Cloud Wars Chapter 5: Alibaba, IBM, and Oracle Versus Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Is There Even a Fight? | Blog

Few companies in the history of the technology industry have aspired to dominate the way public cloud vendors Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform currently are. I’ve covered the MAGs’ (as they’re collectively known) ugly fight across other blogs on industry cloud, low-code, and market share.

However, enterprises and partners increasingly appear to be demanding more options. That’s not because these three cloud vendors have done something fundamentally wrong or their offerings haven’t kept pace. Rather, it’s because enterprises are becoming more aware of cloud services and their potential impact on their businesses, and because Alibaba, IBM, and Oracle have introduced meaningful offerings that can’t be ignored any longer.

What’s changed?

Our research shows that enterprises have moved only about 20 percent of their workloads to the cloud. They started with simple workloads like web portals, collaboration suites, and virtual machines. After this first phase of their journey to the cloud, they realized that they needed to do a significant amount of preparation to be successful. Many enterprises – some believe more than 90 percent – have repatriated at least one workload from public cloud, which opened enterprise leaders’ eyes to the importance of fit-for-purpose in addition to a generic cloud. So, before they move more complex workloads to the cloud, they want to be absolutely sure they get their architectural choices and cloud partner absolutely right.

Is the market experiencing public cloud fatigue?

When AWS is clocking over US$42 billion in revenue and growing at  about 30 percent, Google Cloud has about US$15 billion in revenue and is growing at over 40 percent, and Azure is growing at over 45 percent, it’s hard to argue that there’s public cloud fatigue. However, some enterprises and service partners believe these vendors are engaging in strongarm tactics to own the keys to the enterprise technology kingdom. In the race to migrate enterprise workloads to their cloud platforms, these vendors are willing to proactively invest millions of dollars – that is, on the condition that the enterprise goes all-in and builds architecture for workloads on their specific cloud platform. Notably, while all these vendors extol multi-cloud strategies in public, their actual commitment is questionable. At the same time, this isn’t much different than any other enterprise technology war where the vendor wants to own the entire pie.

Enter Alibaba, IBM, and Oracle (AIO)

In an earlier blog, I explained that we’re seeing a battle between public cloud providers and software vendors such as Salesforce and SAP. However, this isn’t the end of it. Given enterprises’ increasing appetite for cloud adoption, Alibaba, IBM, and Oracle have meaningfully upped the ante on their offerings. The move to the public cloud space was obvious for IBM and Oracle, as they’re already deeply entrenched in the enterprise technology landscape. While they probably took a lot more time than they should have in building meaningful cloud stories, they’re here now. They’re focused on “industrial grade” workloads that have strategic value for enterprises and on building open source as core to their offering to propagate multi-cloud interoperability. IBM has signed multiple cloud engagements with companies including Schlumberger, Coca Cola European Partners, and Broadridge. Similarly, Oracle has signed with Nissan and Zoom. And Oracle, much like Microsoft, has the added advantage of having offerings in the business applications market. Alibaba, despite its strong focus on China and Southeast Asia, is increasingly perceived as one of the most technologically advanced cloud platforms.

What will happen now, and what should enterprises do?

As enterprises move deeper into their cloud journeys, they must carefully vet and bet on cloud vendors. As infrastructure abstraction rises at a fever pitch with serverless, event-driven applications and functions-as-a-service, it becomes relatively easier to meet the lofty ideals of Service Oriented Architecture to have a fully abstracted underlying infrastructure, which is what a true multi-cloud environment also embodies. The cloud vendors realize that, as they provide more abstracted infrastructure services, they risk being easily replaced with API calls applications can make to other cloud platforms. Therefore, cloud vendors will continue to make high value services that are difficult to switch from, as I argued in a recent blog on multi-cloud interoperability.

It appears the MAGs are going to dominate this market for a fairly long time. But, given the rapid pace of technology disruption, nothing is certain. Moreover, having alternatives on the horizon will keep MAGs on their toes and make enterprise decisions with MAGs more balanced. Enterprises should keep investing in in-house business and technology architecture talent to ensure they can correctly architect what’s needed in the future and migrate workloads off a cloud platform when and if the time comes. Enterprises should also realize that preferring multi-cloud and actually building internal capabilities for multi-cloud are two very different things. In the long run, most enterprises will have one strategic cloud vendor and two to three others for purpose-built workloads. However, they shouldn’t be suspicious of the cloud vendors and shouldn’t resist leveraging the brilliant native services MAGs and AIO have built.

What has your experience been working with MAGs and AIO? Please share with me [email protected].

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