Whether somebody likes it or not, cloud services providers and what they offer has changed the landscape of FinTech completely in recent years. At Code & Pepper we know it and we work with some of their products daily to make products for our clients. But which companies are the most popular and why? Let’s find out today!
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Global market is monopolised by a few major players, but there are more cloud services providers than just AWS, Azure and Google Cloud. We’ll try to cover these less popular or maybe just regional operators too. We’ll also try to answer the question why some of them evolved so rapidly and why some of them seem to be sticking to their regional markets.
What are cloud services – a short reminder
Before we list the major cloud services providers, we should get back to basics for a moment and explain what is the purpose of them, so that everyone understands what we are discussing here.
Very basically, computing can be done locally (so called legacy systems), on a personal machine of somebody working or it can be performed on another computer that can be accessed via the Internet. The same goes for storing data. Now, when you work on a local machine, you have many limitations:
- computing power of just one, particular machine;
- inability to keep up with technological advances, limited flexibility and scalability;
- costly upgrades and ownership;
- low security;
- problematic access to your data if you’re out of office;
- sharing work with other people requires dedicated solutions.
However, cloud computing lets you access the power of virtual machines powered by machines beyond your imagination that can be shared with thousands of co-workers.
In the case of huge cloud powered systems, for example FinTechs and banking software, it means that users don’t need powerful machines to use applications and data can be accessed seamlessly. In other words: moving workloads to the cloud solves all of the problems related with sticking to legacy systems.
Of course there are more technical and legal details that we could talk about today, but if you’re interested in them, read our post about Cloud Banking Solutions.
Top cloud services providers by market share
As mentioned above, there are few large companies that offer cloud services globally. The most notable ones, by market share and according to Gartner, are:
- Amazon (AWS) – 40.8% market share
- Microsoft (Azure) – 19.7 % market share
- Alibaba (Alibaba Cloud or Aliyun) – 9.5 % market share
- Google (Google Cloud) – 6.1 % market share
- Huawei (Huawei Mobile Cloud) – 4.2 % market share
Not surprisingly, there are two huge Chinese companies on the list. Later on, however, we’ll focus on cloud services providers that are closer to the UK market, because FinTechs in countries that have implemented GDPR do not use Chinese clouds.
Top 3 cloud services providers for FinTech
All of the three largest, western cloud service providers are popular among FinTechs, so let’s break down what they offer and compare.
AWS was founded by Amazon in 2006 as one of the first cloud services providers. Thanks to huge investments in the early stages of the cloud industry, AWS managed to grow so big before the competition, now it is hard to fight with its domination. Interestingly, though, the genesis of AWS can be traced back to the early 2000s, when Amazon struggled to build an innovative e-commerce-as-a-service system that would allow merchants to build their own web-based stores, Merchant.com.
Nowadays, AWS serves virtually all countries and does it well thanks to the physical presence of servers in 90 cities across 47 countries. Such spread system architecture allows for minimal latencies in data transfer.
Fees are calculated based on a pay-as-you-go model. Subscribers are free to choose the computing power they need and pay accordingly.
As the leader in the market of cloud services providers, AWS offers huge power, flexible terms, easy access to established consulting partners worldwide and compatibility with all technologies important in the FinTech market. AWS delivers end-to-end solutions, starting from servers to embedded operating systems in Edge devices.
Unfortunately, what is good may be costly. Even though Amazon often announces future price reductions, the service has not become any cheaper since 2014. Also, if a client is closely tied to Amazon products, switching to another cloud provider is tricky, which can generate additional costs.
Microsoft’s first steps towards introducing their cloud service were taken in 2005, when the IT giant took over Groove Networks. Then, in 2008 Azure was announced. It took another two years to launch the service publicly, though. The platform was supposed to run on a dedicated Windows Azure system which was positioned as an alternative to Amazon EC2 and Google Apps Engine. It was not versatile enough in its early days, though, and only catered to a very narrow niche of developers. As usual in the case of Microsoft, it took years of crazy experimentation to develop a cloud platform that would become something useful to a wide public, but finally it is.
Azure is spread across 54 regions with dedicated infrastructure each. It doesn’t make Azure the most widely available cloud service provider, but it makes it a practical one. Every region serves a minimum of three availability zones, so clients can run two or more isolated instances of their apps.
The pricing model of Azure is similar to the AWS one. It is more affordable, though.
Because Azure offers the widest range of services among the cloud services providers and its partnerships with Oracle, VMware and SAP, it is extremely flexible and compatible. The use cases of Azure are limitless. Moreover, Microsoft offers a variety of dedicated tools that make creating apps for Azure a breeze.
Even though Azure pricing is affordable, Microsoft’s support is not. Besides that, other providers have more availability zones. The worst part, though, is that Azure cannot guarantee its clients the capacity they pay for, which was a problem during the COVID caused spike.
Soon after AWS was launched, Google was already working hard on creating a platform to compete with the e-commerce giant. Google, however, already had a great foundation to build upon. The company decided to utilise the same infrastructure they used for pre-existing services, such as Google Search, Gmail or YouTube. Then, Google announced a dedicated platform for developing apps and hosting them on Google-managed servers – App Engine. After this first step towards cloud computing, the service became widely available in November 2011.
Google Cloud is available in 200 countries spread across 25 regions. It is also divided into 76 zones and 144 network Edge locations. Google recommends running isolated copies of apps across servers in multiple locations for maximum availability.
Google Cloud also uses the pay-as-you-go model, just as its major competitors. The costs can be pre-calculated using the Calculator app and you can always ask for a custom quote to plan launching your app more precisely for your location and needs. New clients are offered $300 in free credits to spend in 90 days and Google runs a program dedicated for startups. They can get a minimum of $2000 in credits for a better start.
Thanks to the infrastructure built on the base of what Google excels at, Google Cloud stands out in fields of big data, machine learning and data science. It even offers an end-to-end AI platform which utilises TensorFlow units.
Because Google is mostly a consumer based business, it struggles to establish itself as a top enterprise solutions provider. It is visible in the maturity of its offer, which is limited, compared to the ones of AWS and Azure. However, even if it is smaller, Google’s services are well managed and work great.
The world doesn’t end in the West
Covering the whole vast world of cloud services providers doesn’t make much sense, when we’re focusing on FinTech, but there are so many options available. You can always decide to use clouds by Oracle or IBM, both of which are great. But the most interesting things are happening in China right now, where giants such as Huawei and Tencent are developing their services extremely fast. Will they be able to catch up with their global competitors? Only time will tell and we will be there to let you know!