As the U.S. and global economies begin to regain their vibrancy following the COVID pandemic, it is unmistakably clear that the cloud has become even more indispensable for businesses.
And while each of the world-changing vendors in my Cloud Wars Top 10 are playing huge roles in helping to drive this digital revolution, I’d like to share a few thoughts on why #1 Microsoft, #2 Amazon, #3 Salesforce, and #4 Google top that list of the world’s largest and most-influential cloud providers.
While Microsoft is without question the biggest enterprise-cloud vendor in the world with cloud revenue of $51 billion for the 12 months ended June 30, its vision, customer-centric approach, and commitment to widespread innovation are also defining reasons why it’s been #1 on my list for more than 2 years.
- Satya Nadella’s confident leadership and optimistic vision have certainly turned Microsoft from a rudderless tech also-ran into one of the world’s most vibrant and influential companies—not to mention the most highly valued—during his 6-1/2 years as CEO. But on top of that, he has set a standard for the entire tech industry for how CEOs should think about and talk about the incredibly technology they create by focusing not on the code itself but on the impact it has for people in every aspect of their lives. It is impossible to overstate the value of this inspirational impact from Nadella.
- To my knowledge, Microsoft was the first big tech vendor to champion the role of business customers as partners, wherein the tech innovations created by those customers can become, with Microsoft’s help, commercial products sold to other businesses.
- The power of partnerships: no other tech vendor comes anywhere close to Microsoft in the breadth and depth of alliances created with other vendors to make customers’ lives easier. From SAP to Oracle, from Workday to ServiceNow, Microsoft has made such partnerships a virtue—and in so doing has greatly enhanced the ability of customers to move aggressively into the cloud.
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The cloud-infrastructure superstar continues to drive enormous value for hundreds of thousands of businesses across the globe.
- While I believe the PaaS and SaaS layers of the cloud will ultimately generate the greatest levels of business value for customers—because, after all, that’s where the software is—all of that wonderful code needs to run on fabulous infrastructure. And while Amazon’s market-share lead in infrastructure is not as vast as it used to be, it still sets the pace.
- Andy Jassy’s ongoing leadership continues to make the AWS a source of relentless innovation and a foundational element for the global digital economy. Fascinating to consider what AWS and Jassy could do as a standalone company, without the heavy baggage that always accompanies its “we compete with everybody” parent.
- As one of the true cloud pioneers, AWS has generated massive innovation not only from within its own labs and among its own customers but also from competitors, both real and would-be. Everybody wants to take down the big dog, and the pursuit of that dream has triggered a vast range of new products, technologies, services and approaches across the industry.
- One concern I have about #2 Amazon is this: as the other major cloud vendors are expanding into new fields and finding new ways to integrate new levels of value and innovation for customers, AWS has been a bit stuck in its own world for a while. Can it become a true force in databases and other segments of data management? Does it have a play in analytics? Can it transcend its past as it moves into the fast-changing future? This is AWS’s biggest challenge—and the primary reason it could yield its #2 spot to a hungrier and more-ambitious and more-influential competitor.
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Sometime next week, it’s very likely Marc Benioff will announce that Salesforce has posted its first $5 billion quarter.
- And I wouldn’t be surprised if Benioff immediately starts talking about how he intends to propel Salesforce to its first $10-billion quarter. No person on Earth has done more to evangelize the cloud, to make it tangible for CXOs, and to articulate the real business value and power of the cloud than Benioff.
- Yes, Salesforce is a SaaS powerhouse, but it’s technological genius—plus some wickedly smart M&A moves—have also enabled it to become quite a force in data analytics and platform as well. In fact, Salesforce’s biggest business isn’t one of its hugely successful CRM clouds—no, it’s largest business is now “Platform and Other.”
- Focus, focus, focus: while most of the other big apps players in the cloud have rushed to establish themselves in multiple apps categories, Benioff has kept Salesforce maniacally focused on CRM. Of course, the crafty Benioff has also constantly expanded and redefined the CRM category, but he’s avoided the temptation to get into ERP or HCM and has instead kept his company solely dedicated to the business that made it famous.
- One word of caution for Salesforce and the #3 spot it has held for some time: beware of #4—they are coming up fast. Like objects in the rearview mirror, #4 is definitely larger than it appears.
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In Q2, Google Cloud reported $3 billion in revenue and was by far the fastest-growing company in the Cloud Wars Top 10 (for full details on that, please see Google Remains Fastest-Growing Cloud Vendor, Thumping Microsoft, Amazon, IBM.
- And while that’s barely a rounding error for its parent company, Alphabet executives lavished praise on Google Cloud in the Q2 earnings call for providing such growth during a time when Alphabet’s core businesses, such as online advertising, not only failed to grow but actually saw revenue fall.
- Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian has completely reinvigorated the company since taking over 20 months ago, not only reimagining its product lineup but more importantly creating and driving a new customer-first culture. You can read all about that in Google Cloud Booms: Thomas Kurian’s Vision for World’s Fastest-Growing Cloud.
- Kurian’s strategy to develop AI-powered industry-specific solutions moves Google Cloud into the high-value apps space without alienating the big apps vendors that use Google Cloud for IaaS. Those industry-specific solutions also kick open the door to an entirely new generation of cloud services that will become indispensable for businesses in the future, and that are allowing Kurian to reposition his company as more than a data-center powerhouse.
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Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Microsoft and Google Cloud were among the many clients of Cloud Wars Media LLC and/or Evans Strategic Communications LLC.
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