How serverless may be making the big clouds bigger

The good news for cloud competition is that enterprises are opting for multi cloud. The bad news is serverless may be fueling AWS dominance.

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Image: belekekin, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The good news for those clamoring for real cloud competition is that enterprises keep opting to use multiple clouds. Sure, they use AWS more than any other, according to a Kentik survey, but the fact that they're not only using AWS is good news, right?

Well, maybe.

One cloud to rule them all?

Kentik's survey, administered to attendees at AWS re:Invent, not surprisingly discovered that 97% of them use AWS. More interestingly, 35% of them also use Microsoft Azure and 24% use Google Cloud. Other developer surveys also show AWS with a big lead, as well as rising numbers for Azure and Google.

This, in turn, keeps driving big money to the cloud providers, as captured by Jordan Novet (Google not shown in Figure A as it hasn't been reporting cloud growth).

Figure A

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Source: Jordan Novet

All good, right? Alibaba is cranking out $4 billion a year on the low end, while AWS now tops a $30 billion per year run rate at the high end. Lots of money and lots of growth.

But not all revenue or growth is created equal.

SEE: Vendor comparison: Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud (Tech Pro Research)

Some are more equal than others

The problem for the Everyone But AWS club is that cloud innovation may be making the rich even richer. As uncovered in a recent O'Reilly survey (highlighted by Lawrence Hecht in Figure B), developers are piling into serverless, which locks them into particular clouds much more than basic services like storage and compute ever could.

Figure B

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Source: O'Reilly

As AWS executive Matt Wood once told me, "AWS customers get to think about building applications with services, not servers. With S3, DynamoDB, and Lambda, you can build apps without thinking about the underlying infrastructure." Yes, developers no longer need to think about the infrastructure but, no, this isn't always a good thing. It's good in the sense of immediate productivity. It's potentially bad in the sense of portability of applications to other infrastructure.

SEE: Executive's guide to integrating the hybrid cloud (free ebook) (TechRepublic)

As Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady has suggested, "With the accelerating appetite for managed services in the cloud, APIs are becoming the new de facto standards much as open source was before it." Those APIs, increasingly calling highly cloud-specific serverless functions, mean that whatever the reality of multi-cloud may be, and it is real, it's just as real that AWS, king of APIs, will continue to reign on the revenue throne.

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By Matt Asay

Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.