How big can hyperscale cloud providers Microsoft, Amazon and Google get?

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This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of CRN magazine.

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How big can hyperscale cloud providers Microsoft, Amazon and Google get?

COMMENT  |  The money just keeps rolling in for cloud service providers. Amazon has overtaken Microsoft in revenue by virtue of its cash flow from the cloud, and Microsoft itself has arrested its slide down the ranks by virtue of, you guessed it, cloud cash. And the overlord of all online companies, Alphabet Inc, aka Google’s parent, is ramping up cloud revenues despite already being king of online advertising.

Only Apple is missing from the cloudy-but-fine tribe, continuing to make its money selling toys and tunes, and doing so well that you wonder if the Cupertino crowd are all that committed to their iCloud offering. After all, the service is hosted behind the scenes by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud (there are rumours that Apple intends to take more ownership with its ‘Pie’ project).

Storing things in the cloud and hosting virtual machines up there is the new reality for IT providers everywhere. And so far, their customers are loving it – and paying for it. But will it last forever? Is Apple the smart one, just renting some of it to resell, and having nothing to lose if there is a cloudburst? And why is the cloud so popular with customers anyway?

Mostly, it seems to be a couple of things coming together at once. Pretty much ubiquitous high-speed broadband has allowed users to run things remotely without paying a performance penalty. And at the same time, Windows Server, still the major platform for hosting business applications, is getting harder and harder to manage, and those who can do it for you are getting harder and harder to find, and when found, they charge accordingly.

It’s a whole lot easier, and cheaper, to rent some servers in the cloud and have the host company pay the ransom to maintain the things. Heck, the enterprise crowd have done this for years, due to their size. They can afford a small army of techies, with the cost spread out across their empire. The cloud makes it possible for small businesses, the majority of all businesses, to join the party.

However, for those new to the IT world, we have been here before. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… well, right here actually, in this galaxy, the only computers available were called mainframes and no company other than the folk who built them, and large enterprise outfits, could afford one. The rest of the world rented time online to crunch their data on these dinosaurs. Along came the PC revolution and freed us from the tyranny of timeslots on the mainframe.

And now, we’re effectively heading right back there, sending our former free-range PCs up into the cloud to run in virtual cages, where the lights never go out, and paying rent to access them. How long before the next revolution puts this ‘new’ model to the sword? Will the cloud eventually burst?

Gotta go! Storms coming!   

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