Why you should look beyond the big 3 cloud providers

There are appealing enterprise options beyond AWS, Azure, and GCP, but buyer beware — not just any cloud service qualifies

Why you should look beyond the big 3 cloud providers
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The cloud has, for the most part, become a commodity. Most enterprise cloud workloads require a small variety of hardware. After all, how many organizations are actually doing quantum computing or even AI training workloads in the cloud? The fact is, the majority of businesses simply need core cloud services: compute, block and object storage, CI/CD and testing environments, backup and failover, and low-risk options for hybrid cloud or multicloud deployments.

That’s why technology analysts have recognized “alternative cloud providers” as a legitimate and growing segment of the cloud services market, clearly distinct from the Big Three hyperscale public cloud providers—Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). 451 Research, for example, in its 2020 Trends in Managed Services and Hosting Report observes:

Hyperscale public clouds make up a significant majority of public cloud market revenue. However, there is still room for alternative cloud providers to add value as enterprises increasingly adopt multicloud strategies, and smaller companies opt for services that intentionally skew away from the complexity of hyperscale cloud.

For the first time in the 12-year history of cloud computing, companies have legitimate and arguably better-suited choices in providers. We’re talking about alternative cloud providers like DigitalOcean, Linode, and Vultr, who are now in many ways on par with (and, in the case of price performance, outperform) the Big Three mega clouds.

Worldwide data centers

One of the myths about hyperscalers is that they offer superior networks and data center hardware. For all intents and purposes, there is no difference between the hardware on the racks of alternative cloud providers and what AWS has on its racks. The compute power is basically identical.

If you’re wondering about global reach and scalability, rest assured that alternative cloud providers have got you covered. Granted, alternative cloud providers are not big enough to directly compete with AWS, Azure, or GCP, and they have no designs to. But they have extensive global networks that deliver ubiquitous availability via world-class data centers placed strategically around the world.

The resulting global network is capable of blanketing users, scaling massive workloads, complying with variations in regional laws, and providing instant recoveries in flawlessly orchestrated failovers. Today, the global networks established by alternative cloud providers are already scaling to meet the needs of Fortune 50 companies, so scaling to support the workloads of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) is not an issue.

Enterprise-grade computing services

Certainly, some people choose to pay for AWS, Azure, or GCP to have access to the hundreds of products they offer, just in case you need them. In reality, though, how many companies really need computer vision, speech understanding, super-advanced networking, and highly optimized database queries, for example? In reality, the percentage of workloads that need any “special sauce” from AWS or the other hyperscale cloud providers is relatively low.

Alternative cloud providers can provide scale and quality of infrastructure needed for most enterprise workloads. The overall market has commoditized around basic services, what analysts call “core primitives” — things like servers, databases, bare metal, Kubernetes, and other core infrastructure components. Alternative cloud providers focus on delivering these core primitives rather than offering hundreds of proprietary services that, once engaged, lock you in. (Further, most of those special services are available through third parties, many of them open source, so it’s pretty easy to replicate everything that you would do on AWS, usually for much cheaper and without the lock-in.)

Developers and other users find the reduction in the immense complexity encountered in using top-tier public clouds to be a significant advantage. According to 451 Research, the message of simplicity from alternative cloud providers “resonates with developers who need to deploy applications quickly, don’t need access to the full suite of advanced cloud functions, and prioritize price, performance, and access to a level of technical support.” The same holds true for SMBs, which typically have a small technical staff who would rather focus on getting work done than navigating the pitfalls and distractions of too many bells and whistles.

An undeniable cost advantage 

The bottom line about why you should use alternative cloud providers is… your bottom line.

By focusing on core services, alternative cloud providers offer developers and SMBs a legitimate alternative: typically the same or better performance at a much better price. In most cases, you can save over half of your infrastructure costs by moving from a hyperscaler to an alternative cloud provider. Why wouldn’t you want the option that gives you all the performance you need at half the cost?

If you are ready to consider your alternatives, start by making sure the companies you consider meet the network qualifications of alternative cloud providers (see sidebar). Then dig a little deeper. Not all alternative cloud providers are the same. You’ll want to choose an alternative cloud provider who also offers a great track record, exceptional service, transparent and affordable pricing, and no lock-in. Most importantly, choose a cloud provider that makes your cloud computing experience simple and accessible — what we all dreamed cloud computing could be.

Blair Lyon is vice president of marketing at Linode, where he leads the company’s branding, advertising, and go-to-market strategies. An advocate of a more open, independent cloud computing market, Lyon believes that this market should be built upon a foundation of open source technologies and be free of vendor lock-in. 

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