Choosing between Amazon, Microsoft, or Google in the cloud wars is a 'Rorschach test'


watchmen Rorschach comic-con cosplay

Fred Greaves/Reuters

A cosplayer dressed as Rorschach, hero of the book and movie "Watchmen."

The cloud wars between Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are heating up, with the three working tirelessly to attract the large business customers that bring in the big bucks.


From a technological perspective, though, the three cloud platforms are basically equal, and offer a similar sales pitch.

So if customers just go by the technical specs of each platform, it can be a tough choice.

That's why customers are largely choosing which cloud to go to by their own "business logic," not the underlying technology, says James Watters, Vice President and General Manager at Pivotal - a Dell/EMC company and a partner to Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.

"It's almost a Rorschach test," says Watters - where you can tell a customer's business priorities based on what they like or don't like about a particular cloud.


For example, given Amazon's push into shipping and logistics, Pivotal Field CTO Joshua McKenty says it's seeing some of its (unnamed) customers in that industry jump ship from Amazon Web Services.

By the same token, car companies are shy about going to Google, given its push into self-driving vehicles, and opting for Amazon instead.

"Cars don't go to Google," McKenty says.

Microsoft's edge

Pivotal is in a unique spot amid these cloud wars: It now boasts formal technology partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google to support its mega-popular Pivotal Cloud Foundry software. Pivotal Cloud Foundry is used by the likes of Home Depot and Mercedes-Benz to help build more software, faster.

It means that Pivotal is involved in plenty of customer discussions over which cloud provider a customer should pick. That gives Pivotal a lot of insight into which customers are jumping which way, and why.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Business Insider

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

For instance, McKenty says that among the Fortune 500 companies, Pivotal has a hundred joint engagements with the Microsoft Azure cloud.

"That's far in excess of any other cloud provider," McKenty says.

Microsoft's edge, McKenty says, is its existing relationship with the enterprise.

Microsoft customers often end up buying lots of Azure compute capacity in a package with their usual Windows or Office licenses, sometimes without even realizing it, McKenty says. Given that they already have all of that credit, there's no reason to look elsewhere, he says, and they end up choosing Azure by default.


Amazon and Google

From Watters' point of view, Amazon's main advantage comes from the fact that it's often "first-to-market" with new features, thanks to its head-start in the industry.

Meanwhile, Google is "the purest at at-scale infrastructure," Watters says: the search giant's investments into getting really big, really fast means it knows how to offer customers a highly advanced and stable option for running their apps.

McKenty is a fan of Google's recent signalling that it's ready to go for large enterprise customers, under new cloud boss Diane Greene: "It took them a while to get it right," he says, and describes Google as "a pleasure to work with."

Diane Greene


Google cloud boss Diane Greene

"I think it's real," McKenty says of Google's push into the enterprise. "It just takes time to change that culture."


Still, Watters says that the value of Pivotal Cloud Foundry goes beyond just moving faster. Because it lets you write apps with Java, the preferred programming language at most businesses, it means that your coders don't have to re-learn any skills to work with Google, Amazon, or Microsoft's clouds.

Which has the very pleasant side effect of making it much easier (though still not trivial, Watters warns) to move from one cloud to another. Just re-install Pivotal Cloud Foundry on your new cloud, reinstall your Java applications, and boom, you're back up and running.

That's a valuable escape hatch, McKenty says, just in case Amazon decides to conquer a new industry and your "business logic" changes.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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