AWS or Google Cloud: Which is Better for Your Business?
December 16, 2022 / Katarina Rudela
Reading Time: 15 minutes
Organizations continue to transition to the cloud, regardless of size. While this approach is most closely associated with enterprises, even small businesses are now moving their entire infrastructure to a cloud platform. The advantages of cloud computing include improvements in cost, scalability and security, in addition to the environmental benefits of eliminating on-premises data centers.
The decisions involved with this process were simpler when the choice of providers, solutions and technologies were limited. Today, these combinations of infrastructure components number in the thousands, making it more challenging to determine the one that will provide the greatest benefit for a company. However, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are two of the largest cloud providers, so selecting a platform often comes down to a choice between these two.
AWS and GCP are household names in cloud computing, as both organizations have dominated this industry for over a decade. In addition to their current reputation, they have also maintained a pursuit of excellence and innovation. Both organizations also have an abundance of technical expertise that makes them highly competitive in their markets. As a result, they have both developed cloud computing platforms that lead the industry. Gartner published the following Magic Quadrant in 2020 showing the market position of AWS and GCP in Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS):
Note how AWS, Microsoft and Google are all clearly in the Leader quadrant, meaning they have a strong vision and the ability to execute it. AWS secured its position in this quadrant for the tenth straight year, with the highest placement. AWS and Google have dominated the IaaS space since it started to gain traction in 2008, along with three other public cloud infrastructure providers. A 2020 report from Gartner shows that these five players account for 80 percent of the IaaS market, a trend that should become even more pronounced as they increase their efforts to consolidate their market position.
The global pandemic generally stalled major economies, although public clouds have flourished as the number of remote workers increases. Gartner forecast revenue growth of 6.3 percent for public clouds in 2020, with a 94 percent increase in the Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) market. AWS and Google should continue expanding during this period, as they both started in the IaaS space. They now provide many solutions in IaaS, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and will continue to add new offerings to their roster.
AWS and Google have strong earnings that should continue, largely due to the trend towards remote work.
Amazon reported earnings almost $10 billion in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2019, just before the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The 2020 earnings for Q1, Q2 and Q3 showed a growth rate consistently below 30 percent, as compared to a growth of 40 to 50 percent for the previous three years. However, AWS is currently earning annual revenue of $43 billion, which was expected to increase in Q4 2020. On the other hand, Amazon shareholders may experience a loss of profits as Amazon spends capital to continue its recovery from the pandemic.
Alphabet, Google Cloud’s parent company, showed that it was positioned to deliver strong growth with an annual revenue increase of 18 percent in its Q4 and Fiscal Year 2019 report. The company claimed revenue growth above 100 percent for that year, with a total of $10 billion in earnings. GCP did not experience a loss of revenue and was actually able to accelerate its growth, largely due to the success of Google Meet, Google Cloud’s video conferencing tool. Earnings for Q1, Q2 and Q3 for 2020 showed a pattern of continued growth, with expected revenue of more than $13 billion for the year. This figure would indicate a growth of 30 percent for 2020.
Comparing AWS and GCP is challenging because both platforms have hundreds of individual products, and this list continues to increase. In addition, these providers have different names for similar products, further complicating this task. A detailed level of knowledge and understanding is thus essential for avoiding unnecessary detail when making these comparisons.
Fortunately, the fact that these providers group their products under the same categories simplifies this task considerably. For example, they both use compute, networking and storage features, which include commonly used services as well as those that are critical to business operations. This comparison will focus on products that are most often used in a typical cloud deployment, including key considerations regarding their deployment.
The compute capabilities of AWS and GCP primarily deal with virtual machines (VMs), which provide the functionality of physical computers for virtually any workload. They provide the foundation of a cloud environment, so it’s vital to choose the right VMs for your organization. Both cloud providers use a similar approach to VMs, although their naming conventions are different. AWS uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), while GCP uses Compute Engine. These providers also use different concepts and terminology to describe their compute features.
Amazon EC2 and Compute Engine both deliver many features for deploying instances of VMs. These include the ability to create instances from stored disk images, tag those instances and manage them without restrictions. They also provide the capability of launching and terminating instances on demand and offer a wide variety of operating systems (OSs) for each VM instance.
The key differences between EC2 and Compute Engine with respect to VMs are in the way they're used. For example, obtaining terminal access to an EC2 instance requires the user to include an SSH key. Compute Engine provides a more flexible approach for terminal access by allowing users to create an SSH key as needed, even for instances that are already running. Furthermore, Compute Engine doesn't require users to store these keys on their own machine, since it provides a browser-based SSA terminal via Google Cloud Console.
AWS and GCP have developed expansive cloud infrastructures throughout the world, with networks consisting of hundreds of interconnected data centers. These providers have developed modern networks with high fault tolerance and many redundancy strategies, along with low latency. Their networks provide high-speed connectivity, along with on-premises servers.
AWS has divided its networks into 24 regions and 77 zones that encompass 245 countries and territories. Its network is probably larger overall than GCP, and it offers availability in twice as many regions. This difference gives AWS an edge in latency, which will further improve when Amazon launches additional data centers in India, Indonesia, Japan, Spain and Switzerland.
GCP has networks in 35 regions and 73 zones that encompass over 200 countries and territories. Recent additions to its networks include data centers in Indonesia, South Korea, Nevada and Utah. Google is also planning to expand in other countries such as Canada, Chile, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Qatar.
AWS and GCP offer multiple types of storage. It’s important to understand the differences between these types, as they directly influence an infrastructure’s storage performance. Distributed object storage (DSO) is the biggest storage differentiator between AWS and GCP.
Distributed Object Storage
DSO is a method of storing data as objects, or blobs. This approach allows users to process large volumes of data across many applications, such as analytics, archiving, backups, mobile apps and websites. Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Google Cloud Storage are the DSO services for their respective platforms. They function similarly, in that they both allow users to store objects in a bucket identified by a unique key. Each object also has a metadata record associated with it that provides information on the block's size, last date of modification and media type.
Additional similarities include the ability to host web content and static media. Furthermore, both S3 and cloud storage provide SLA guarantees that include refunds when uptime falls below 99.95 percent. Object lifecycle management allows users of both platforms to automate the movement and deletion of objects with lifecycle policies. In addition, object versioning is common to both platforms, allowing users to store multiple versions of objects, preventing the loss of data from accidental overwrites. The pricing of DSO for both platforms is based on the amount of data stored, network access, and number of API requests.
One area where the two platforms differ significantly includes update notifications. For example, Cloud Storage provides a more granular approach to configuring notifications for the creation, update and deletion of objects. Cloud Storage also triggers notifications for cloud functions and object modification. Amazon S3 uses service classes that include Standard, Standard-Infrequent Access, One Zone-Infrequent Access and Amazon Glacier, while Cloud Storage's service classes include Standard, Nearline, Coldline and Archive. The deployment locality of Amazon S3 is regional, but Cloud Storage uses regional and multiregional deployments.
Security is becoming an increasingly more important consideration in selecting a cloud provider, as organizations become more dependent upon their data. Important factors in cloud security include controls, policies, processes and technologies. Both cloud platforms offer leading-edge security and are committed to developing their platforms to resist emerging threats.
The components of cloud security include security of the cloud, security in the cloud and security outside the cloud. Security of the cloud includes protection that's built into the infrastructure of the cloud platform itself. Security in the cloud includes the protection of applications and data via additional products and services available within the platform. Security outside the cloud refers to measures that protect assets regardless of physical location, generally by expanding capabilities like encryption beyond the platform.
Security in the clouds requires a shared responsibility between the customer and provider. Both parties must clearly understand the division of responsibility to determine who should do what in implementing a robust platform, as misunderstandings can create easily avoidable vulnerabilities. The shared responsibility model also differs significantly between AWS ass and TCP at a high-level. The models for AWS and GCP differ significantly at a high level, as shown in the charts below:
Note that AWS has the same responsibility model across all deployment models, such that AWS is responsible for software and the customer is responsible for data. GCP, on the other hand, assigns responsibility according to the deployment model, which may be IaaS, PaaS or SaaS. Note how the customer’s responsibility decreases as the automation of the deployment model increases.
All organizations will eventually reach a point in their cloud deployment where they will need additional expertise and knowledge to accomplish a particular task. On these occasions, a cloud provider's support becomes critical for overcoming these challenges. AWS and Google Cloud both have extensive libraries of documentation, in addition to thriving communities with thousands of users willing to share their knowledge.
These sources can resolve most issues that don't require advanced expertise, immediate responses or hands-on support. Situations like these need official support directly from the provider or an authorized third party. Both AWS and Google Cloud provide basic support as part of their support model, in addition to multiple premium plans requiring additional fees. These paid plans are the primary difference between the two cloud providers with respect to support.
AWS Cloud Support Plans
AWS has four support plans, including free and premium plans. Premium support consists of three tiers – Developer, Business and Enterprise. The prices for these plans start at $29 per month, plus three percent of usage up to a maximum of $1200 per month. Each additional tier increases the level of support with services such as best practice checks, more communication channels, 24/7 availability, training resources and an account manager. Business-critical outages are eligible for response times of 50 minutes or less. Customers can customize higher-level plans, allowing them to select additional products that require premium support.
Google Cloud Support Plans
GCP splits its support plans into role-based and premium support categories. Role-based support consists of three tiers – Basic, Development and Production, with prices ranging from free to $250 per month per user. Higher-level tiers increase the number of support types, communication channels and availability. They also offer shorter response times and more options for escalating immediate issues. In addition, GCP allows users to combine their development and production support plans for greater coverage.
Premium support can cost up to $150,000 per year, in addition to four percent of the customer's spend on GCP and/or Google Workspace. The support plans also include guaranteed response times of no more than 15 minutes and 24/7 support for critical issues. Additional benefits of premium support include an account manager, an intelligent support system and training. These plans are fully customizable, allowing customers to tailor their support across multiple GCP products and services.
Billing and Pricing
Pricing comparisons are the most challenging part of selecting a cloud provider, since each provider has its own methodology for billing and pricing. The countless number of variables in a cloud infrastructure further complicates this process. These factors include the following:
- Storage Disks
- Payment model
- Virtual Machines
- Subscription model
The cost of VMs depends on parameters such as the number of instances, the number of CPUs, RAM, and whether instances are held in reserve. Storage costs are primarily based on the amount of storage, the data type, redundancy requirements and whether the storage is attached to a network or a local data center. The location of the data center also affects pricing.
The payment model is another cost consideration which can include a long-term contract, a pay-as-you-go service and reserved instances. Major factors that determine the cost of the support tier include the selected tier, average spend and the extent to which the support is customized. The subscription model allows customers to pay based on time increments ranging from a second to a year.
The complexity of the cost calculation increases as a cloud deployment grows, especially with respect to the technology types of each provider. For example, VMs that use different technologies may prevent a direct comparison of CPU and RAM requirements. As a result, additional guidance, information and tools are needed to compare prices between AWS and Google Cloud.
AWS vs. Google Cloud Pricing Comparison
The hundreds of products available from AWS and Google Cloud all have their own subsets of pricing models, services and technologies. The large number of options available results in many possible combinations of compute and storage options, even for basic deployments. Customers can easily become overwhelmed with a cloud service comparison, but both AWS and Google Cloud have their own comprehensive pricing calculators that consider the costs of every product, service and specification.
Both providers also offer free trials to customers who aren’t yet ready to make the transition to a full cloud service. These free tiers include many products with predefined resource limits over a specified period of time, providing an opportunity to make a real-world comparison between platforms. AWS and Google Cloud also provide cloud services that are always free, which can be beneficial for small organizations with low usage requirements and a high tolerance for downtime.
AWS Free Tier
The AWS Free Tier includes free access to 85 cloud products and services, consisting of services that are always free, free for one year and short-term trials. An always-free offer never expires and is available to all AWS customers. A “year-free offer is available for the first year after a customer initially signs up with AWS. Short-term trials last less than a year after a customer activates a particular service.
These offers allow customers to explore AWS products in many areas, including compute, database, storage, AI and IoT. Compute and storage options are especially popular with small businesses and are free for the first year after signing up. For example, Amazon EC2 is available for 750 hours per month with a T2 or T3 instance at no charge. A free offer for Amazon S3 provides 5GB standard storage per month with 2,000 put and 20,000 get requests.
Google Cloud Free Tier
The GCP Free Tier is a bit more restrictive than its AWS counterpart. Nevertheless, it still includes access to 24 products and services that are always free, provided the customer stays under the usage limits. In addition, GCP provides new customers with $300 worth of free credit, which they can spend on any GCP products and services. Customers can also explore many products that cover the most popular cloud services, including compute, database, storage, IoT and AI.
GCP has always-free pricing for compute and storage options, much like AWS. The compute option includes access to an F1-micro instance, 30GB of storage and a 5GB snapshot. The storage option includes 5GB storage, 5,000 put and 50,000 get requests. GCP edges out AWS when it comes to free tiers, primarily due to greater access to products and services. This advantage is particularly beneficial for organizations that aren’t yet ready to commit to a particular deployment.
Which platform is cheaper?
AWS definitely costs less than GCP with respect to VMs, which form the foundation of most cloud deployment. However, the question of cloud pricing becomes far more challenging to answer when you consider more than just compute resources. Once you take all the products, services and pricing models into account, this answer depends on your organization’s requirements, such as data center location, networking and workload. Taking that into account, the potential certainly exists for GCP to be a better deal than AWS for a particular set of products and services.
The current research on cloud providers clearly shows that AWS and GCP are both market leaders, with an extensive range of technologically advanced products and services. They offer significant benefits over an on-premises deployment when it comes to factors such as cost, performance, scalability and security. Both platforms offer premium services at a competitive price, but the best choice depends on the requirements of the individual organization.
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