Businesses today recognize the inherent value in leveraging cloud-based compute and storage solutions for their applications. Larger organizations may possess the financial and technical resources required to build private cloud solutions capable of supporting all users in a fast, secure manner.

Most do not.

For those companies, public cloud offerings provide the benefits of cloud without the need for upfront or ongoing technical management of physical infrastructure. The most popular offerings in this space today are those from Amazon (Amazon Web Services, or AWS), Microsoft (Azure), and Google (Google Cloud Platform). The offerings provide enormous capacity on demand and effectively unlimited growth potential for business migrating workflows to them.

Despite the obvious benefits, working with the largest cloud suppliers in the world can provide a unique set of challenges. For some organizations, those challenges may provide the impetus to seek alternative public cloud solutions.

The most common criticisms and complaints levied against the three largest cloud suppliers include:

  • Overwhelming technical diversity
  • Maze-like billing approaches
  • Proprietary tools and services

While other complaints may be common, the above drive the greatest angst among current users of the platforms.

Overwhelming Technical Diversity

The large providers proudly trumpet the vast number of products, solutions, services, and configuration options available in their cloud solutions. Such providers certainly provide the opportunity to fine-tune your cloud solution to be perfectly tailored to your performance and budgetary needs.

But it can be overwhelming.

Microsoft’s Azure Services page, for example, offers nearly two dozen sub-offerings just for compute. The sub-page for virtual machines offers a dozen different styles, each of which is then further granularized depending on operating system and pre-loaded applications such as Microsoft SQL Server. There are a further sixteen links relating to storage. And there are myriad options available in the networking space, depending on the specific security needs your business and application require.

One of the challenges with such a dizzying array of options is that there is a conferred pressure to select many different options. When provided a menu of dozens of different methods of security, the user may feel compelled to select more than required out of fear or belief that the option not selected will invite a security breach or data loss for the organization.

Once you’ve selected your menu of compute, storage, network, security, monitoring, backup, and other services, you then run into the challenge of figuring out how much it will cost over time.

A Maze-like Billing Approach

With such an overwhelming selection of configuration options, it is perhaps no wonder that many find it an immense challenge to predict monthly expenses while using these platforms. Here, for example, is a small subset of pricing for Amazon Web Services On-Demand services, specifically for Linux:
Pricing for Amazon Web Services On-Demand Services

There are additional pricing options in this space for specific Linux flavors, Windows versions, and solutions with or without Microsoft SQL Server. There are other compute solutions beyond On-Demand, adding further complexity to billing.

Additionally, data transfer has its own set of pricing:

Pricing for Amazon Data Transfer Services

Variations can occur depending on whether data transfer crosses Amazon-defined regions, with reductions for within-region or premiums for cross-region data transfer.

Additional pricing applies for IP addresses and load balancing, along with various services and proprietary tools available within each cloud provider. For example, if you establish an Amazon Web Services server responsible for servicing API calls, you’ll find that you’re charged for the privilege. Each inbound API call and outbound response is subjected to data transfer rates noted above. And if you’ve opted for AWS Managed Services, priced as a percentage of all AWS charges, those fees for API calls and the assorted data transfer will drive up the cost.

Confused about the maze of pricing? Many are. It’s no wonder that a new specialty known as Financial Operations (“FinOps”) now exists. FinOps is the practice of “monitoring, measuring and mitigating the costs and value delivered from the cloud,” driven by the reality that so many discover after making the move to cloud provider services: “the dirty little secret of cloud spend is that the bill never really goes down.”

Proprietary Tools and Services

Each vendor provides a series of proprietary tools and services that prove attractive for businesses. Google Cloud Platform, for example, offers its Google Kubernetes Engine for businesses interested in using containerized application development and management, and its Cloud SDK with a variety of development tools and libraries for users of a wide variety of programming languages. Such toolsets provide great value to end users interested in the particular service at a given point in time in their business’ lifecycle.

Changing course, though, can prove challenging. The organization that embraces containerized development through the Google Kubernetes Engine might in the future decide to move to a new technology but may find that leaving a Kubernetes-focused application environment makes leaving that toolset nearly impossible. And Google’s Kubernetes solution has its own sets of tools, which mean that a business looking to switch cloud providers due to better pricing or other factors may be unable to migrate to the competitive solution in a clean manner.

A Different Approach: CenterGrid Compass

For some organizations, the challenges described above are well worth the effort required. They have the necessary teams on hand to drive correct compute, storage, bandwidth, and tool selection to optimize performance while keeping costs optimized and predictable.

Other organizations are not quite so fortunate. They become the cautionary tales, reporting sub-optimized performance, bewildering invoices, and uncontrolled costs. Perhaps they can overcome the challenges through the guidance and advice of expensive consultants or years of trial and error. But they might not. And the costs to get everything right represent opportunity costs of both time and money that would almost certainly be better spent elsewhere.

But what other choice do they have?

At CenterGrid, we developed the CenterGrid Compass solution to prove that the cloud can be simple. Define the machines you need, the amount of storage you require, and designate a defined Internet capacity. And then be billed the same amount every month, with no surprises. Scale your solution up and down as required, and invoicing adjusts in a predictable manner.

And you don’t have to guess about the right configuration and sizing for your business. With our “White Glove” service, you’ll have an experienced team ensuring that your new environment is sized properly and that any migrations from existing solutions are seamless and transparent to your employees and customers.

Clearly, cloud services are a multiple choice question, and we believe that there can be multiple answers to that question, even though we believe CenterGrid Compass and our Managed Services are an ideal solution for most enterprises. CenterGrid supports customers running in multiple public clouds today and CenterGrid White Glove service fits them all! It is going to be a multi-cloud world for the foreseeable future. Make sure you pick the right tool for the job to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Interested? Please reach out to our team today for a free consultation on how we can help your organization succeed in the cloud.

About the Author

Alex Albrinck is the Business Operations Lead for CenterGrid.