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September 21, 2015

Does size matter in cloud?

Microsoft says it has twice the datacentre regions than AWS and Google combined, but played down the importance of size.

By James Nunns

Microsoft has been boasting about the size and capabilities of its cloud offerings.

Mike Schutz, GM, cloud platform marketing at Microsoft, made the claim that its offering is bigger than its rivals’ AWS and Google combined.

Schutz made the claim during a presentation to analysts at the Deutsche Bank 2015 Technology Brokers Conference.

While he admitted that many Microsoft customers have tried out its rivals’ cloud products, he believes Microsoft’s offering is superior.

According to Schutz, the differentiator is hyperscale, "Hyperscale fundamentally is one of the ways that we differentiate," he said.

"There’s only a couple or three hyperscale clouds out there in the world, us being one of them. We operate today in about 19 regions, which means we have 19 datacentre regions globally.

"We continue to expand as our customers need us to do so. To put [that] in perspective, that’s about twice as many as AWS and about five or six times that of Google Cloud platform. And so even if you combined AWS and Google Cloud, we’re in more regions than the two of them combined.

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"And so hyperscale is important – it’s important to our customers because they want our service where they are and where their customers are. And so that’s one of the fundamental tenets."

By operating in more regions, Microsoft can potentially offer reduced latency and can also offer localised data storage. This is significant particularly in Europe where concerns regarding data location persist.

Although Microsoft may be able to offer more regions, the company is significantly lagging behind in the power and market size stakes. Data from Synergy Research showed in April that AWS is larger than its four main competitors combined, in the cloud infrastructure market.

Werner Vogels, CTO, Amazon, said: "Gartner estimates that AWS is the undisputed market share leader," he added, "with more than 5 times the compute capacity than all the other 14 cloud providers combined."

However, according to Scutz, it’s not all about size, he said: "AWS is big too and so where the differentiation [really] comes in is around hybrid.

"We also have a set of capabilities that provide ‘connective tissue’ between the private cloud and the public cloud, whether or not customers are running our private cloud technologies.

"The other element is around our enterprise routes and enterprise-grade support. And we have 650,000 partners worldwide, so we have a very broad footprint into our existing customer base with our trusted partners."

Microsoft may have made more obvious moves in the hybrid space, but it is far from alone in offering a ‘connective tissue’ between private and public clouds.

Ian Massingham, UK Technical Evangelist, AWS, told CBR about how the company offers hybrid: "It’s common to deploy under a hybrid model. Large organisations develop IT over time and it’s not practical to flick a switch and change immediately to AWS."

Deciphering how much market share any of these companies hold in the hybrid cloud sector is difficult to discover.

The hybrid cloud model is being pushed by a number of vendors as the way cloud will be deployed in the future. Despite this push, analyst firm Kable suggest that budget allocation for hybrid is likely to drop, from 27.8% in 2014 to 26.6% in 2015.

Research from MarketsandMarkets points to hybrid being worth £57.5 billion by 2019, part of the problem in measuring this market is that it is difficult to gauge how much is private and how much is public.

What is certain is that Microsoft is far from alone in the cloud race.

Cloud providers in China could be the next great competitors for the likes of AWS, Microsoft and Google.

Huawei for example, is China’s second largest provider of cloud services, behind Alibaba’s Aliyun which is the fourth largest hosting company in the world.

Huawei, like China’s other cloud operators, has been looking at global expansion. The company has been stepping up its investment in cloud computing, it plans to train 10,000 people in the field in the next three years.

The company has said it will focus its corporate cloud computing business on finance, government, energy and transportation.

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