We are taking a look at the current “Big 3” cloud providers in this article, and will be comparing aspects of these cloud services that include storage capacity, price, and versatility. Our “best cloud service comparison” examines Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, and Google, and will hopefully help you narrow-down one of these as your cloud service provider of choice — or, perhaps help you choose another cloud provider altogether.

Right Scale estimated in November 2017 that these three cloud services will have netted a whopping $30 billion for 2017. What they also found was that companies waste up to $10 billion on cloud costs needlessly.

Finding the Best Cloud Service: 3 Factors Driving Up Cloud Costs

Right Scale also found that there are three principal factors that drive waste in cloud spend: the complexity of cloud pricing and billing, the constant change in pricing and features from cloud providers, and the decentralization of cloud use.

  1. Complexity of Cloud Pricing and Bills

The first reason there is so much waste in public cloud is that of the incredible complexity of cloud pricing and billing. You practically need a Ph.D. in cloud costs to understand pricing and track where you are spending money. To illustrate the scope of the problem:

  • Cloud bills often have millions of line items. Don’t even try to open up a reasonable-size cloud bill in your favorite spreadsheet.
  • Cloud providers offer hundreds of thousands of price-points. AWS alone has more than 70,000 price points just on instances.
  • Cloud users don’t have visibility into which options are lowest priced. When provisioning resources in the cloud, users often don’t know which of the regions or instance types that meet their needs are the lowest cost.
  • There are myriad discounting options. AWS offers reserved instances, with more than 90 percent of those instance price points being for different discount options. Azure has just announced reserved instances and (surprise!) they work differently than those on AWS. Google has its own approach to discounting with automatic Sustained Use Discounts as well as Committed Use Discounts.
  1. Constant Change from Cloud Providers

In addition to complexity, there is constant change in your cloud spend. Not only is your usage changing, but cloud providers are also changing pricing, evolving discount models, and adding new services with brand-new pricing models. Just as importantly, they are changing how costs are represented in the cloud bill, breaking automated processes that companies may have created to allocate and analyze the bill.

  1. Decentralized Adoption of Cloud

The third reason for waste arises from the bottom-up adoption of cloud. Cloud computing enables companies to be agiler. Individual development teams or business units can gain instant access to the infrastructure they need through the push of a button or a simple API call. They no longer need to wait for lengthy approval or provisioning processes that were required in the data center.

However, the teams now doing the provisioning often have little reason to ensure the efficient use of cloud resources. Prices for individual VMs or resources seem small, and it’s not until cloud use has grown and cloud spend becomes significant that they become aware of how waste adds up. Even when they realize the problem, their lack of expertise with cloud pricing and lack of visibility into cloud costs makes it difficult to fix the problem.

Here’s where Intelice’s team of experienced cloud professionals can help your Washington DC, Baltimore MD, or Northern Virginia business succeed. Don’t lose your head in the cloud – let us manage things while you get back to “business as usual”.

Most enterprises have centralized cloud teams that are working to reduce cloud costs by making cloud use more efficient, but in order to effect change, they must collaborate closely with cloud users to determine what actions to take.

[Source credit: RightScale.com]

Is There Really a “Best Cloud Service”?

The adoption of cloud computing has quickly become a key driving force for businesses today, as applications are moved out of on-premise data centers in a bid to cut costs and increase agility. But rapid adoption and necessity can often “cloud” judgment in finding the “best cloud service”.

Early concerns over security and data sovereignty have largely been addressed by the big three public cloud vendors: Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, with only the most heavily regulated businesses lagging behind in terms of adoption.

This has fueled a crowded infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market, worth a total of $25 billion in 2016, according to Gartner’s most recent statistics, which project the cloud services market will reach $45 billion by 2018.

IaaS is a model where a third-party provider hosts and maintains core infrastructure, including hardware, software, servers and storage on behalf of a customer. This typically includes the hosting of applications in a highly scalable environment, where customers are only charged for the infrastructure they use.

AWS has dominated the market since it started offering cloud services in 2006. A Synergy Research report from February 2017 puts AWS’ market share at 40 percent, with Microsoft, Google, and IBM, which they have grouped together, at 23 percent combined.

But despite AWS’s dominance, Microsoft has quickly gained ground under the leadership of “cloud first” CEO Satya Nadella, building a huge global cloud network of its own. Then there is the internet giant Google, which has been busy building out it’s public cloud services and IaaS business under the Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Features and services

Selecting one cloud over the others will come down to the wants and needs of each individual customer and the workloads they are running. It is often the case that organizations will use multiple providers within different parts of their operations, or for different use cases, called a multi-cloud approach.

However, there are a number of differentiating factors that separate the approaches of the three best cloud services, which can help end-users consider which is right for them.

AWSMicrosoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform offer largely similar basic capabilities around flexible compute, storage and networking. They all share the common elements of a public cloud service: self-service and instant provisioning, auto-scaling, plus security, compliance and identity management features.

All three are investing heavily in their cloud services, and have sizable parent companies to do so. This has resulted in more mature analytics offerings. For example, support for Hadoop clusters is provided by AWS (Elastic Map Reduce), Azure (HDInsight) and Google (Dataproc).

What’s Changed: Best Cloud Service Prices

When you follow cloud pricing closely, you see how often things change. There have been a large number of changes in pricing for cloud instances in 2017 alone. Here is a quick summary.

  • Many prices go down: 70 percent of the 104 price points we include in our comparison have fallen since our last comparison in April 2017. While this is a fraction of the total price points, they represent some of the most commonly used instances. Of the 26 price points we analyzed for each cloud provider, AWS dropped 19 of 26 prices, Azure dropped 24 of 26 prices, and Google dropped 4 of 26 prices.
  • New instances for our comparison: The best cloud service providers continue to add new instances, and in some cases, new instance families. For example, AWS added the C5 instance family (the next generation of C4 instances) and IBM moved from fully custom options to instance families.
  • Discounting options increase: There are growing opportunities (and challenges) in getting discounts. Azure introduced Reserved Instances with up to 72 percent savings, AWS added one-year Convertible Reserved Instances, and Google introduced one year and three years Committed Use Discounts.
  • Per second billing: AWS moved from per hour to per second billing for EC2 and several other services. Google has always provided per second billing but reduced the minimum time billed for an instance from 10 minutes down to 1 minute. Azure offers per second billing only on container instances.
  • Local disk pricing evolves: The best cloud service providers seem to be steering users away from a reliance on local disks for instances, and instead pushing toward attached storage. For example, AWS offers instance families with and without local storage, Azure has decreased the amount of local storage on the most recent generations (although it continues to offer local storage for all instance families), and Google continues to offer no local storage out of the box, making it an “optional add-on” for any VM type.

Understanding the best cloud service discounting options

With the recent availability of Azure Reserved Instances, the big three cloud providers—AWS, Azure, and Google—all offer publicly available discounts (reaching as high as 75 percent) in exchange for committing to usage on the cloud provider for a one year or three-year period. In all cases, you can decide how much usage to commit, and how much to leave as on-demand.

Google also offers a sustained use discount that requires no commitment but offers an automatic discount on each instance type that is running in a region for more than 25 percent of a month. For instances running 24×7 for an entire month, the discount maxes out at 30 percent.

[Source credit: InfoWorld.com]

Deciding how many RIs to buy

It can be complex to decide your committed coverage level—how much of your footprint in a particular cloud provider should be covered by commitment-based discounts. In general, the answer is never 100 percent coverage level (despite what your cloud provider sales rep might tell you).

You need to consider a variety of factors when purchasing cloud services, including:

  • Historical usage (by region, instance family, etc.)
  • Steady-state usage vs. part-time usage
  • Future plans for:
    • Growth or decline in use
    • Changing cloud providers
    • Changing instance families
    • Moving regions
    • Shifting to other computing models (containers, serverless, etc.)
  • Balance between savings over time and cash payments upfront, and
  • Level of flexibility required.

Intelice can help you decide on the appropriate coverage level in finding your best cloud service, then turn that into a full plan for purchasing RIs or CUDs. This “best cloud services plan” for your business can then be used to provide options to your department heads and finance teams.

For each cloud provider, we then mapped the appropriate instance type for each scenario. You can quickly see that everything cannot be compared exactly “apples to apples.”

  • Notice that the amount of memory varies for the similar instances across the cloud providers. In most cases, the difference in memory is relatively small (10 percent or less), but for high CPU scenarios, AWS and Azure offer more than double the memory of Google and IBM.
  • AWS has instance families with and without the local SSD for standard (M3 and M4) and high CPU (C3 and C5) instance types. For high memory types, there is only the R3 family, which includes an SSD drive.
  • Azure always includes local SSD with all of its instance types, so as a result, you are “paying for it” as part of the instance price whether you need it or not.
  • Google never includes local SSD with the instance type, so you need to pay for it as an add-on cost. The minimum size for an add-on local SSD is 375 GB, which is quite large. You can use Google Persistent Disk as an alternative, but it does not offer the same access times as the local SSD.

And remember, if you can’t find it “out there,” Intelice can handle all your cloud services needs.

We Can Help You Decide on the Best Cloud Service for Your Business

If this is at all confusing for you, or you are already using one of these cloud services and need guidance, we can help. Intelice offers the best cloud services for our loyal client base that turns over their cloud questions to a qualified team of IT experts – call us at (301) 664-6800 or email us at info@Intelice.com for more info on how to get started!