Cloud Platform for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) – Amazon Web Services vs. Microsoft Azure vs. Google Cloud Platform vs. Salesforce

If you are an independent software vendor (ISV) selling to businesses (small to large) the cloud evolution/revolution that is currently underway is the most significant transformation, opportunity and threat all rolled into one. It is also represents a much bigger economic opportunity than the on-premise software ecosystem that it is pushing aside.

The key question for most software vendors is one of selecting the right cloud platform(s) that is most appropriate and advantageous with respect development, operation, marketing and distribution. In this blog post we will review the leading cloud platforms for independent software vendors along the facets of development, operation, marketing and distribution of various classes of applications. The cloud platforms reviewed for this post include

  • Amazon Web Services
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Salesforce

Cloud Platform Capabilities that are being Evaluated

We should first make it clear that the platform qualities that are being evaluated in this shootout include not only platform services when it comes to development and operations, but also support for monetization. For ISVs the parent company’s (Amazon. Google, etc.) inclination and infrastructure to help monetize applications are just as important as application development and operations support. Imagine Apple iOS without the App Store’s distribution and monetization model. The ideal cloud platform and related components may look something like the picture below.

ideal-cloud-platform-components

The cloud platform capabilities and features that are important for this shootout include the following:

Development Focused

  • Programming language support
  • Application servers (and containers)
  • Database services (SQL)
  • NoSQL database services
  • Object/File storage services
  • Analytics services
  • Multi-tenancy

Operations Focused

  • High availability support
  • Data centers in multiple geographies
  • Scalability

Distribution and Monetization Focused

  • Support for application marketplace
  • Integration with platform user management and single sign-on
  • Ability to add the ISV application into platform customer tenant spaces, applications and containers
  • Ability to leverage platform billing

Let’s give each of the platform a simple qualitative rating for addressing the ISV requirement. As an ISV you can decide which of the aspects are most important to you and choose the cloud platform appropriately.

Based on the above evaluation of cloud platforms ISVs can choose the platform that makes the most sense. Below is the summary.

  • Amazon has the most amount of traction in the enterprise and the best infrastructure for developing scalable and complex applications of any type. Amazon is the best bet if your needs are complex and need to scale to a large number of users. No wonder Dropbox, Netflix and the likes rely on Amazon Web Services. In addition, a small marketplace exists for EC2 image based application provisioning. It’s not exactly a distribution and monetization platform a la iOS App Store but is a fairly easy way to distribute applications that can be instantiated.
  • While Google Cloud Platform is the new kid on the block, it is a sophisticated platform for developing a variety of applications. Google Apps (Mail, etc.) are popular in the SMB market and they are increasingly being adopted by large organizations in education, government and many other industries. With Google user integration and App Marketplace, ISVs have a nice channel to distribute applications to Google’s customer base. Google Cloud Platform is a good bet if you are looking to sell applications into Google’s customer base.
  • You can’t go wrong with Microsoft Azure if your company primarily uses Microsoft stack to develop applications. Microsoft’s distribution and monetization approach is similar to that of Amazon and relies on running images of applications.
  • Salesforce is an interesting case. It is one platform that has spawned a few successful companies that rely on its platform. The platform is an extension of Salesforce’s object/application model. It’s appropriate for applications that extend Salesforce’s core CRM application. But Salesforce provides the most robust and innovative application distribution and monetization model. The applications developed on Salesforce Platform are tightly integrated with Salesforce core CRM and can be added with a click of a button. This tight integration is what allows companies like Apptus to develop applications on top of Salesforce platform. You won’t be able to build a Dropbox  or a Netflix on top of Salesforce but that should not be the point of using Salesforce platform. If your application is to extend Salesforce’s CRM and distribute it to Salesforce’s customers then look no further than Salesforce platform.

The next post will cover details of the evaluation and a closer look into the cloud platforms covered here.

Kris Gorrepati

My 2 cents on Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing, Design, New Product Development, Software Engineering, and related topics.

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