Cloud-based Software Delivery · Cloud Services

What cloud server to go with - Google, Amazon, Azure, Rackspace?

Fayaz Valli CEO at GETCORE GROUP Ltd

February 12th, 2015

My company has been given a large tech project that will involve developing and deploying several Web & Mobile Application instances. This means I need to develop an API that will push/pull requests to SMS, Web, Mobile and Third-Party Apps.

I am currently confused to which would be the best & reasonable cloud server to host my apps. Have been googling for hours and found out about Google Cloud Servers, Amazon Servers, Windows Azure and Rackspace that are widely used.

So basically, I will require:
- Cloud Server: for hosting applications (SMS, Web, Mobile)
- Storage Server: for indexing media files (images, videos)
- Back-up Servers

Please, share the pricing structures for your option/suggestion.

Igor Chernyy

February 12th, 2015

Hi Fayaz,

While I agree that you can use any one of those services, since all of them give you an ability to to create cloud servers, the question you should really be focusing on is "How much extra work can these 3rd party services can do for me". You really want to minimize the amount of extra code your team will have to write, especially when we are talking about boilerplate database code, etc. 

Lets go through each of the services that you have listed.

Google - They offer all basic cloud compute, database management, and deployment management tools. From my personal experience with them is I can tell you that they are fairly reliable, downtimes are low to nonexistent. They are more pricy than Amazon but overall not too bad.


Amazon - They offer by the the most robust set of tools and services currently available for cloud development. They have services that will help specifically your needs, for example they have fully functioning SMS service right out of the gate. In most cases they will be one of the cheapest services on the market.

Full list:

Microsoft - as much as it pains me to say (having worked at Microsoft), they are pretty much everything Amazon is, but worse. They are more expensive, less reliable, less robust and a lot less mature. Unless you have requirements that require you to use some other MS products or Windows, I wouldn't consider them.

Rackspace - I have the least amount of experience with these guys (I have read about them but never actually used them). Their core offering is very similar to Google, they offer a good set of basic services but it looks like they stop there. I can't speak to their reliability, or robustness.

Professionally I suggest that you narrow down your selection to Google or Amazon. Both are industry leaders in cloud services. Both have very good performance and reliability track record. Both of them are used a lot more than their competitors, which also means that nearly all of the tech problems you will have will probably be resolved by searching Stack Overflow. 

Personally, I would recommend Amazon. Based on your requirements they offer services that will reduce the amount of code that your team will have to write (SMS service). 

Let me know if you want to have a more detailed conversation about this.

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

February 13th, 2015

Hello Fayaz,

There has been great answers all along. Allow me to include into the equation: economy.

As an start-up we are members of Microsoft BizSpark program, which gives us a lot of MS services for free (or very low cost), which in turn -of course- includes Windows Azure. It is true that Azure is focused on Windows, however it is also true that you're free to create Linux VMs under Azure, which is our case. Yes, as Igor mentioned, Azure has had their outages, fortunately, there hasn't been many.

Google, Amazon and RackSpace have all programs for start-ups that give some kind of credit, however, BizSpark wins over all of them, economically speaking.

Granted, you have to then factor in the lock-in scenario, which will happen with any cloud vendor that you choose.

Last but not least remember this: Whatever your proposed solution is, it can be technically perfect. But if the economics are not there to sustain it, it might be worthless in the end.

All the best!

Arun nedunchezian

February 12th, 2015


There is no one silver bullet....! As CTO i spent several months analyzing and coming up with an architecture. However my architecture is not one size fit all type. The one criteria that emerged from my exercise was to pick a cloud provider which can satisfy majority of your needs rather than choosing multiple small niche vendors. The biggest reason is integration between clouds. Although in theory they should all work together but it doesn't. So understand the level of support (Phone/email/community/response time) from each cloud vendor and how open they are when it comes to integration. 

Also going with one cloud service is like a marriage. The pain and cost of breakup is much higher than staying with it. 

All the best..!

Michael Krotscheck Master Yak-Shaver

February 12th, 2015

Full Disclosure: I work on OpenStack.

These days, there is no functional difference between cloud providers, there's only a strategic difference. Each of the providers have figured out how to maintain basic compute and storage nodes, which is all you should ever need to use. Why? Because of vendor lock-in.

As soon as you sign up for one, it's going to become very easy - and very financially attractive - to start consuming packaged platform-as-a-service offerings from that cloud. For instance, using Amazon's Kinesis is cheaper than running your own Akka cluster on provisioned nodes. The downside is that every time this choice is made, you're choosing vendor lock-in, and suddenly you've agreed to the often-debilitating pricing tiers offered by all providers.

If, instead, you choose to spin up your own nodes and manage your own clusters, you are no longer tied to that cloud. Migrating to other clouds can be as simple as opening up a VPN bridge to your new data center and linking your replication across that channel, and with tools like Ansible, the only thing you really need to worry about is: What operating system is going to run on your nodes?

The only remaining hangup is likely whether your service needs to provision nodes for your customers, because in that case you have to build towards the underlying API. If this is not a problem for you, I would say: Select on price, select on uptime, everything else is fluff as long as you provision your own nodes. If this is something you want to do in the future, then  I would personally recommend any of the OpenStack providers (Mirantis, Rackspace, Redhat, HP, Canonical, etc). The reason is not only that there's more competition in that space- though there is, and that only benefits you - but because you have the ability to ditch them all and spin up your own OpenStack cloud, with no licensing fees, and migrate to your own hardware. 

Also, speaking from personal experience, the line of "Oh that's less code for your engineers to figure out" is usually bull. Connecting to MySQL is just as simple as connecting to Amazon's RDBS, and the nuances of PaaS implementations are just as complex as learning the underlying technology. The only "additional overhead" is on your sysadmin, and he/she should already be an expert at setting up these kinds of servers anyway.

Stephen Bradley

February 14th, 2015

I'll defer to your knowledge of the technical differentiations.  As a business owner I've gotten stuck tied to "better" service providers.  AWS works great for OUR PaaS, and I can hire just about anybody off the street who is intimately familiar with the environment - that has been what's mattered more for us.  Oh, and Amazon offers a free year of service for startups and then another $5000 credit after that (at least at the moment)... so we're paying virtually nothing just at the moment.  Not a long term incentive, but certainly extremely helpful to the startup.

Rick Stratton Great States Software / Feed.Us / MKEcribs

February 12th, 2015

I've used Amazon and Rackspace for a variety of projects.

But all being equal (and assuming that they all provide the services you need), I recommend using the one that your technical people have the most experience with.

They all have their ins and outs that can take extra time to learn.

Daniel McEnnis Researcher Consultant

February 12th, 2015

Not an easy answer. The biggest question is your taste in scalability services.  AWS has one set, Openstack (Rackspace is one) uses another, Azure uses a third. Google, IBM, and Sony also have clouds with yet more scalability options where all are incompatible with the others. AWS is the best known if you are planning on hiring talent, otherwise, pricing and requirements analysis up front will be needed for the different options for auto-scaling applications.

I general, AWS is the best known tool kit with the largest developer pool. Azure is a smaller developer pool and heavily focused on Windows systems. I am less familiar with the others.  Openstack is a little behind in auto-scaling applications, but they may enter the standard during your evaluation phase. The biggest advantage of Openstack is a lack of vendor lock in: if you're careful to keep to the core stack, there are multiple competitors can spin you up out of the box.

Daniel McEnnis
CEO Research at Scale

Joe Emison Chief Information Officer at Xceligent

February 16th, 2015

There's certainly somewhat of a religious debate going on here.

The short answer is that Amazon Web Services is the leader for a reason, and, in general, you should choose Amazon unless you have a good reason not to.  

In the future, you may be able to launch your applications on a PaaS (mentioned in the religious debate going on here), but the reality today is that there isn't a PaaS that you can really use effectively as you theoretically will be able to.  (Heroku: see Rap Genius; Azure: please note that Microsoft doesn't recommend running a Tier 1 database on Azure today, so you still have to run your database server separately, in a different data center--and you have to use .NET, which is not a favored language by most in-demand developers).

One of the main reasons that Amazon is so far ahead right now is that they've added a significant number of features that are going to be necessary to meet information security requirements (and are necessary for most enterprises today): AWS IAM, CloudTrail, and now Config have no comparables amongst other cloud providers, and they're essential to proper information security as you grow.

Finally, if I were your future CTO, I would actually just encourage you to have as minimal and simple a technology footprint as possible right now, since I'm probably going to want to rip up whatever you decide to do and redo it when I come in.  And please don't sign any long-term contracts.  Everything month-to-month, even if it costs you a little more right now.  So if you want to do this on DigitalOcean on a single server for now, that would probably be just fine with me.  Just don't get into a 5-year contract with Rackspace with 10 dedicated servers.  That would really piss me off.

Bill Page CEO at Team Service (UK), Ltd

February 12th, 2015

Checkout AD24 in Japan (Asia-Pacific) Their system is phenomenal, extremely well priced and growing at a fantastic rate. The team is fully English speaking created by a group of incredibly talented techie entrepreneurs with a long history of success.

Rick Stratton Great States Software / Feed.Us / MKEcribs

February 12th, 2015

That was an excellent post, Igor. 

I would add that Rackspace's reliability has been outstanding for us. Zero downtime in almost four years.