One of the difficulties in listing the top cloud companies comes in answering this complex question: top cloud companies for what? Now in 2021, there are many essentially integral corporate uses for the cloud, from accessing HR software to hosting the core of your infrastructure.
Still, in an effort to create a more revealing portrait of this hotbed of technological evolution, we’ve divided the list into two areas: Leader and Key Players. The line between them (if there is one) is blurry and open to opinion.
Widely considered the top cloud company – truly the company that pulled the world into the cloud – AWS continues to grow and innovate at a pace that shows no sign of complacency.
In Q4 2020, AWS reported that it expected revenue at an annualized rate of 45.3 billion – and that it enjoyed a 28% growth rate over that quarter – a stunningly high figure given the already massive size of its cloud business. This is the third quarter in a row with a slight decline in % growth rate, with all previous quarters hitting 30% or higher growth rates since the cloud pioneer began breaking out figures. (Indeed, a hefty chunk of Amazon’s profit flows from AWS.)
The challenge for AWS in its rivalry with the other top cloud vendor, Microsoft Azure, is that Microsoft has historically had a closer relationship with the enterprise. Yet AWS has largely overcome this advantage by the sheer depth and quality of its cloud-based toolset.
VMware Cloud on AWS is a virtualization technology that allows companies (especially larger, slower-moving companies) to build a bridge from the traditional data centre to the Public Cloud which is an AWS speciality.
In terms of revenue, Microsoft’s Azure is number two, but Azure is essentially a head-to-head competitor with the big dog Amazon Web Services. Its greatest strength is its legacy strength in the enterprise; the long dominance of the Windows OS and the many Microsoft productivity applications mean that corporate clients were long married to Microsoft before cloud was even a factor.
In keeping with this close enterprise relationship, Azure is strong in hybrid cloud – a critically important offering for companies with a large data centre investment or an expensive facility they need to pair with a remote public cloud. Microsoft’s other key strength is in software as a service, SaaS. It offers a long menu of enterprise SaaS tools, most notably Office 365. Azure has a top-notch PaaS offering that integrates with its public cloud.
Azure is well-positioned to serve cloud customers as automation and AI become dominant. Azure MachineLearning is a full-featured production platform, enabling the creation of all manner of customized algorithms and ML solutions.
Holding the number three spot behind AWS and Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has a robust IaaS offering with a deep technical strength from its dominance in the search market. Starting with strength in networking and automation, GCP offers arguably the sector’s greatest strength in AI, machine learning, and – particularly – data analytics.
GCP is a top contender for applications and mix deployments that are cloud-native, a growing sector and one that will surely be dominant at some point – probably sooner than it now appears. The cloud vendor is entrenched in open source and open systems.
Historically, GCP has not been closely aligned with enterprise customers, a situation the company is working to correct. As such, the move toward multi-cloud is good news for GCP; if it can’t be a company’s primary cloud platform, it will certainly be “one of” a company’s cloud providers. GCP can then use this foothold to gain greater market share.
The outsider from the top 3 – Sure, it’s the titan of software as a service, but SaaS format does not fully describe the Salesforce empire. From its early days as the top purveyor of CRM software, Salesforce has kept expanding, now with an essentially complete menu of cloud-based enterprise software, from marketing to commerce to integration.
It snapped up leading data analytics player Tableau in 2019, enabling it to offer in-depth metrics in a world that now depends on data mining. This was just a year after Salesforce bought Mulesoft, an IT integrator that connects applications, data, and devices.
To top it off, Salesforce continues to perfect its Einstein AI platform, which it touts as the “smart CRM assistant.” In sum, Salesforce is positioning itself at the very centre of a hyper-connected, cloud-based world.
Shane COO, Co-Founder @ StackStudio