Cloud Services Can Be Hard to Compare on the InternetNow that everybody is moving to the cloud, quick or slow, I thought I’d spend a little time complaining about the state of good information to support your cloud services choices.

Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) both have basic guides for pricing servers and related services. These can be useful. Of course, before being able to get useful information from them you must know your needs clearly. You also must be aware of various discounted pricing plans.

It seems that if you activate all the possible Azure or AWS discounts, the price difference between the two for basic access to servers is about the same.

The Plot Thickens

But what about more complex situations? My colleague, CGNET CTO Ricardo Uribe, pointed out the virtue of Azure if your organization is planning to host applications in the cloud. If you also have Office 365, the Azure AD directory services you would need for the applications is already included with Office 365. Such helpful tidbits are not always easily available from the vendors.

And what, perchance, if your situation involves other vendors, such as Oracle? We recently had a client with an Oracle database and several applications working through a WebLogic applications server. Oracle has a lot of great videos online touting the benefits of using their cloud services in such a case. Many helpful services are said to be bundled together to support the Oracle db/WebLogic combination.

Except that Oracle is cancelling the service. Its new cloud services will not support it, and current instances will be phased out over the next few years. The only way we found this out was after a couple of weeks arranging a meeting with Oracle, because we had detailed questions. When we finally found the right people at Oracle and scheduled the right meeting, we found out that the main reason we were planning to go with Oracle no longer existed.

You can do more traditional hosting of WebLogic servers and make the system work in Oracle, much as you can in AWS and Azure. But Oracle’s unique advantage for this option is on the way out.

What’s a Newbie to Do?

So even hardened pros can be confounded when trying to get good information about cloud services. What hope do less experienced people have?

One thing I wouldn’t try is googling “compare cloud services pricing,” or something like that. You get these ambitious little comparison sites that somehow find some obscure product to be superior to the major vendors. Good luck with that.

Back in the day, before the Internet, I worked for Network Computing magazine. We had our own labs, or partnered with labs, to produce useful comparative product reviews. There were expensive, sort of the trade press’s equivalent of investigative reporting. Now they are no more.

Some good comparative reviews exist. Idealware’s comparison of products for nonprofits is excellent. You occasionally get a good one from what is left of the computer trade press, on the internet. Sometimes government sources, like NIST, come up with something useful. Sometimes a vendor will give you access to a report from Gartner, or another analyst, for free. But in general, doing good comparisons means a lot of time and hard work.

I sometimes even get so paranoid that I believe vendors are restricting information about their products on the web in order to get you to talk to a salesperson. More time spent and awkward situations ahead!

Something should be done.

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