Cloud computing: AWS is still the biggest player, but Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are growing fast

Microsoft Azure slightly closes the gap on Amazon Web Service's lead. Pandemic helps drive cloud infrastructure spending through remote work and online games.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Man Managing Supercomputer Servers

Cloud spending was up 33% in 2020, reaching $142 billion. 

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Spending on cloud infrastructure from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and others reached $39.9 billion in the fourth quarter of last year – up $10bn year on year.   

Collectively, AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud earned 58% of the industry's revenues. For the full year, cloud spending was up 33% to $142 billion from $107 billion in 2019. 

AWS remains the top cloud provider with a 31% share of total spend in Q4 2020, which is slightly down on the 32.4% share it had in Q4 2019. Nonetheless, its revenues grew 28% year on year in Q4 2020.

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AWS and Google parent Alphabet reported Q4 2020 earnings this week. AWS Q4 2020 revenues reached $12.74 billion with operating income of $3.56 billion. Google Cloud, which includes G Suite/Workplace, earned $3.83 billion revenue in the quarter but had an operating loss of $1.24 billion. Microsoft reported its Q2 earnings in January, but doesn't break out Azure revenues.  

In Q4 2020, Google Cloud revenues grew 58% while Microsoft Azure revenues grew 50% year on year. Trailing AWS's 32% share of the cloud market for Q4 though, Microsoft Azure had a 20% share while Google Cloud had a 7% share. In Q4 2019, AWS had a 32.4% share of revenues, followed by Microsoft Azure with 17.6%, and Google Cloud with 6%.  

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on movements have boosted demand for all sorts of tech including laptops sales, video meetings through Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and cloud spending. 

Canalys said this quarter's spending on cloud was driven by "intense demand for cloud to support remote working and learning, ecommerce, content streaming, online gaming and collaboration."

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"The rate of digitalization, led by cloud, is gathering pace. Companies are now more confident about releasing budgets for business transformation," said Canalys research analyst, Blake Murray. 

"Large projects that were postponed earlier in the year are being re-prioritized, led by application modernization, SAP migrations and workplace transformation. Healthcare, financial services and pharmaceuticals are among the industries leading the way, but even those under most pressure are diverting investments to cloud, opening up new revenue streams and diversifying business models."

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