Cloud giants do battle backed by distinctly different partner networks
- 08 October, 2014 21:06
When evaluating the marketplaces of the big three public IaaS cloud providers - Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft - AWS stands out in terms of the maturity of its platform for partners to offer products and services on top of its cloud. But Microsoft, too, has a formidable partner program that could rival Amazon's in the future, analysts predict.
Each of these three providers has a network of partners that have products and services that run on top of their IaaS clouds. Examining these marketplaces can be important for cloud customers; once a cloud provider is chosen, users may want to explore other third-party apps and services that are tightly integrated with that cloud service. In many cases, apps on top of these providers' clouds are a customer's first use of Amazon, Microsoft or Google's cloud.
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But exploring the intricacies of these third-party networks is not an easy apples-to-apples comparison. Each of the three company strategies has strengths and weaknesses. AWS, considered by many to be the 800-pound gorilla of the IaaS market, has a robust, easily-searchable and instantly consumable marketplace of more than 1,800 products and services on top of its cloud. Meanwhile, Microsoft has a fragmented offering of many partner offerings on top of Azure, but they're not centrally accessible in one place. Google has developed strategic relationships with 98 partners that offer deep technical services on top of its cloud, many aimed at developers building apps on Google's cloud.
Below is a deeper dive into each of the three:
Amazon Web Services
Browsing AWS's cloud Marketplace is reminiscent of using Amazon.com to search for an ecommerce product - and that's by design says Terry Hanold, vice president of Cloud Commerce for AWS. Marketplace is meant to make it easy for customers to find, deploy and start using enterprise software on AWS's cloud. The partner strategy is broken into two simple buckets:
A central portal that allows users to search, buy and immediately use software and services that run on top of AWS's cloud. Products in AWS's Marketplace are broken into three categories:
- Software infrastructure, which includes application development tools, big data management services, network infrastructure products, security technology and a variety of operating systems
- Developer tools, which are issue and bug tracking software, monitoring and testing services
- And business software such as SaaS applications for collaboration, e-commerce and CRM.
In total, there are more than 1,880 products in AWS's Marketplace and it's growing weekly; more than 800 have been added in the past year, Hanold says. Vendor offerings range from Red Hat, Citrix, Cisco, NetApp, Brocade, Barracuda and literally dozens of other name-brand tech companies to emerging technologies like the NoSQL database MongoDB, the Wordpress blogging platform, and RubyStack by Bitnami. Customers are billed directly through Amazon; some software requires a license, while others are sold as a package with a license included.
-Amazon Partner Network (APN)
AWS APN is a listing of consulting and technology partners who are AWS expert system integrators and consultants. Examples include 2nd Watch, Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Capgemini, DataPipe, Infosys and Wipro. Technology Partners are independent software vendors and SaaS companies that run their products and services off of Amazon's cloud, but do not necessarily sell it through the AWS Marketplace. Hanold says there are more than 10,000 companies that have built products or services on top of AWS's cloud through APN.
Microsoft is attempting to capitalize on its massive and long-standing traditional partner network and transfer that success to the cloud. Naturally, Azure features a strong marketplace of Microsoft products and tools, but Mike Schutz, general manager of cloud platform marketing at Microsoft, says there are more than 5,000 partners that run on top of Azure too, including open source tools. But there is no central portal to search for, order and starting using all these services; customers have to traverse multiple different portals, such as:
-Azure VM Gallery: This includes 43 Microsoft applications (from Windows Server to SharePoint and SQL, plus many more) along with 332 applications from partners (including Oracle DB 12c, Ubuntu Server 13.10, SUSE Linux, SAP HANA and Barracuda's firewall, as some examples).
-Azure Marketplace: These are services and applications that run on top of Azure's IaaS that are split in two categories: Apps and data. The apps section has hundreds of services geared toward areas such as business/finance, communication, consumer goods and retail. There are a lot of apps on here, but not many from big-name tech companies. There are also hundreds of data points in the Marketplace, for example a service that allows users to search demographic and geographic data sets based on IP addresses, and other assembled data sets.
-Azure Add-ons: Are fully managed services that run on top of Azure. Examples include MongoDB, Redis Cloud and SendGrid email notification system.
-VM Depot by Microsoft Open Technologies: Still in preview, this is a catalog of mostly open source developer-focused tools that are not verified by Microsoft, but rather posted by vendors (for example Apache Solr, Riak DB, Couchbase and Debian GNU).
-Pinpoint: A listing and map of Microsoft consultants and system integrators across the country
While the range of options is good, the lack of a unified platform "just makes it harder to find things," says John Treadway, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, a consultancy.
Google breaks its cloud partner offerings into three major categories:
-Technology Partners These are third-party tools and services that are meant to be used in conjunction with Google's Cloud Platform IaaS and PaaS broken down for industry verticals, such as healthcare, media, finance, retail and many others. Examples include Tableau, a data visualization platform and Boundary's Devops management tool. There are 28 companies listed as partners, but Google does not break out how many products there are in this section (by comparison, AWS says there are more than 1,870 products on its Marketplace but it does not say how many companies those products come from).
-Service Partners There are 70 service partners listed on the company's website who offer support for customers using Google's Cloud Platform. Customers can search via a map for a provider near them.
Chris Rimer, Global Partner Business Lead for Google Cloud Platform, says the company goes out of its way to engage with each provider who offers services through the company's website. Treadway, the CloudTP consultant, says it's clear that Google is going after a different market than Amazon and Microsoft. Google is focused on attracting developers who will build their apps on top of Google's Cloud Platform. It serves enterprises too, but programs like Google's $100,000 giveaway of credits for Google services that's only for startups show the company's emphasis.
Few customers will choose their strategic IaaS cloud based solely on the third-party networks of these providers, says Treadway, the CloudTP consultant; other core features of these vendors are typically driving factors. But it's important still to consider the major differences for third party products and services on these clouds. AWS has a streamlined platform for searching for and getting customers using the services on its cloud as quickly as possible. Azure has many options, but they are disjointed and emphasize Microsoft's products and services. Google, meanwhile, has a smaller set of offerings, but many are geared at developers.
Forrester IaaS analyst James Staten says it's important to keep in mind that AWS basically invented the public cloud IaaS market in 2006 and was the first company to invest heavily in its Marketplace, plus it has a heritage as an e-commerce company. "AWS has just been at this much longer than Microsoft and Google," he says; let's see where Microsoft and Google are in a couple of years as their platforms mature.
AWS shows no signs of slowing down though. Google's own products and services - not those from partners - are highly regarded in the industry and could propel the company in the IaaS market. Microsoft, meanwhile has a wide set of partners for its traditional business; Staten says if the company can migrate many of those partners over to selling Azure, then Microsoft could have a network of vendors pumping business into the company's cloud platform that could be even more valuable than Amazon's Marketplace.