AWS, Salesforce Turn Up The Volume as Digital Transformation Fuels the Cloud Wars

When considering digital transformation platforms, customer experiences, and internal workflows, CIOs and architects face a common decision on platforms and architecture. We call it the build versus buy decision, even though today there's a third hybrid option of using low-code and no-code platforms.

Last week we witnessed two behemoth cloud/SaaS technology companies play out this type of decision at a macro scale. 

Enterprise Cloud Wars by Isaac Sacolick

Salesforce Gunning for Microsoft

Salesforce, coming off of last year's big buyout of Tableau, doubled down and announced they are buying Slack for $27.7 billion. These acquisitions put Salesforce on a competitive collision course with Microsoft Teams and Power BI, but I question this latest move. 

Seriously, it just seems like every 3-5 years, we reach a new paradigm for enterprise collaboration. We went from chat (AIM, Yahoo, etc.) to enterprise social platforms (remember when Jive was hot), and in 2020, platforms scaling because of remote working (Zoom, Teams, Meet, Slack, etc.). 

Do we not think a new collaboration paradigm won't emerge? Certainly, AR/VR will drive a new wave of innovative experiences!

So we'll see what this new acquisition brings, but put me into the bear category.

AWS Building to Builders, but Now Selling to CIOs

Now, even though there were several hybrid cloud announcements from AWS's Andy Jassy last week, their strategy is clearly spelled out as, "By builders, for builders, and AWS is the one-stop-shop for IT leaders moving to public clouds." Some key announcements include AWS Local Zone's expansion to fifteen cities and services to simplify deployments, including AWS Proton, EKS Anywhere, and ECS Anywhere.

But my attention turned to data and machine learning. AWS is behind the BI / data visualization capabilities as Salesforce owns Tableau, Google bought Looker, and Microsoft continues to build Power BI capabilities. AWS is playing catchup in this one area, and at AWS re:Invent, they announced Quicksight Q (similar to Tableau's Ask Data) and showcased QuickSight Embedded Analytics (similar to Tableau Embedded Analytics and Power BI Embedded).

Andy lays out a fairly convincing argument to CIOs: Avoid multicloud complexities and standardize using AWS's breadth and depth of cloud services. Andy got into the weeds in his presentation (bravo!) and highlighted the multiple layers where CIOs and architects have choices on where to play.

But again, Andy advises CIOs to focus on "solving real customer problems with builders," even though many CIOs struggle with finding the necessary skillsets. Absent from Andy's announcements? Any new low-code or no-code innovations to help enterprises seeking technology and data capabilities without all the builders? As I reported on how the public clouds and big tech target low code, AWS lags behind offerings such as Appsheet (Google) and Microsoft's Power Apps. 

Message received: One amazing AWS cloud - for builders.

GCP and Azure Offer Multicloud Options

We know that GCP believes that the future isn't cloud, it's multicloud and is pioneering services like Anthos to help enterprises manage, build, and deploy applications across multiple clouds. Does GCP have the right strategy? A recent poll shows that 81% of respondents use or plan to use multiple cloud vendors. This may be the best strategy for GCP  as they consistently rank third in the cloud wars behind AWS and Azure.

My read of Azure is that they have a very open strategy. Recent announcements include multicloud in financial services and Azure Hybrid Benefits for Linux customers. And while AWS supports many databases platforms in RDS but pushes Aurora, Azure does the same with support for Postgres, MySQL while pushing SQL Server.

As you would expect, GCP and Microsoft were largely quiet last week during the barrage of AWS and Salesforce announcements. But this analysis wouldn't be complete without including them. 

Digital Transforming Enterprising Fuel the Cloud Wars

Consider some of these data points:

Translation: Enterprises will be investing heavily in 2021 in digital transformation, employee experiences, and cloud architectures. AWS, Azure, Salesforce, and GCP know it's a land grab.

CIOs have Platform and Architecture Options

CIO, don't become deer in the headlights and fall victim to analysis and paralysis with all the news and competitive offerings. The last thing customers and employees need today are IT organizations stuck with supporting dated platforms, unsatisfactory customer experiences, and dysfunctional workflows.

CIO also can't be the sheep and allow the public clouds to shepherd them to long-term contracts, complex pricing structures, or inflexible architectures. 

If you have the scale, go negotiate. Not sure what platforms and architectures to standardize on, then try running several agile POCs. Most importantly, CIO and IT leaders must energize outside-in thinking by learning from experts, asking colleagues about their successes, and laser-focusing on the investments that matter. 

To learn more, please see the video I recorded with Sarbjeet Johal on a week-one recap of AWS:reInvent.

And please reach out to me if you'd like to chat further on strategy, platforms, architectures, agile, or low-code.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.