AWS, Azure, GCP – the VHS, Betamax, and Laser Disc of Cloud Providers?

Simon Burgess

There are three heavyweights in the ring when it comes to Cloud Providers: Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, and Google’s GCP. They are all backed by huge corporations with deep pockets and, as with many technologies, they are each garnering support and scorn from the developer and user communities at large.

We don’t think any of them are going away anytime soon – government contracts, TikTok controversies, and eye-wateringly large budgets not withstanding – but, if we had to compare them to the 70s and 80s battle between VHS, Betamax, and Laser Disc, which do we think is which and why? (Many of you will be way too young to remember this battle – Wikipedia is your friend as ever).

Firstly, AWS. ‘Cloud’ and ‘AWS’ are often used synonymously when talking to our clients – everyone has heard of it. It’s almost ubiquitous across the globe at scale, offers every service you could ever imagine needing, has aggressive pricing policies and new features are rolled out seemingly by the minute. A well-known and respected certification programme also ensures that the developer community is trusted and positioned ‘front and centre’ when firms are deciding which provider to use. On the flip side, the truly staggering list of functionality can be overwhelming, the tools and technologies are growing and changing so quickly that there are big overlaps between them (how to choose which one?) or big gaps in-between them (none of the 12 options available does exactly what I need), and the APIs, CLIs and UIs are generally “this is everything: go figure it out” in their approach.

Xerini Verdict: VHS. Everyone knows about it, everyone wonders if the alternative is a bit better, but few will take the risk to change because it works well enough.

Next up, Azure. To some extent, Microsoft have had a credibility problem within the ranks of ‘backend systems engineers’ (or the ‘greybeards’ of IT) for years: if you’re using Windows to host your system rather than *nix, you’re obviously not very serious, or you’re certainly not a proper engineer; and why should a developer in the world of Open Source tie herself in to Microsoft’s notoriously proprietary ecosystem? Azure might be changing those attitudes, bit-by-bit. Azure is a slick and accomplished Cloud offering – perhaps not as functionally rich as AWS, but offering most of the ‘essentials’ and doing it in perhaps a more considered way than AWS – AWS with a bit of polish, perhaps? Add to that the fact that so many firms – from SMEs to large corporates – are fully in bed with Microsoft already (Word, Teams, Sharepoint, AD, etc.) Azure is becoming an increasingly popular choice.

Xerini Verdict: Betamax. The people who use it, love it. It’s not as cheap or ubiquitous as VHS but the quality is great and lots of professionals use it.

Finally, GCP. GCP is currently a surprising ‘also ran’ in the Cloud Provider race. Backed by the might of Google – financial and engineering might – you would be forgiven for thinking that they’d surge into the lead. One of the issues is that Google have launched and pulled many systems and services over the years, sometimes leaving users feeling abandoned – and who wants to run the risk of feeling like that with respect to the technology hosting their core systems on the cloud? Also, it’s not as functionally rich as AWS or Azure. However, from a usability and developer friendliness standpoint it’s mightily impressive: one-line commands to do something that takes AWS 6 technologies and 4 settings files to achieve; first-class credentials when it comes to running computationally intensive ML workloads; Google’s legendary ‘Site Reliability Engineering’ approach to keeping things running smoothly and simply – all extremely compelling arguments in its favour.

Xerini Verdict: Laser Disc. Limited functionality but seriously high-quality and easy to use when the feature is available. But will it be around in its current form for ever…?

Regardless of your opinion on this – and it is just an opinion – Xerini can help you to architect, design, write, deploy, and manage software on any cloud provider’s platform.