The Big Three: Comparing AWS, Azure and Google Cloud for Computing

If you’ve heard of cloud computing at all, you’ve heard of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. Between the three of them, they’ll be raking in over $50 billion in 2019. If you’re on the cloud, chances are good you’re using at least one of them.

The latest RightScale State of the Cloud Report pegs AWS adoption at 61%, Azure at 52% and Google Cloud at 19% (see the purple above). What’s more, almost all respondents (as denoted in blue) were experimenting with or planned to use one of the top three clouds. Which, if you math that up, means that 84% of respondents are going to be using AWS at some point, 77% will be using Azure and 55% will be using Google Cloud.

AWS, Azure & GCP market share

Multi-cloud strategies are definitively A Thing, contrary to some folks’ opinions and the overwhelming one-cloud-to-rule-them-all desire of AWS. So it’s worth comparing them. On a broad level, AWS rocks and rolls with capabilities set to lock you into their cloud, while Azure’s great for enterprises and Google Cloud’s your go-to if you want to do AI. But, as with all things, there’s more to it than that, and it’s not just where you can get the best cloud credit deals.


Even in “the cloud,” the location of your workloads matters. Their proximity to the end user (as well as to the database) reduces delays. And, of course, laws vary depending upon the government in question.

As of this writing, AWS has 18 regions: five in North America, one in South America, five in Europe, six in Asia and one in Australia. It also has two regions in China and two classified for US government use.

Azure blows AWS out of the water with its regions: 54 total. It has ten in North America, one in South America, eight in Europe (two within the German cloud), nine in Asia and four in Australia (within its Australia cloud). It also has regions in China and regions set aside for US government use.

GCP has regions six in North America, one in South America, six in Europe, six in Asia and one in Australia.

Virtual Machines

Despite the new services that cloud service providers are constantly releasing (I’m looking at you, serverless), virtual machines remain the bread-and-butter of the cloud because, y’know, servers. They’re going to remain a thing for a long time for a lot of organizations.

AWS’s Elastic Compute Cloud supports Windows and Linux, as well as bare-metal instances. They have instance types that are optimized for memory and GPU, and all the newer types have great networking. The default pricing model is on-demand by hour or second. AWS’s spot instances are preemptible, and can offer a 90% discount. Their reserved instances are well suited to those who have right-sized their instances and don’t mind being locked in to a contract for one or three years.

Azure Virtual Machines support Windows and Linux as well as specialized, licensed products like Oracle and SAP. Because it’s a Microsoft product, the discounts on Windows and SQL Server machines are substantial — undoubtedly part of why big enterprises pick Azure as their first stop on the hybrid cloud train. Azure also offers preemptible virtual machines through Batch, and reserved virtual machines.

Google Cloud’s Compute Engine also supports Windows and Linux. Like Azure and AWS, it has standard machine sizes, but it also offers the ability to customize. Google’s preemptible virtual machines have fixed pricing and are enabled with a simple --preemptible flag, which is fairly compelling. Their “committed use discount” is unique because it goes off of resource allocation, not machine size, and is always billed month-to-month.


The pricing of the different cloud services vary wildly — across regions, across offerings, across discounts. If cost is your main differentiator when choosing a cloud service, analyzing resource requirements on a project-by-project basis and reevaluating those requirements regularly is the way to go. Luckily can help.

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