There Are Hundreds Of Cloud Vendors Out There—Which Ones Are The Best?

3/14/2018
By Phil Rainsberger

The high-velocity, high-change world of business technology undergoes major upheavals more frequently than most major industries, and as a result it's become fairly common to see people obsessing non-stop over the latest shiny object that will revolutionize everything, make life perfect, and bring back the 10-cent Coke.

So with cloud computing being among the latest buzzwords in the tech market, many hundreds and perhaps even thousands of tech vendors are now refashioning themselves as cloud specialists. Many of them are completely legitimate and are able to offer some dazzling new levels of business innovation and business value via the cloud model—but some others are simply putting a fresh new face on some tired old technology.

So which cloud vendors are the best? Which ones are able to present what they have in ways that reflect your business needs and opportunities, rather than as some hard-to-understand technological wizardry? Which ones have demonstrated their ability to make businesses feel completely comfortable in turning over huge portions of their business operations to the cloud?

On Forbes.com, a series called "Cloud Wars" has been analyzing the top cloud vendors, and ranks them every week in a list called the Cloud Wars Top 10. The author, Bob Evans, emphasizes that his analyses and rankings are based on how well those cloud vendors can meet the business needs of customers, rather than being technical evaluations of cloud products and services.

One of the issues Evans has addressed in some recent Cloud Wars columns has been the false impression perpetuated in the media that Amazon is the runaway leader in the cloud. While it is certainly true that Amazon is the category king for the segment of cloud computing that lets businesses rent computer and storage time from Amazon over the Internet ("Infrastructure"), there are two other segments of the cloud where Amazon is either a small player ("Platform") or has no presence at all (Applications, or "Software as a Service"). 

In fact, as highlighted in the Cloud Wars Top 10 graphic below, Microsoft is the overall leader in cloud computing because it offers a deep range of services and technologies across all three segments of the cloud: Infrastructure, Platform and Applications.

For calendar 2017, Microsoft's cloud revenue was $18.6 billion while Amazon's was $17.5 billion, with IBM finishing a strong third at $17 billion. 

To make things even more interesting, IBM—whose cloud services are primarily aimed at global corporations—had more cloud revenue in Q4 of 2017 than any cloud vendor: IBM's Q4 cloud revenue was $5.5 billion, Microsoft's was $5.3 billion, and Amazon's $5.1 billion.

Here's the latest Cloud Wars Top 10 ranking from a recent LinkedIn post:

The good news—in fact, the excellent news—for business leaders evaluating the cloud is that the enormous range of competitors, and the ferocious nature of the competitive battles they're waging to win cloud customers, ensure that business customers will be the big winners in the Cloud Wars because every single cloud vendor is making better and better products and is offering them at increasingly more-attractive prices for buyers.

So in the view of Evans, Microsoft is the leading cloud vendor not only because of its revenue, but also because of the breadth of its cloud products, its investments in new cloud-enhancing technologies like AI and Machine Learning, and the huge changes Microsoft has made in its sales organization to ensure customers cloud projects are successful and drive business value.