Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is the ‘third cloud’ in terms of revenue, some way behind Microsoft Azure and a long way short of the leader, Amazon AWS. But Google has set its heart on becoming a major cloud player. So what does GCP have to offer that AWS can’t provide?

As part of our ongoing research into GCP vs AWS and other public cloud IaaS and PaaS services for Computing Delta we’ve been asking senior IT professionals about their preferences. The full end user analysis with interviews and surveys with over 200 senior IT leaders who have purchased these services is available to Delta subscribers, click here if you do not have access but would like to see the full report in a demo. More information, including comparisons with other vendors, is available in the Cloud IaaS/PaaS Report. But here’s a brief summary of GCP vs AWS.

GCP vs AWS – the background

Headquartered in Mountain View, California, USA, Google was founded in 1998 and is now the largest subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., an umbrella corporation set up in 2015 to incorporate Google’s many different businesses. The company employs more than 103,000 people worldwide. In July 2019, Alphabet announced annual revenues for GCP of $8 billion, double the $4 billion figure reported in early 2018. This figure includes earnings from the online productivity suite G-Suite as well as GCP PaaS.

Based in Seattle, Washington State, USA, Amazon employs 647,000 people globally (2018) and in 2018 it achieved a market capitalisation of US $1 trillion on revenues of US $232.887 billion. In Q2 2019 cloud contributed to 13 per cent of its revenue, compared with 11.5 per cent the previous year. AWS continues to grow at an annual rate of 38 per cent with revenues of $25.6 billion (2018). It is the most profitable part of Amazon’s many operations.

With GCP vs AWS it is hard to arrive at a satisfactory comparison of their relative sizes. Google bundles SaaS into its financial figures and Amazon offers much more in the way of IaaS – but while AWS is certainly larger GCP is seemingly growing faster.

Both clouds provide a wide range of services, although AWS’s scope is definitely broader and deeper (Google produces a handy mapping table to help customers compare similar products across the three main clouds). AWS and GDP were ranked first and second, respectively, for cutting-edge innovation, AWS having a very slight edge in the opinion of our respondents.

Google Cloud Platform versus AWS

Amazon was the first CSP to rise to global prominence and AWS has long been favoured by developers, who have become a powerful force in organisations, thanks to its open source roots. However, Google is known for its pioneering work with AI and cloud-native technologies. Kubernetes, the container orchestration platform, Chromium browser, the TensorFlow machine learning platform and the programming language Go are all projects started at Google and subsequently open sourced – and we shouldn’t forget Android, the world’s most popular mobile OS.

However, Google is known as a consumer brand and has little purchase within business, particularly compared to a Microsoft, a SAP or an Oracle. The same could be said for Amazon, too, but the cloud giant has had a few more years to put that right and is now a trusted part of the infrastructure in many organisations. Many but not all; retailers may be wary of using Amazon’s cloud, for obvious reasons. But then Google has trust issues of its own with its advertising business model based on data mining.

“They’re not trustworthy and there’s a lack of UK / EU data centre presence,” said a cloud services tenancy manager in the education sector, speaking about GCP.

Actually, GCP has more data centres in Europe (six: UK, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland) than AWS (five: Ireland, UK, Sweden, Germany, France with Italy planned), but AWS has more representatives and cloud partners in EMEA. Despite this, both vendors were accused of being rather US-centric.

Important factors in CSP selection

Factors in choosing a CSP

The most important factors identified by our respondents when choosing a cloud service provider (CSP) are shown above. Running costs, uptime/availability and security credentials are the big three, with appropriate UK / EU focus not too far behind.

AWS vs GCP – uptime and availbility

On these top factors, when looking at GCP versus AWS the two are evenly matched. Both excelled for uptime, with GCP having a slight edge.

Google versus AWS uptime

AWS vs GCP – pricing

On running costs GCP achieved a higher score (better), which is interesting as Amazon generally has the lower list prices for individual resources (see below). This may be a result of customers having been with AWS for longer and thus using more services and being subject to unexpected price rises (a complaint frequently levelled at CSPs). List prices are unlikely to be a reliable indicator of long-term running costs.

Some sample ‘on-demand’ prices are listed below. Both vendors offer short term spot pricing and long term contracts that can reduce these figures by up to 70 per cent. Google claims its storage prices average 21 per cent less than AWS for online storage workloads.

Google versus AWS pricing

AWS had the edge when it came to trust in its security credentials, although both vendors achieved high scores. Both are regularly audited for SSAE16, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, PCI and other certifications and both encrypt data in transit and at rest by default. However, a few respondents complained that default settings can be insecure and that beefing up security costs extra.

AWS vs GCP – portability

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the approach to interoperability with other cloud services. As leader, AWS has a vested interest in preventing its customers from straying. AWS was reported as forbidding its resellers from even mentioning the terms “multi-cloud”, “cross cloud” any cloud”, “every cloud” and similar in their co-branded literature. On the other hand GCP recently launched Anthos, a platform which enables customers to run applications and in private data centres and rival clouds.

Google versus AWS portability

Conclusion

The GCP vs AWS battle pitches two of the world’s most innovative tech companies against each other. While AWS has the advantage of an earlier start, a bigger market share and and a larger range of services, GCP is probably growing faster and has a strong foothold in AI and machine learning and containerisation. Not that AWS is any slouch in this regard, and it does have the more mature service.

On costs AWS seems more competitive on the basis of its published prices, although Google achieved the better results in the Delta study. On support and UK / EU focus GCP vs AWS has inconclusive results with bouquets and brickbats thrown in equal proportions.

The biggest difference for now is attitude to portability: where AWS is building an ecosystem around Amazon, GCP and others are making moves towards compatibility with other clouds.

More information, including the capability to compare satisfaction ratings with those of other vendors, is available in the Cloud IaaS/PaaS Report.

Further reading

How to choose the right cloud platform

 

Cloud: choosing the right platform for your ambitions

 

 

Global cloud market share

 

The Market for Public Cloud IaaS/PaaS

 

 

Choosing between AWS and Azure

 

AWS vs Azure: Choosing between cloud’s biggest beasts