Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform--also known as the "Big 3" public cloud providers--are so popular that you might think they are the only major public clouds out there. That, of course, would be wrong. There are a number of other public cloud providers that offer a range of enterprise cloud solutions. For certain companies and use cases, one of these “alternative” public clouds may prove to be a better solution than the likes of AWS, Azure and GCP.
Toward that end, here is a look at other major public clouds and the reasons why they may prove more effective than one of the Big Three for enterprise cloud solutions.
If you think that IBM is still stuck in the age of mainframes and other legacy technologies, think again. Yes, Big Blue still does mainframes (and its mainframes matter more than you might imagine). But IBM has spent the past several years also quietly building a large, multi-faceted cloud-computing platform.
If you haven’t paid much attention to the IBM cloud, it’s likely because it has lagged behind other major public clouds in many respects. It added availability zones only last year, for example. IBM was also slower to jump onto the container and Kubernetes bandwagon.
Yet IBM’s acquisition last year of Red Hat gave the company’s cloud computing offerings a major boost. Today, IBM offers all of the same core cloud services as other providers, including IaaS, PaaS and DevOps.
In fact, IBM has been investing especially heavily on the latter front through solutions designed to integrate its cloud offerings with continuous delivery pipelines. The IBM cloud is now arguably matched only by Azure when it comes to DevOps services.
Like IBM, Oracle is another tech behemoth that you might associate more with legacy technologies than modern cloud platforms. But the fact is that Oracle has a cloud--and a very large one at that.
Oracle’s cloud has provided the backbone for a number of enterprise infrastructures for years. Indeed, even Amazon relied on Oracle cloud to power its retail operations until 2018. Talk about irony!
Oracle has traditionally promoted its public cloud as the only one that offers a truly holistic and well-integrated suite of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions. Arguably, that talking point is becoming less and less effective; it would be a stretch to say that AWS, Azure or other clouds are not on a par with Oracle when it comes to the breadth of their cloud service offerings or the integrations among those services.
Still, the fact remains that Oracle operates a very large public cloud with a strong track record of reliability. It’s probably not the go-to cloud computing solution for a startup, but if you’re a large enterprise looking to expand your cloud strategy, the Oracle cloud should at least be on your radar.
DigitalOcean, which was founded in 2011, has been around almost as long as Azure (which debuted in 2010). If you haven’t heard of DigitalOcean, it’s probably because the company, which is basically an IaaS provider, doesn’t support Windows-based virtual machines. That has made DigitalOcean somewhat less attractive to some potential customers.
But if you like Linux (or another open source operating system, like FreeBSD, which DigitalOcean also supports) and are searching for an IaaS provider, DigitalOcean is worth a look. In addition to offering storage and cloud-based virtual machine instances, the company is now heavily into containers and Kubernetes, too.
Rackspace, another IaaS provider, has made “fanatical” customer support its selling point. And that doesn’t just mean that its reps are trained to be polite to you on the phone. The company has invested heavily in managed cloud-based services that require less expertise and management on the part of end users.
For that reason, Rackspace may be attractive to companies that want to move more of their infrastructure to the cloud, but are not totally confident in their ability to set up and manage everything themselves.
You may be tempted to dismiss Alibaba as merely an Amazon wannabee based in China. After all, Alibaba is an ecommerce company that also offers cloud computing services.
Yet, while it’s true that Alibaba is analogous to Amazon in many respects, that doesn’t mean Alibaba has nothing novel to offer. Probably its biggest advantage over U.S.-based cloud computing providers is that it has many more regions in Asia (currently, it offers 15 Asia regions, compared to nine for AWS, for example). Understandably, its presence in China is particularly pronounced.
So, for companies looking for data centers close to users who are based in Asia, Alibaba Cloud may be a compelling choice. At the same time, Alibaba’s list of cloud services is rapidly catching up to those of AWS and Azure. Alibaba’s solutions may not be as well-documented or battle-tested as those of other major clouds, but given Alibaba’s relentless investment in its cloud business, it’s a safe bet that it will get there soon.
Wasabi and Backblaze
Last but not least are Wasabi and Backblaze. Although these companies are competitors, I’m discussing them together because they both offer just one core service: cloud storage.
If you want a full suite of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS offerings, Wasabi and Backblaze are not for you. But, if you simply have a lot of data that you want to store in the cloud, these companies tend to offer more competitive pricing and performance than the cloud storage services of other big public cloud providers.
The cloud computing ecosystem is much larger than it may seem. Alongside AWS, Azure and GCP, a half-dozen other public cloud computing vendors are worth a look for companies seeking to move more data, applications and processes to the cloud.