When it comes to choosing a Cloud or Public Cloud provider, there are numerous factors to consider. Initially, major hyperscale providers may seem quite similar, especially for organizations new to the world of public Cloud. However, each of these providers possesses distinct characteristics and strengths. Therefore, it’s essential to identify the one that aligns most effectively with your specific business, technical, and operational requirements.
Based on my years of experience helping organizations across the public and private sectors migrate their SAP estates to the Cloud, I have developed a checklist to help enterprises choose the right Cloud provider for their business.
I strongly believe that aligning with and embracing the culture of your chosen hyperscaler is crucial, as this is a long-term journey. Above all else, I would like to emphasize that this is not merely a tactical decision, as it may initially appear in the business case; it is a strategic, long-term one. While moving storage and compute between Cloud providers can be relatively straightforward, once you delve into the Cloud ecosystem, you’ll likely leverage numerous capabilities. Once these become integral to your systems, it becomes significantly more challenging to transition away from them. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that this is a long-term commitment, and you should feel comfortable with the culture you align with.
Some individuals naturally gravitate towards Microsoft due to their familiarity with it, while others are impressed by Amazon’s retail focus, and some prefer the Google experience. I genuinely believe that culture is the most critical factor, even though it may be more challenging to quantify.
This is not just about the list price. Frankly, Amazon, Microsoft and Google keep each other honest when it comes to initial cost, which is far less of a differentiator, even though it will always be part of any business case. The second part of pricing is discounts – and understanding not just the initial discounts for migrating, but the long-term discounts available based on your volumes.
While they keep each other honest in terms of competitive pressure, some people are skeptical that prices will stay low, but I think we are seeing a fundamental move away from the ‘bait-and-switch’ approach to pricing previously seen in IT. This approach is aligned to culture as well so be sure to check what these IT giants have done in the past (and what are they likely to do in the future) that may affect your pricing extrapolations.
3. Feature Set and Innovation
If you’re a first-time user, it can be quite difficult to see any differences on features at all. There is no doubt AWS were the market-makers in this space, almost singled-handedly generating the public cloud concept. Their customer-obsession led to an incredible pace of innovation which allowed them to build a vast range of services. However, Microsoft and Google both pivoted in the same direction and, as a group of 3, are clear leaders of capabilities in this space.
And while most of the core workloads look quite similar: storage, compute, networking, security etc. are generally the same, within a margin of error, when you dig a bit deeper you will find areas of differentiation which may be important to your enterprise.
Google is known for its impressive data capability. Amazon and Azure also have strength in this area too, but Google built their business on it. The choice very dependent on your specific needs and use cases.
When it comes to Windows capabilities, Azure pulls ahead in terms of license mobility, though both Google and Amazon can also run Windows.
Where AWS is really differentiated is around customer obsession. The speed at which they release new things to the market is remarkable due to their customer-centric approach and the focus they have on innovation at speed. Azure and Google are also focused on differentiating themselves through innovation and their speed to market is increasing.
At first glance, they may look the same but dig a little deeper and there are differences, and you should be sure to select the one that is most aligned with your own organization.
4. Partner Capabilities
It is worth looking at the capabilities of the hyperscaler’s ecosystem of partners. There is no manual for this, so you must figure it out either by yourself or with someone that has done it already. You need to look for partners with the right experience – and see if you can find those partners on each of the Cloud offerings. Some view this as secondary, but some organizations follow the partner and go with their recommendation, rather than finding a partner to fit their choice of hyperscaler.
5. Unplanned Downtime
The availability on any of the hyperscalers is without doubt much better than what can be achieved by any but of the most expensive on-premises alternatives. However, you may see some variations between the providers in different regions. These are, of course, are hard to predict and all providers continue to improve this. However, you need to ensure you include architecture to mitigate against unplanned downtime in your target architecture and cost models.
Choosing a hyperscaler platform should be approached with the same caution and diligence as any long-term relationship. The rules above can provide a very high-level framework to start with but then you need to dig deeper to formulate a detailed analytical assessment to determine which Cloud service provider(s) you will ultimately trust with your systems and data. You should also do a thorough analysis of your organization’s needs and expectations prior to comparing the hyperscaler candidates. This exercise is key to determining which hyperscaler is right for you and can deliver the features and functionality best aligned with your business and culture as well as your operational, security, and compliance goals.