year deal with the United States Department of Defense. This, on the surface at least, looks likely to give Microsoft a major boost in rivalling AWS’ superior market position, intensifying the direct competition between the two platforms. Many analysts are starting to estimate that Azure will overtake AWS, but this is still a longer-term picture, so it will be interesting to witness if/how differences in strategy will take them to the top of the cloud computing market.
GCP is the more recent entrant to the market and sits beneath a fair gap between itself and 2nd place market leader Azure, with an 8% share of the cloud computing market. The amount of skilled GCP professionals in the UK has grown more so than the other skills discussed here, by a whopping 131% since last year to reach a total of 5,320 in the UK. GCP currently only offers just over 60 services, though this forms part of a much more focused offering.
GCP specializes in high-end computing offerings such as big data, analytics and machine learning, also providing considerable scale-out options and data load balancing. GCP organizes service usage by project rather than by account so that users can create multiple, wholly separate projects under the same account. This is a good thing organisationally, as it enables users to create project spaces for separate divisions or groups within a company.
This has been noticed by significant partners, such as Accenture who are the leading Google Alliance Partner, and recently collaborated to form the Accenture Google Cloud Business Group. The aim of the group is simple: strengthen customer experience capabilities with the Google Cloud Platform, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and intelligent agent offerings. So whilst GCP is comfortably behind the offerings of Amazon and Microsoft, it will be interesting to see whether working with big partners will grow them to pose significant threat within the industry, or whether their greater specialisation and focus will allow them to be the leaders in specific segments of the market.
AWS worked closely alongside OakNorth in building the UK’s first cloud-based bank, to provide speed, flexibility and straight-talking financial support to entrepreneurs and mid-sized growth businesses. AWS’ industry leading position made them an obvious choice in terms of their ability to leverage across geographies and bring benefits of scale and scope. More specifically, AWS has over 1,800 different security controls to make sure they meet the tight security and regulatory requirements of such a venture. All of this has allowed the bank to make decisions faster because everything is stored in the digital cloud, cutting down on the red tape for customers that typically exist within such transactions, making this a real win.
Microsoft Azure is facilitating a bicycle-sharing initiative in Manchester, which looks to a powerful statement of innovation in tackling pollution and promoting the ease of alternative, ‘greener’ transport methods. ‘Mobike’ uses an app-based service run via Microsoft Azure, and differs from most other bike share schemes as instead of having to dock the bikes at specific locations, users can leave the bike in any appropriate parking location. The app is essentially a QR scanner that unlocks bikes and chargers users based on their usage, before manually locking after their trip. The app also uses GPS technology to locate bikes wherever they are and help users find them. Azure will enable the scheme to cope with spikes in usage by automatically increasing the amount of processing power in the cloud that Mobike needs. This is a great example of how businesses can use Azure to completely transform an offering from top to bottom to provide an outstanding, and in this case convenient, service.
GCP has seen Music app Shazam move all its graphic processing units to their cloud service to enable better scaling and processing of recognition request it receives every minute. The app essentially works by searching for matching songs to the fingerprints of audio that it receives. And due to significant growth in popularity, the company needed a more dynamic and flexible solution to the out-dated methods: enter GCP. GCP has been able to provide a faster service in terms of song identification, largely due to a greater ability to update audio databases more frequently so that they are always up to date.
The developments within the cloud computing market has been quite something to witness over the past few years. Rapid growth rate, amazing innovations and an increased rivalry between competitors have all given birth to greater solutions and offerings. AWS has long remained a giant within the industry, though Microsoft Azure is hot on their tail and GCP is doing some really interesting, specialised projects that are starting to be of real note.
Further to this, it is worth contemplating how the competitive structure of the market may change. AWS has sat as the market leader for a long time, and still boasts an amazing platform, but Microsoft look likely to threaten that more over the next few years. Their shift in focus from windows to cloud, and building of customer relationships in the industry has been boosted by their winning of the JEDI contract as previously mentioned, which may give them the investment and momentum to grow beyond their arch rivals. In terms of GCP, although they have grown to hold a notable share of the market, their more focused offering and specialisation will likely see them become leaders of specific segments, particularly those where AI and data are at the core, rather than growing to a size that directly competes with AWS and Azure.
It’s no secret that we are presently at a skills shortage in terms of technology jobs as a whole in the UK. However, the figures for cloud computing look promising, with 91,000 cloud computing jobs and 93,000 professionals skilled in Azure AWS and/or GCP, with these numbers growing rapidly. This growth is of course a good thing – an increased number of candidates means greater competition amongst professionals, which naturally increases the overall quality of talent available. Customers, end users and partners then all stand to gain, as the availability of top talent is more plentiful. We can therefore hope and encourage professionals to upskill so that the current position strengthens and forecasts come true.