Combined, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) control 67% of the global cloud computing services market. That’s a big deal, but not for obvious reasons.
Here’s the deal.
Azure, AWS, and GCP all have vast experience managing cloud infrastructure. This can mean better services, engineering training, and superior technical support for you.
In addition, they have the resources to drive innovation and back up your data worldwide. And, because of their well-known status, they hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.
All of these factors combined mean you are more likely to choose one of these cloud service providers (CSPs) than others.
Yet, unless you’re considering a multi-cloud strategy, you’ll only need one cloud provider. And even if you plan to work with all three providers, you still need to know which vendor is right for particular services you require.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover the crucial differences between AWS, Azure, and GCP, including strengths, pricing, and more.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Amazon Web Services?
- What Is Azure Cloud?
- What Is Google Cloud Platform?
- AWS Vs. Azure Vs. Google Cloud Platform: A Quick Side-by-Side Comparison
- AWS Vs. Azure Vs. GCP: 8 Key Differences That Make The Difference
- Amazon Web Services: Pros And Cons
- Microsoft Azure: Pros And Cons
- Google Cloud Platform: Pros And Cons
- How To View, Control, And Reduce AWS, Azure, and GCP Cloud Costs
What Is Amazon Web Services (AWS)?
With 34% of the global cloud services market, AWS is the world’s largest cloud service provider. It offers more than 200 cloud services, from compute to edge to serverless computing.
A few of them are Amazon EC2 for compute; Amazon S3 for elastic object storage; Amazon EBS for networking; and Amazon Lambda for serverless; as well as Amazon RDS for relational database).
If you’re looking for a public cloud provider that delivers cloud infrastructure (Infrastructure-as-a-Service or IaaS), pay-as-you-go pricing, and autoscaling resources, AWS is a great choice.
With IaaS, AWS provides servers, networking, compute, and storage resources for you to deploy your workloads in the cloud; no need to buy, install, or maintain your own infrastructure.
What Is Azure Cloud?
Azure is Microsoft’s cloud services arm and a part of its Microsoft Intelligent Cloud ecosystem. Azure Cloud, like AWS, offers a variety of options for your engineers, including IaaS and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and a little bit of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud models.
In PaaS, the vendor provides the platform on which you can build, host, and deploy your own consumer-facing applications.
And, by far the most popular model among small and medium businesses, SaaS allows you to subscribe to ready-made applications, customize them slightly, and use them as you see fit, but for particular purposes.
There are several reasons why Azure is most popular with enterprises. Here are two that stand out:
- Existing Microsoft licenses – Many enterprises already use Microsoft products, like Microsoft 365, Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint, and Power BI, so it’s fairly easy to move to and integrate Microsoft’s cloud services.
- Hybrid cloud – Azure continues to integrate on-premises and public cloud services. Increasingly, companies want to retain their own data centers while still taking advantage of the cloud’s benefits this way.
So, how does the Google Cloud Platform compare?
What Is Google Cloud Platform (GCP)?
GCP is best suited for companies that have cloud-native applications, including containers, Kubernetes, and Google Workspace. After all, Google pioneered Kubernetes (container orchestration platform), Istio (service mesh), and several other industry-standard tools.
Moreover, the technology that supports Google’s Search feeds the platform’s machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics tools.
GCP is also popular with startups that want to leverage open-source, but tested platforms to accelerate their growth. Also, agile scaleups typically leverage its rapid cloud technology innovations to increase revenue and market share.
Now, putting specialties aside. In what ways do AWS, Azure, and GCP differ?
AWS Vs. Azure Vs. GCP: A Quick Comparison
Amazon Web Services
Google Cloud Platform
Strongest areas of cloud deployments
Public cloud, private cloud on AWS
Public, Hybrid cloud, On-premises
Public cloud, Multi-cloud
Pay-as-you-go, by product/service
Pay-as-you-go, by product/service
Pay-as-you-go, by product/service
AWS Vs. Azure Vs. GCP: 9 Key Differences That Make The Difference
The three share all the essential attributes of a public cloud platform, such as self-service, instant provisioning, autoscaling, compliance, and identity management features for security. Here are some ares where Azure, AWS, and GCP have notable differences.
1. Availability Zones
Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure spans 99 Availability Zones (with an additional 15 in the works) across 31 regions (with another 5 due to launch soon).
AWS Availability Zones
The provider offers 450+ points of presence as well as Edge computing points on every continent except Antarctica. A large network offers seamless scalability, low latency, multi-region data backup, and several more benefits.
Microsoft Azure’s global network of over 160 data centers ensures high availability as well.
Azure Availability Zones in the US
Each Azure Region offers three separate Availability Zones, each with independent power, cooling, and networking infrastructure in case one or two zones experience issues.
GCP also provides cloud services through the Regions and Zones concept (37 Regions, 112 Zones, and 176 Edge locations).
GCP Regions worldwide
Bringing these services closer to the end user translates to low latency and boosts overall workload performance. GCP Regions also offer two or three independent Zones to ensure resilience in case of failure or issues in one or two zones.
Depending on the region or AZ, each CSP offers different levels of service. It is possible that a particular service is available in that location but that its capabilities are limited compared to those in other locations. These are some of the details you’ll want to carefully confirm before buying in.
AWS offers over 237 fully featured cloud products and services in 2023, the most by any CSP. The vendor organizes its services and products across categories, including compute, storage, networking, serverless, databases, analytics, security/compliance/identity management, and databases.
AWS cloud services and products categories
Similarly, Azure Cloud offers a wide range of cloud services, with multiple products under each cloud service category.
While the Google Cloud Platform seems to offer fewer products, at just over 100, you are likely to find the solution you need. Check this out:
Again, before choosing a provider, be sure to review their service specifications thoroughly to ensure that they will meet your workload requirements.
3. Compute, storage, and networking
The vendors group their instances or virtual machines into different categories based on their suitability to specific workloads, such as:
- Compute-optimized instances/VMs for compute intensive workloads, or
- Network-optimized instances/VMs for workloads that require low latency and high throughput.
For workloads that require balanced compute, memory, and networking resources, all three also offer general-purpose instances and bare metals.
As far as size goes, GCP’s M2 series virtual machin, which features 12 TB RAM and 416 virtual processors, is the largest of the three cloud service providers. In comparison, AWS and Azure offer instances with a maximum of 128 virtual CPUs and 3.84 terabytes of RAM and 128 virtual CPUs and 3.89 terabytes of memory, respectively.
Now, we get it. Finding the right instance type or virtual machine for a specific use case can be tough. A trial-and-error approach might not be feasible for you, and you may not have the funding and luxury to experiment.
That’s why we recommend using CloudZero Advisor, our free tool that helps you pick just the right machines by instance or VM type, size, and service, as well as by your budget, workload, and other factors.
Something else. You can run Linux or Windows machines on Azure, GCP, and AWS. Azure allows you to use your existing Microsoft licenses, whereas GCP and AWS require additional Windows licensing costs.
AWS, Azure, and GCP share a lot of similarities in terms of storage, such as fast SSDs, cheaper hard drives, and multiple archiving options. All three vendors also offer object, file, persistent block, and other types of cloud storage.
Some differences here include:
- Azure offers an actual data backup service; Backup
- AWS offers Snowball, a service that allows users to physically carry and transfer petabytes of data when internet transfers aren’t feasible. Transfer Appliance, a GCP service, provides a similar feature.
On to the next.
4. Open-source support
AWS has a long history of working with open-source communities. From Apache Kafka to Linux to MySQL to OpenTelemetry, AWS has supported notable projects.
Plus, to enable developers to switch from proprietary to open source software, it also open-sourced projects like .NET Porting Assistant and Babelfish for PostgreSQL.
But Google goes even bigger here. Among Google’s Open Source projects are Kubernetes (container orchestration), Istio (service mesh), TensorFlow (machine learning), and Go (programming language), most of which it donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). If you intend to integrate or leverage such platforms or tools, GCP may be the best choice.
The Azure cloud platform is increasingly supporting open source projects, but they are still handled by third parties such as RedHat, Terraform, and Databricks.
Each vendor offers a managed Kubernetes solution to simplify K8s deployments; Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).
However, AWS also offers the Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) for Docker containers. Amazon ECS is also a managed container service that leverages AWS security features and native tooling (such as Amazon ECR for storing, encrypting, and managing container images for speedy deployments) to further ease K8s deployments.
You can also provision, run, and self-manage Kubernetes on AWS using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances. Self-managing Kubernetes on Azure or GCP isn’t as straightforward.
In addition, it also costs an extra $0.10 per hour per cluster to run containerized apps with EKS vs ECS.
6. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics
The three offer unique, yet very similar, big data, predictive analytics, and data lakes for AI and machine learning. GCP, however, currently offers the most advanced Deep Learning models and powerful hardware accelerators (Cloud TPUs).
Meanwhile, AWS and Azure each feature ML studios dedicated to developing machine learning models. Yet, Azure’s studio does not require a deep knowledge of data engineering, Python coding, or open-source libraries like Amazon SageMaker does.
7. Support and pricing
Cloud services tend to be similar in terms of functionality, but prices are often a key differentiating factor. Still, Azure, GCP, and AWS pricing is similar in that they all use a pay-as-you-go model, with varying prices depending on whether you use the resources on-demand or on a reserved basis (committed use).
Here are some notable highlights for each CSP:
About GCP pricing:
- Get sustained use discounts of up to 30% are available when you use the same instance repeatedly
- Use Preemptible VM Instances for workloads you can start, pause, and restart later to save up to 80% on compute costs
- Get up to 57% discounts when you commit to use a VM long-term
- The GCP Free Tier offers more than 20 always-free products
- Get a $300 credit to test out paid GCP services
About AWS pricing:
- and Reserved Instances (RIs)
- Use Spot Instances to cut compute costs by 90% when available
- Use more than 40 AWS services for free forever with the Free Tier
- Get free trials across 100 AWS products
- Use specific services free for 12 months to test out the AWS platform
- AWS Credits for eligible startups
- Get up to 750 hours worth of free compute per month to use across all AWS services
About Azure pricing:
- Up to 5X cheaper than AWS for Windows VMs, SQL Managed Instances, and SQL Server VMs
- Get up to 72% discounts off on-demand rates for committed usage across one or three years (Reserved VMs)
- Enjoy up to 40% off Azure Hybrid Benefits if you use Microsoft software on-premises
- Developers and testers get substantial discounts for using Visual Studio
- Grab additional discounts across Azure services when you have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA)
- Azure offers a free tier with minimal services, many more popular services for 12 months
- Get $200 credit to try any other paid service
Check out this AWS vs Azure pricing comparison for an in-depth guide on what costs to expect.
8. Uptime and latency
Azure, AWS, and GCP all claim 99.99% (four nines of uptime). However, their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) often guarantee 99.5% uptime for some services and 99.99% for others.
For exact guidelines, the AWS SLAs page details how compensation for service unavailability works (earning service credits for lower than promised uptime). Azure SLAs page also talks about this variation in more detail as does GCP SLA documentation.
Amazon Web Services: Pros And Cons
Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Amazon Web Services platform.
- Most extensive cloud services infrastructure today – This vendor provides superior IaaS and PaaS, along with on-premises public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud cloud services.
- Largest network of data centers – Amazon’s cloud infrastructure has 450 Edge computing sites and 176 Availability Zones, the most of any cloud provider.
- Superior cloud services experience – AWS pioneered the public cloud and continues to innovate and provide reliable services.
- User-friendly setup – AWS is relatively easier to use than Azure for new cloud users. With several low-cost, free, and open-source solutions, AWS is also more suitable for small and medium businesses.
- Developer-friendly – With its vast configuration options, self-service provisioning, and fully managed services, AWS has created an ecosystem that appeals to developers and cloud engineers.
- AWS marketplace – Provides a wide variety of third-party software and other support tools that enhance your cloud services
- Extensive data backup – The vendor leverages its vast global infrastructure to backup data across multiple locations.
- Potential overwhelm – Choosing between the many cloud products, services, and features available can be confusing.
- Complex pricing – This makes it hard to know what costs to expect, especially when using different AWS products and processes together.
- Basic cloud cost management tools – AWS Cost Explorer, Cost and Usage Report, and Cost Calculator display cost overviews rather than in-depth cost insights, such as cost per customer, product feature, or service.
- Vested interest – In some verticals where Amazon is an increasingly prominent player, some enterprise customers view AWS as a competitor, opting to use another cloud service provider.
- Limited hybrid and on-premises capabilities – AWS is relatively new to the on-premises and hybrid cloud space, so it hasn’t matured as much as say, Azure.
- Costly support – Getting enterprise-level technical support can be costly.
When should you use AWS?
AWS services are suitable for organizations of all sizes, in any industry, on any budget, and located anywhere in the world. With its extensive service options, IaaS and PaaS infrastructure, and pay-as-you-go (usage-based) pricing, AWS is the gold-standard of cloud computing. The CSP is also ideal for advanced machine learning and data backup.
Microsoft Azure: Pros And Cons
The Microsoft Azure cloud has some benefits and drawbacks, too.
- Superior enterprise support – Microsoft’s history of providing enterprise solutions makes it an obvious choice for large companies. In addition, its hybrid cloud and on-premises services are quite mature.
- Extensive network of global data centers – After AWS, the vendor offers the second-largest network of cloud servers that are accessible from anywhere, at any time.
- Integrate seamlessly with Microsoft business applications – These include Microsoft 365, Azure Virtual Desktop, Microsoft SQL Server, and Power BI.
- Use existing Microsoft licenses – Azure makes it easy to integrate existing Microsoft licences to prevent additional costs.
- Cost-effective – It is relatively cheaper than AWS for enterprises, but not for SMBs.
- Extensive support for Linux OS
- Complex pricing – Azure pricing, like AWS, can be complex to understand down to the individual products and services you purchase.
- Basic cost management tools – Native Azure cost tools provide high-level cost information, but actionable cost intelligence requires third-party tools.
- Not SMB-friendly – Focusses primarily on enterprise customers.
- There are customer complaints about technical support quality.
When should you use Azure?
The best choice for large enterprises, especially those who already use Microsoft products and licenses, such as Microsoft 365 and Windows SQL Server.
Microsoft Azure is also ideal for hybrid cloud deployments in which enterprises want to use local or private clouds alongside public cloud services.
Google Cloud Platform: Pros And Cons
Below are some of the disadvantages and advantages of the Google Cloud Platform to watch out for.
- Better price/performance – While Azure offers lower prices, GCP delivers overall more affordable services.
- Exceptional containerization support – Google has contributed to container technologies for years, including Kubernetes and Istio.
- Suitable for SMBs – The vendor offers cloud solutions for small and medium businesses as well as smaller projects at large companies.
- Superior open-source support – GCP has extensive relationships with the open-source community, participating in numerous projects with partners such as RedHat.
- Advanced ML and blockchain capabilities – From Google Search to YouTube and GMail, the platform has a huge database supporting its Deep Machine Learning and blockchain capabilities.
- Seamless integration with Workspace – GCP is a natural transition to companies using tools like Gmail for Business, Spreadsheets, Forms, and Google Docs.
- Support for multi-cloud deployments – Azure pioneered hybrid cloud deployments, but Google Cloud Platform is promoting multi-cloud deployments.
- More user-friendly pricing model – Pricing on GCP is more straightforward than on AWS and Azure
- An excellent DaaS service – Like Azure, GCP has developed its virtual desktop offering significantly over the past few years.
- Global fiber network – Supports speedy operations
- It has a limited number of cloud servers and data centers across the globe at the moment, limiting usage in some regions
- Limited enterprise solutions support
When should you use GCP?
GCP is ideal for SMBs with cloud-native operations and looking to leverage cloud-native processes, AI, ML, and data analytics for growth. It is also ideal for companies looking to use GCP alongside two or more public clouds.
How To View, Control, And Reduce AWS, Azure, And GCP Cloud Costs
With so many products, services, and processes available, these vendors offer a great deal of flexibility.
The downside is the complexity poses a huge cost blindspot, making it nearly impossible to understand, track, and optimize cloud costs with ease.
That explains why companies waste about 30% of their cloud budgets.
The fact that AWS, Azure, and GCP offer basic cloud cost management tools doesn’t help either. With their basic tools, it’s hard to tell what’s driving your cloud costs, because they only provide totals and averages.
Enter CloudZero’s cloud cost intelligence approach
CloudZero uses a code-driven approach to consolidate, analyze, and share detailed cost insights that can be applied immediately. No overwhelm. No endless cost allocation tags required.
But that’s not all. CloudZero also empowers you to:
- Analyze costs by individual customer, product, feature, team, project, and any other dimensions that matter to you. For example, determine how much it costs you to support a particular customer so you can price their contract fairly yet profitably.
- View, understand, and analyze AWS, Azure, and GCP costs in one place. Kubernetes cost analysis is also available, among others, like Snowflake and New Relic.
- Use CloudZero Advisor to choose the right instances or VMs based on your workload, budget, AWS service, and other factors.
- Get real-time cost anomaly detection and smart alerts via email, Slack, and text to prevent overspending.
- Enable your engineers to see how their technical choices affect cloud costs and your organization’s bottom line.
- Analyze your COGS and benchmark it with industry peers to see if you are effectively leveraging economies of scale.
- Get the most out of your Reserved Instances and Spot Instances with CloudZero’s partners, ProsperOps and Xosphere.
- Set up, track, and optimize your cloud budget and cost allocations
These capabilities and more helped us find over $1.7 million in annualized savings. Drift saved $2.4 million in annual costs using CloudZero. This is something you can also do. to see how CloudZero can help.