Killing Cloud Giants: 4 Reasons to Consider Smaller Service Providers

Andrew Froehlich
News Analysis
Andrew Froehlich
5/22/2017

It's no secret that infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) are dominated by a handful of global cloud service providers. Almost daily, we hear news regarding the continued growth of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

The growth of these cloud service providers is so dominant that it makes one wonder if the smaller cloud service providers stand a chance? Without a doubt, this is a David and Goliath type story.

And just like the underdog David, smaller cloud service providers (CSPs) have a few tricks that can smack the big providers right between the eyes.

From a technology standpoint, it's nearly impossible to match the capabilities and options that the Big Three offer. However, there are several different use cases, as well as niche markets out there, that smaller CSPs are targeting. Here are four different scenarios to consider if your enterprise wants explore cloud computing with a smaller provider.

Specific projects
A great example of this are service providers that cater specifically to industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) deployments. Since IIoT requires different platforms and infrastructure architectures when compared to traditional enterprise cloud models, small providers are finding that they indeed can create differentiation to specific groups of customers.

In addition, these smaller CSPs and their staff can be trained to specifically manage and interoperate with industrial network hardware and platforms.

We all know how this one ended, right? (Source: Wikipedia)
We all know how this one ended, right? (Source: Wikipedia)

Try getting support staff at AWS or Azure to understand your IIoT architecture. It's simply not worth the effort.

Smaller providers can train their staff specifically on IIoT. By doing so, they're far more likely to understand IIoT workflows and can better assist. There are plenty of niche markets that smaller cloud providers are focusing on. And if you find the right one, such as IIoT, expect a more personalized customer experience.

Visibility
Added visibility and improved coordination between the customer and provider is another advantage that can be gained when going with a small but scrappy CSP.

With the large providers that heavily leverage automation and monitoring dashboards, you're stuck with the options you are given in terms of visibility into the underlying infrastructure. In some cases, this level of visibility isn't sufficient or metrics can be confusing to understand. That's why some are choosing to go with smaller providers who often will go out of their way to provide customers with the visibility they need including offering to show the underlying infrastructure configurations to satisfy customer curiosity.

A better deal
Then there are service contracts?

The big players have standard contracts that are locked down with virtually no negotiation whatsoever. With smaller providers, however, you can often work with a sales representative to mix and match the services you need -- and negotiate things like price, service-level agreement (SLA) and support procedures. (See CIOs: Stop Worrying & Learn to Love the Cloud.)

This is especially handy for enterprise customers that are seeking to migrate much of their on-premises applications and data into the cloud. Having some control over contracts allows the customer to adjust the providers "standard services" to more closely match the needs of the customer.

Global views
One last way that small CSPs can take on the big guys is to target geographic regions.

Keep in mind that AWS, Azure and Google are all based in the United States. And while that may work well for companies that require most of their computing power in North America, global companies may want to consider alternative providers that cater to specific geographic regions.

For example, AWS has an impressive global cloud presence. However, for those that are targeting cloud computing resources in countries that do not have a local cloud presence, your access is restricted to the connectivity from your country of origin to the closest AWS zone which may be thousands of miles -- and several country hops away. Smaller cloud providers are taking advantage of local data centers and are scooping up business where an enterprise requires better performance and lower latency.

Can David win?
As the cloud computing market growth marches on, I expect to see smaller providers continuing to thrive in niche markets. While the big guys sweep up most customers through sheer size and market strength, you can't completely downplay the advantages that smaller cloud providers can offer.

Do I think that David can truly beat Goliath in the cloud market? Not always. But in specific situations, that answer to that questions is a resounding yes.

Related posts:

— Andrew Froehlich is the President and Lead Network Architect of West Gate Networks. Follow him on Twitter @afroehlich.

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Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
5/22/2017 | 8:45:33 PM
To extend the metaphor...
...if David and Goliath were around today, David would just go around shaking his finger at Goliath and ranting about "lock-in"...
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