The Alternative Cloud Isn’t So Alternative Anymore

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Despite its massive size and potential, the public cloud market has, to date, been dominated by a small cadre of the industry’s biggest players. But that dominance is starting to show cracks.

In fact, analysts at 451 Research found that a concentration on a select few public cloud vendors makes customers blind to opportunity and innovation happening in other corners of the market.

“[The big three] control cloud market share and cloud decisions to the extent that the made by these [providers] broadly define what users expect in terms of pricing, features, and vendor relationship,” analyst Liam Eagle writes. In other words, a handful of players dictate the standards. And while their products might be top notch, their standards in other areas aren’t always as high.

The market is changing, however. Alternative cloud providers are also introducing options that better meet user needs. According to a new study by Slashdata, the alternative cloud category — which includes providers like Linode, DigitalOcean, and OVH — now controls almost a third of the overall cloud market. And with a $7 billion pie at stake, the sector will only continue to grow, attracting users with simplicity in price, service, and multi-cloud integrations.

Simplicity and Flexibility Fuel Alternative Cloud Growth

Despite their long-standing status, the big three are starting to feel the pressure. Eighty-two percent of businesses believe large public cloud providers like Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure overcharge their customers. And, as Amazon in particular asserts its dominance across e-commerce, streaming, and other areas, its cloud customers are becoming wary of competing interests. One-fifth of developers say they have reason to doubt them, and other big-name providers. As a result, use of alternative cloud providers has doubled over the past four years, while usage of the three largest providers has only grown by 18%.

There are many reasons why alternative cloud is attractive, but most of them boil down to one key characteristic: simplicity. First, there’s simplicity of offerings. Alternatives offer all the core primitives of cloud computing — S3-compatible object storage, GPUs, etc. — and can support at least 90% of the workloads that the big three support. There’s also simplicity in pricing. With alternative providers, pricing is predictable and consistent across data centers month-to-month. There are no surprise bills or outrageous egress fees that fluctuate based on usage or geography. And, perhaps most importantly for small business users, alternative providers offer a simple solution for cloud support: humans. Many provide 24/7 customer support bundled into the cost of service, on top of self-service tools and other resources.

Alternatives Make Multi-Cloud More Seamless

There’s another key advantage to consider with alternative cloud — the multi-cloud elephant in the room. The growth of multi-cloud ecosystems is contributing significantly to the growth of alternative cloud. While 51% of developers say that AWS, Microsoft Azure, and GCP serve as their primary service provider, 78% use more than one provider, including alternative players, for their cloud services. There are obvious reasons why alternatives contribute to stronger multi-cloud ecosystems — failover protection, for example — but there’s a deeper incentive, too.

Unlike the walled gardens and proprietary frameworks of the big three providers, some alternative players’ infrastructure is built on open-source technology with an open API. And, because accessibility and interoperability are at their core, data can flow in and out more freely, giving users more control and ownership over their workloads.

With that said, there’s no reason why users can’t keep working on AWS if they see value for their business. One of the biggest misconceptions around alternatives is that users have to go “all in” to experience the benefits, and that’s not accurate — alternatives seamlessly sync to other vendors and add a level of portability to the multi-cloud mix.

Keeping Your Options Open

The public cloud market continues to grow — spending could break the $1 trillion mark by 2025. As companies look to invest more in cloud this year, alternative players should be part of that investment. They deliver real, enterprise scale performance, period. And there’s flexibility and simplicity for all.

With this increase in spending on the horizon, and a growing need for portability to support multi-cloud environments, alternative providers are here to stay. In fact, they’re not quite “alternative” anymore. They’re capable, cost-efficient, and competitive — as they extend their reach throughout the market, they’re making it healthier for all.

Blair Lyon is Vice President of Cloud Experience at Linode, an alternative cloud provider that accelerates innovation by making cloud computing simple, easy, and affordable to all. Founded in 2003, Linode helped pioneer the cloud computing industry and empowers more than a million developers, startups, and businesses across its global network of 11 data centers.

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