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Cloud deployments are now the norm. From streamlined operations to ensuring remote work capabilities, nearly every company has adopted either an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider. Organizations will mostly likely want to begin with one cloud-service provider, either Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). More often than not, companies choose to deploy multi-cloud environments for various reasons. These include reducing risk by diversifying essential services across multiple providers, optimization by deploying the right workload in the right cloud, and minimizing vendor lock-in. A comparison of AWS, Azure, and GCP can give visibility into the differences between the three different public cloud providers.

[Related Reading: On-Premises vs. Cloud: What’s the Difference?]

Which cloud platform is best?

While having a quick answer to this question would probably make life easier, the reality is no short answer exists.

Every company has different needs, and each service provider responds to those requirements differently. For example, a software developer, financial institution, and e-commerce company all use their cloud services in different ways. Further, they have different regulatory compliance requirements.

Meanwhile, like any other business, cloud services providers may offer similar services but often create their own niche that works best for their ideal buyers.

This is why every organization needs to understand the different ways that AWS, Azure, and GCP fit into their overarching cloud strategy goals.

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What differentiates Google Cloud, AWS, or Azure?

The first step to comparing the different cloud service providers is understanding the history of each platform. Each service started from a different place which has led to how the providers focus their offerings.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

A spin-off from the Amazon.com e-commerce business, AWS started as a way to give large enterprise customers the ability to sell online. When AWS initially launched in 2006, it primarily offered compute, storage, and database services used by developers.

[Learn More: Alert Logic for AWS]

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

Not to be outdone, Google launched GCP’s beta in 2008 with the App Engine product. While AWS provided IaaS services, GCP initially focused on PaaS services. Developers could develop and run their web applications in data centers that Google managed. Over time, GCP expanded its offerings to include Google Suite, Big Data technologies, and management tools.

[Learn More: Alert Logic for Google Cloud Platform]

Azure

Although hints of Azure started as early as 2005, the Microsoft PaaS offering started out in 2008 under a codename and went commercially live in 2010. Ambitiously, the first iteration focused on compute, storage, and networking. Additionally, it wanted to appeal to various enterprise users so incorporated Windows Azure, Microsoft SQL, .NET, and Live, and SharePoint.

[Learn More: Alert Logic for Microsoft Azure]

Why companies choose AWS

As the first cloud service provider, AWS remains innovative because it has an earlier foundation upon which to build.

Most companies on AWS use the following services:

  • AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2): customizable, resizable compute capacity for hosting software or machine learning
  • AWS Relational Database Service (RDS): customizable database engine for deploying database servers and using with NoSQL databases
  • AWS Lambda Function-as-a-Service (FaaS): event-triggered serverless computing for background processes like image transformation, real-time data processing, and streaming data validation
  • AWS Simple Storage Service (S3): persistent storage originally for developers but also for archiving and cost-effective data migration
  • AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS): container management for running, stopping, and managing containers on a cluster
  • AWS CloudFront Content Delivery Network (CDN): cached data at edge locations for delivering data, videos, images, aps and APIs

Why companies choose Azure

Azure tends to market to the enterprise organization already invested in Microsoft products and services.

Most companies on Azure use the following services:

  • Azure Hybrid: service for running workloads that combines on-premises Windows Server and SQL Server licenses
  • Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD): virtual desktop interface (VDI) for remote access to Windows 10 and applications
  • Azure Sentinel: security information event management (SIEM) and security orchestration automated response (SOAR) for threat hunting, detection, visibility, and response
  • Azure Cosmos DB: NoSQL database with open APIs for mobile/web, gaming, and e-commerce/retail applications
  • Azure Active Directory (AD): Identity services for synchronizing across on-premises and cloud Microsoft environments with single sign-on and multi-factor authentication

Why companies choose GCP

GCP tends to focus on developers who want to build and run applications. It tends to focus on organizations that want to build apps but lack the on-premises data centers to support them.

Most companies on GCP use the following services:

  • Google Compute Engine: Pre-configured or customizable Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) for Linux and Microsoft servers
  • Google Cloud Storage (GCS): block, file, and object storage with lifecycle management rules across different data types
  • Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE): managed, hosted staging environment for implementing microservices
  • BigQuery Machine Learning (ML): machine learning models for extracting business insights

Considerations when choosing between AWS, Azure, and GCP

While each service provider excels at something different, they all offer similar product lines. For example, Azure offers Machine-Learning-as-a-Service (MLaaS), just like AWS and GCP do. On the other hand, it might not be the primary use case for choosing Azure. When choosing the right cloud provider, a company should consider more than just the product suite.

Regions

Depending on a company’s compliance requirements, the number of regions with availability zones may matter. For example, under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies should store and process data in one of the European Union countries.

This means that a company should consider the following:

Availability

While related to region, availability usually refers to performance and connectivity. The closer the user is to the region, the faster applications will run. Additionally, availability also incorporates failover, enabling more robust disaster recovery. Usually, each region will have multiple availability zones.

This means that a company should consider the following:

  • AWS: 84 total availability zones
  • Azure: 3 availability zones per region
  • GCP: 88 total availability zones

Specialized Services

This is another case where a company’s business goals would also define the cloud service provider choice. It also provides more insight into the differences between AWS, Azure, and GCP.

For example, a company focused on DevOps might look at the following targeted services:

  • AWS: CodePipeline, CodeBuild, CodeDeploy, CodeStar
  • Azure: Azure Boards, Pipelines, Repositories, Test Plans, Artifacts
  • GCP: GCP DevOps, CloudBuild, Artifact Registry

Additional considerations might include specialized service capabilities for:

  • AI/ML
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
  • Game Development
  • Business Analytics
  • End-User Computing
  • Robotics

Pricing Structure

Finally, every organization is constrained by its budget. Each of the three main providers offers various pricing models depending on an organization’s cloud usage. Across all three providers, pricing and billing can seem complex.

This means that a company needs to consider the following:

  • Resources required
  • Ability to manage resource sprawl
  • Governance
  • Billing formats
  • Monitoring usage versus budget
  • Pricing reductions
  • Pricing model changes
  • Long-term vs pay-as-you-go pricing values

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Security Across Cloud Environments

Regardless of the cloud services provider that an organization chooses, it still needs to ensure that it meets its own security responsibility requirements. Even with a cloud services provider, most organizations maintain on-premises data centers. While AWS, Azure, and GCP all provide security tools, managing the security across complex, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments is challenging without integrating all tools in a single location.

Alert Logic’s managed detection and response (MDR) platform creates a global view of threat activity for robust, continuous coverage across the infrastructure. Our MDR platform supports cloud, multi-cloud, on-premises, and hybrid environments with a dedicated global security research team for consistent security outcomes no matter where systems are hosted.

Angelica Torres-Corral
About the Author
Angelica Torres-Corral
Angelica Torres-Corral is a product marketing expert at Alert Logic. She brings over 15 years’ experience in security, ranging from data loss prevention and user and behavioral analytics to cloud technologies. Prior to Alert Logic, Angelica held roles at Forcepoint and Schneider Electric in product marketing, solution selling and corporate branding. She holds an MBA from California State University, Fresno and a bachelor’s degree from University of Chicago. Angelica is passionate about solving problems, and helping customers enhance their security posture.

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