The Enterprise Public Cloud Wars Are Over. Let’s Talk About What’s Next

Last week there were some very interesting developments in the public cloud space. First, Microsoft, Amazon beat Wall Street expectations and reported monster numbers associated with their public cloud offerings.

Also, HP announced that it will be stopping the efforts about the Helion public cloud to focus on the private and hybrid cloud offerings. These news come after two years of sustained efforts and large investments in their public cloud platform.

These new developments has made many questioned whether the enterprise public cloud race is essentially over. While the public cloud space remains really competitive within a few platforms, it’s pretty obvious that we can already identify winners in the enterprise public cloud space.

And the Winners Are….

Amazon and Microsoft by a mile with Google, Salesforce and IBM being relevant second places. Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure have managed to develop the most complete offerings in the enterprise public cloud space. Today, AWS and Azure not only provide a larger of number of capabilities than their competitors but also more complete offerings enterprise-ready areas such as security, compliance etc.

Playing the Innovator’s Dilemma

If we apply Clayton M. Christensen’s innovator dilemma thesis to the enterprise public cloud space we need to assume that, at some point, a new generation of startups will challenge the well-established enterprise public cloud platforms. However, looking at the near future, it’s hard to imagine what factors will be able to disrupt the lead established by the enterprise public cloud incumbents. In principle, a new entrant in the enterprise public cloud space can try to establish traction by disrupting some of the following areas:

  • Technology Capabilities: The simplest way to disrupt the enterprise public cloud space will be with a new offer that provides a richer feature set than the existing incumbents.

However, after analyzing the current state of the enterprise public cloud platform market, its hard to imagine how any of those factors can be relevant enough for a new entrant to cause disruption in the space. Let’s explore that analysis.

Technology Innovation

From the enterprise capability standpoint, the Azure and AWS cloud are far ahead of every other platform in the space. Ranging from basic infrastructure to sophisticated capabilities such as machine learning or integration, both Azure and AWS are providing native services for every imaginable capability that can be relevant in the enterprise. Salesforce, IBM and Google are also rapidly growing the feature set of their public cloud offerings. In that sense, it’s hard to conceive a new enterprise public cloud platform that will be able to compete with the incumbents in the short term.


The enterprise public cloud offering is a race down to 0. Amazon, Microsoft and Google keep lowering the price of their offering in order to not allow any other vendor to gain competitive advantage. In that sense, it will be incredibly difficult for a new enterprise public cloud offering to disrupt the space with a more attractive pricing model.

Developer Community

AWS, Azure, Heroku and Google Cloud are some of the examples of enterprise public cloud platforms that are enjoying growing developer communities. By leveraging and embracing open source technologies, incumbents have been able to attract millions of developers actively building applications in their platforms. As a result, new platforms in the space will have to build similar developer communities to even be competitive with the incumbents.

Enterprise Software Startups

Another element that seems to be a non-factor. Platforms like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud have not only become dominant offers for large enterprises but they have captured the hearts of new enterprise software startups that keep relying on those platforms to power their offerings. Those startups represent a new and vibrant distribution channels for the adoption of the incumbent platforms and will make it extremely hard for a new offering in the space to leverage that channel.

Geographical Presence

Platforms like AWS and Azure have developed an incredibly impressive global footprint with locations that offer viable options in almost every country in the world. Additionally, the services provided by those platforms are available in a large number of languages. This factor makes it almost impossible for new entrants to develop a relevant presence in specific geographies.

New Distribution Channels

The dominant enterprise public cloud platforms have played a masterful game developing a large number of distribution channels from partner networks to whitelabel offerings. The network effects of these channels will make it extremely hard to new offerings to disrupt the enterprise public cloud space by developing new distribution channels.

Let’s Focus on Private and Hybrid Clouds

With the competition in the enterprise public cloud space almost over, the attention has shifted to private and hybrid cloud platforms. Currently, that space remains overly competitive with platforms like Pivotal’s Cloudfoundry, HP Helion, Aprenda and even public cloud incumbents like Azure and AWS trying to create comprehensive offers for enterprises. That will be the subject of a future post.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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