Amazon Still Leads Cloud Rankings, But Competition Is Coming On Strong

When it comes to major cloud providers, there are three top contenders—and then everyone else.

That was reflected once again in market research firm Gartner ‘s latest annual scorecard of the top public cloud providers that showed Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google retaining the top three spots once again.

Below the top three there were a few surprises.

These so-called public cloud companies amass pools of computers, storage, and networking that they rent to business customers who don’t want to spend more money running their own data centers. The Gartner (IT) report, released Thursday, is closely watched by businesses pondering a shift to cloud computing, and by the vendors themselves who use it for marketing.

Here are a few takeaways.

Amazon Web Services, which is expected to bring in $14 billion in revenue this year, remains the biggest player by far. It also leads the pack according to Gartner’s measure of its strategic vision—based on the services it plans to provide over time—and its ability to actually deliver those services. For what it’s worth, AWS has topped this list since at least 2013, which is no surprise, given that it was first to market 11 years ago.

Related: Amazon Remains Tops in Cloud

AWS offers the widest selection of services overall, again in part because its been in the market longest but also because it’s shown little sign of slowing down. On the flip side, buying and implementing AWS services often requires a lot of technical expertise, which is not necessarily a good thing. Some joke that even figuring out an AWS bill can require a graduate degree.

For the past two years, Gartner estimated that Amazon (AMZN) ran more than ten times the computing capacity as the next 14 cloud providers combined. There was no mention of a similar measure this year and the report itself did not break out market share figures.

To get an indication of that, Synergy Research published a report in February estimating that Amazon’s “dominant” 40% market share was flat year over year as measured across several cloud computing categories. Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), and IBM together accounted for 23% of the market across those same categories. Microsoft and Google, in particular, showed year-over-year growth at the expense of smaller competitors, according to Synergy.

Related: Oracle CEO Says We Can Beat Amazon, Microsoft in Cloud

But back to Gartner: The report stated that No 2 Microsoft remains the cloud of choice for many businesses that have run Microsoft software in their own data centers for years. Gartner estimates that Azure revenue will be nearly $3 billion this year (Microsoft, itself lumps Azure revenue in with other, non-cloud products so it’s hard to see how much the cloud service alone makes).

Microsoft’s large, experienced sales force is a boon for its cloud efforts. However, for a company that has grown up selling to and supporting corporate customers, some Gartner clients cited surprising tech support and training issues.

Related: Gartner Calls Two Horse race in Cloud

Google rounds out the big three. The Internet search and ad giant has invested heavily in the Google Cloud Platform and improved its sales approach to appeal to business customers in bigger companies as well as startups that tend to be cloud-oriented. But Google still lacks some key cloud features, compared to AWS, Gartner said.

As for the next tier of providers, there were two new to Gartner rankings overall. Chinese retail giant Alibaba (BABA), which is backing its Aliyun public cloud both in and outside of China, made its first appearance as did Oracle (ORCL), the business software giant that arrived late to the public cloud market.

IBM also had a bigger presence in part because Gartner now looks at IBM’s combined Bluemix and SoftLayer businesses, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Lydia Leong told Fortune. Bluemix is cloud technology for building business software while SoftLayer is more basic data center infrastructure that IBM acquired a few years ago. Last year, Gartner focused only on SoftLayer.

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