Now presenting: Your public cloud winners

Including the runners-up and the also-rans, with surprises thrown in as well

I've been looking at the emerging research and contemplating the work I do with companies as they move to cloud. I believe it's time to declare public cloud winners, near-winners, and those that may need to look for other lines of work.

[ Editor's Note: The author's firm, Cloud Technology Partners, is a business partner of several cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services, Cloudnexa, Docker, Google Cloud, and Rackspace. ]

This assessment is based on no analysis other than my own experiences, so consider that context as I make my declarations. If your favorite cloud does not get a shout-out here, don't send me an angry email. After all, deep down in your hearts, you know I'm right about these rankings.

The top public cloud providers: AWS, Microsoft, and Google

Or as I like to call them: AMG. While Amazon Web Services continues to blaze the trail, Google is making major strides to close the gap. Google's focus on containers seems to be gaining interest in the marketplace, as well as its effective big data offerings. Google also has one of the oldest and most effective PaaS clouds to enhance its newer IaaS cloud.

However, AWS has done a stellar job of innovating the public IaaS and PaaS markets, and it still leads the pack by a mile. Although the market may normalize over the next few years, it's difficult to see how AWS will give up its wide lead unless it commits huge mistakes.

Microsoft has quietly gained share by standing up solid IaaS and PaaS cloud services, as well as making sure it keeps its developer and user bases in mind. Microsoft is still in second place, but it continues to inch up on AWS every time I look at the numbers.

Second-place public providers: IBM and HP

IBM is the one cloud provider that confuses the hell out of me. It started one way, then purchased SoftLayer and went another way. Mixing a good cloud cocktail appears to be a difficult task for IBM. However, it finally seems to have gained some traction with IBM SoftLayer, which is both solid and cost-effective.

It's not nearly enough to catch up with AMG, but SoftLayer has nonetheless earned good growth numbers. Still, it's confusing as to where the SoftLayer public cloud ends and the traditional IBM hardware and software begin. That's created confusion within IT about IBM’s true cloud strategy (is it merely a path to IBM's traditional services?) and has weakened IBM's position in the cloud market. 

Hewlett-Packard gets the most "we're trying" points. It has a good IaaS cloud that leverages OpenStack, but it's often overlooked in light of AMG and IBM.

The larger issue with HP is its constantly changing strategy and product set while the market is seeking growth, innovation, and stability. Also, I'm convinced that enterprises only want to consider three or four clouds, so HP quickly gets dropped from the list unless a particular enterprise already has a lot of HP products in place, which is sometimes the case.

The also-rans

Plenty of cloud wannabes aren't getting significant traction, whether in sales or innovative thinking: AT&T, CenturyLink, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Datapipe GoGrid, EMC, EMC VMware, Joyent, and Verizon Terremark.

Despite coming into the market with high hopes, they've faded away over time. These days, they don't show up on the radar.

Many are communications companies, such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, and Verizon, seeking to leverage their telco infrastructure for new business. Some are data center providers in search of new growth, such as Cisco, EMC, and EMC VMware. Still others are leftover early-days cloud startups, such as GoGrid and Joyent.

In all cases, they don't have the rep of "real" cloud providers, but I'll continue to watch them because the cloud market remains unsettled.

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