Cloud compute pricing bakeoff: Google vs. AWS vs. Microsoft Azure

Like everything in enterprise technology, pricing can be a bit complicated. Here's an analysis from RightScale looking at how discounts alter the cloud pricing equation. Google comes out cheapest in most scenarios.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

With Amazon Web Services hosting its annual conference this week, talk about the price for performance and agility equation will be everywhere.

Knowing AWS' re:Invent is kicking off this week, the largest cloud service provider has been busy cutting prices for various instances. Rest assured that Google and Microsoft are likely to toss in their own price cuts, as AWS speaks to its base.

But the cloud pricing equation is getting complicated for compute instances. Not so shockingly, these price discussions have to include discounts. Like everything in enterprise technology, there's the street price and your price. Comparing the cloud providers on pricing is tricky given Microsoft, Google, and AWS all have different approaches to discounts.

Also: IaaS: What you need to know about pricing, options, best practices | Eight questions to ask before choosing an IaaS vendor | IaaS checklist: Best practices for picking an IaaS vendor

Fortunately, RightScale on Monday will outline a study on cloud compute prices. Generally speaking, AWS won't be your cheapest option for compute. AWS typically lands in the middle between Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

The bottom line is that AWS uses reserved instances in one-year and three-year terms to offer discounts. Microsoft requires an enterprise agreement for its Azure discounts. Google has sustained usage discounts that are relatively easy to follow.

Overall, RightScale found that Google will be cheapest in most scenarios because sustained usage discounts are automatically applied. Among the key takeaways:

  • If you need solid state drive performance instead of attached storage, Google will charge you a premium.
  • Azure matches or beats AWS for on-demand pricing consistently.
  • AWS won't be the cheapest alternative in many scenarios. Then again -- AWS has a bigger menu, more advanced cloud services, and the customer base where it doesn't have to go crazy on pricing. AWS just has to be fair.
  • Your results will vary based on the level of your Microsoft enterprise agreement and what reserved instances were purchased on AWS.

Here are three slides to ponder from RightScale.


Add it up and you'd be advised to make your own comparisons; check out RightScale's SlideShare, and then crunch some numbers. In the end, enterprises may have to have all three cloud providers in their company -- if only to play them off each other.

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