10 most powerful cloud companies

Virtually every vendor has a cloud story to tell. But here are 10 companies that have distinguished themselves as the leaders in cloud computing, either by being first to market, by offering the broadest and deepest set of cloud services or by taking a leadership role in the cloud revolution. Other articles in this issue of Enterprise Cloud Services:

1. Amazon: The IaaS gold standard

The online retailer came out of nowhere in 2006 to offer up idle compute cycles as a service. Since then, it seems like there’s no market Amazon is unwilling to enter and no competitor it’s unwilling to take on. There’s the market setting Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). If you’re a third-party provider of cloud services, that’s the platform you need to be compatible with. Over time, Amazon has added multiple cloud storage offerings and is moving into the PaaS market. The company is also selling tablets (Kindle Fire) and challenging Apple and Google in the cloud-based music arena.

2. Google: Everything in the cloud

Like Amazon, Google is not a traditional IT vendor. Like Amazon, Google is part of the new generation of Web-first companies. And like Amazon, Google isn’t afraid to burst into new markets with offerings like Android, the Chrome browser and a ChromeOS-based tablet. But on a fundamental level, Google’s “all apps in the cloud” philosophy, based on Gmail, Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets, is a direct challenge to Microsoft’s desktop domination. As it that weren’t enough, Google is also a player in the PaaS market with the Google App Engine.

3. Microsoft: Long-range vision

Microsoft may be a little late to the party, but never underestimate the company’s ability to get it right eventually. The pieces certainly aren’t all there today, but experts say Microsoft has probably the most ambitious approach to cloud computing. Consider these assets: state-of-the-art data centers, the Hyper-V virtualization product, a PaaS offering (Windows Azure), an IaaS offering (Windows Azure Fabric Controller) a SaaS offering (SharePoint Online, Office 365, CRM Online), a search engine (Bing), a browser (IE), and a pre-existing development platform (.NET). With 90% of the world on Outlook/Windows/Office, Microsoft, if it executes, has the potential to use it vast gravitational field to slowly pull customers into its cloud.

4. VMware: Not just virtualization

VMware has gone from being a one-product company (albeit a product that changed the world of enterprise computing) to a vendor with a highly ambitious cloud strategy based on its flagship vSphere virtualization technology. VMware has made a number of key acquisitions and is now a formidable player in the PaaS market, with a variety of offerings, including  vFabric and CloudFoundry, an open PaaS platform housed at where developers can contribute to collaborative open source projects. Also, there’s a hosted PaaS platform operated by VMware at In addition, VMware is forging alliances with key players such as Google, Salesforce and Cisco.

5. SaaS and beyond is the undisputed leader in software-as-a-service, but the company has sketched out an ambitious cloud strategy that includes both SaaS and PaaS. The company’s cloud portfolio includes for custom app development, Heroku, for social and mobile apps,, Salesforce, Salesforce Chatter, Salesforce Sales Cloud, and Salesforce Service Cloud. CEO Marc Benioff recently boasted that “ is the first enterprise cloud computing company to exceed a $2.3 billion annual revenue run rate.  And, we’re excited to announce that we expect to reach a $3 billion annual revenue run rate during our fiscal year 2013.”

6. Rackspace: Leading the OpenStack charge

Every Web hosting company has jumped on the cloud bandwagon, but no hosting company has taken a leadership role like Rackspace. In 2010, Rackspace and NASA launched OpenStack to provide the agency with a highly scalable private cloud. Since then, more than 100 organizations have joined the OpenStack movement, which Rackspace recently spun out into a standalone non-profit.  OpenStack is basically an open standard for building clouds. Rackspace believes that basic IaaS services are becoming a commodity and that customers are willing to pay for additional services like app deployment, system monitoring and hybrid cloud management. The more OpenStack clouds, the more opportunity for vendors like Rackspace.

7. Verizon: Aggressive acquisitions

Verizon’s $1.4 billion acquisition of Terremark earlier this year vaulted the carrier into the upper echelon of IaaS providers. Terremark was an inviting target for Verizon, both for its data centers around the world and for its managed hosting expertise. In addition to core IaaS and hosting, Verizon offers security services as well as identity- and access-management services. And Verizon is reaching out to other vendors to establish alliances. Verizon partnered with Cisco to offer cloud-based unified communications services. And it teamed up with IBM to offer a cloud storage service that incorporates IBM’s backup infrastructure and management capabilities to help monitor and protect stored data.

8. Cisco: WebEx and UCS

You don’t think of Cisco as one of the largest SaaS vendors around, but it is. WebEx makes Cisco a major player in SaaS. But, of course, Cisco’s cloud strategy involves much more than conferencing services. With a dominant market share among enterprises and service providers when it comes to the nuts and bolts of building a network, Cisco also wants to be that vendor in the cloud. At the center of Cisco’s cloud enablement strategy is its Unified Computing System (UCS), which is an enterprise class blade-based platform that tightly integrates server and networking functions. Cisco is also attacking cloud from another angle with its strategic partnership with EMC, VMware and Intel in a joint venture called the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Company.

9. AT&T: Synaptic strategy

Like Verizon, AT&T has all of the pre-requisites for building a strong cloud offering – data centers, long-standing relationships with enterprise customers, a state-of-the-art global network, experience with managed services and hosting. AT&T offers IaaS (Synaptic Compute as a Service), storage as a service, and a recently launched PaaS offering, targeted at non-coder business professionals. Like Verizon, AT&T is also trying to leverage its huge installed base of cell phone customers. For example, it’s offering a cloud-based storage app for Android smartphone users.

10. Citrix

Citrix has expanded out from its core VDI business and has taken on a leadership role in the open source cloud movement. Of course, Citrix already had a stake in the cloud world with its Xen hypervisor, which Amazon used to build its cloud platform. Citrix was also an early and enthusiastic supporter of Rackspace’s OpenStack project. Over the summer, Citrix launched Project Olympus, which combines OpenStack with the XenServer virtualization platform. Next, Citrix bought, which had developed an open source cloud operating environment. The culmination of all those efforts is CloudStack 3, which incorporates elements from and OpenStack into a powerful cloud building and managing solution. CloudStack 3 supports all of the major hypervisors, but also adds an optimized version of XenServer 6.



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