Competition Grows Among Top Public Cloud Providers

In recent years, cloud computing has become an important tool for healthcare providers. As modern healthcare becomes increasingly focused on patient-friendly, easily-accessible data and records, various cloud computing platforms have arisen to fill healthcare organizations’ data storage needs (for a refresher on cloud computing’s role in healthcare, check out our past blog post).

Cloud Computing and HIPAA

A major component of a cloud computing platform is its dedication to ensuring that its clients remain fully compliant with HIPAA. Cloud computing’s relationship to HIPAA has always been rocky–cloud hosting potentially represents security and privacy risks that HIPAA attempts to eliminate. Specifically, cloud providers must adhere to the security rule, privacy rule, and breach notification rule. While no official certification of this adherence currently exists, all of the major cloud providers are making an increasing effort to assure their clients of their informed compliance to the regulations, including offering white papers and undergoing audits.

The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) provides additional oversight of cloud computing platforms. It is a government-wide program which standardizes security assessments and continuous monitoring of cloud services, and all cloud providers offering “low or moderate impact cloud services to federal agencies must meet FedRAMP requirements.” To meet these requirements, cloud providers must receive an independent security assessment conducted by a third-party organization.

Major Players in the Cloud Computing Industry

Since the inception of the industry, the cloud computing market has been controlled by a few key companies. Amazon Web Services (AWS), far and away the biggest player in the industry, joins Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM to dominate the other competitors. AWS controls more than 3 times the market share of its closest competitor, Microsoft. IBM controls slightly more of the market than Google, but Google’s steady growth will likely soon overtake IBM.

Minor market players have begun to recognize Amazon’s and Microsoft’s dominance–public cloud provider Rackspace, for example, changed their service model to partner with those two companies, rather than compete against them. One reason for smaller companies’ inability to compete with the cloud behemoths is the enormous amount of money Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Google spend on developing their cloud infrastructure. Although the companies have resisted releasing specific numbers, market analysts estimate that each company spends more than $10 billion per year building data centers.

While AWS remains the dominant cloud computing platform in the United States, Microsoft Azure has started to slowly rise in the industry ranks, while Google has fallen just below leadership status. The primary industry analysis, Gartner Magic Quadrant, is a series of reports released by the research firm Gartner. These reports divide all the significant industry players into one of four quadrants (niche players, visionaries, challengers, and leaders) based on their position along two axes (“completeness of vision” and “ability to execute”).

“Leaders” are companies which execute their vision successfully, and are well-positioned for continued success in the future. “Visionaries” have a clear understanding of the future of the market, but are currently unable to properly execute their goals. “Niche players” focus successfully on a small segment of the target consumers, while “Challengers” currently dominate a large section of the market, but lack an understanding of future trends.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for cloud computing in 2017 is shown to the right. Most companies are clumped together in the “Niche players” segment, with a few stretching into “Visionaries.” In fact, only AWS and Azure are credited as “Leaders” (although Google is practically straddling the line).

Gartner also published comments on the market leaders, saying of Azure: “While Microsoft Azure is an enterprise-ready platform, Gartner clients report that the service experience feels less enterprise-ready than they expected, given Microsoft’s long history as an enterprise vendor. Customers cite issues with technical support, documentation, training and breadth of the ISV partner ecosystem.

“Microsoft is actively addressing these issues and has made significant improvements over the last year. However, the disorganized and inexperienced ecosystem of managed and professional service partners makes it challenging for customers to obtain expertise and mitigate risks, resulting in greater reluctance to deploy production applications or conduct data center migrations.”

Meanwhile, AWS was deemed by Gartner to be “the most mature, enterprise-ready provider, with the deepest capabilities for governing a large number of users and resources.”

The future state of the industry remains in flux, as demands and priorities of healthcare providers shift, along with the changing technological capabilities of cloud computing platforms. Just in the past two years, “serverless computing” has broken onto the scene, removing the need for end users to manage servers to run their code. This new offering was initiated by Amazon’s Lambda and has grown increasingly popular among cloud computing clients, and will no doubt be followed by even newer and more efficient services. Only one thing seems certain: that cloud computing will remain an integral component of modern patient care.

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For more information about Engage Mobile’s role in the healthcare industry, please contact us.

 

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