A study of partner mindshare across US, UK and Germany has found that Azure is neck-and-neck with AWS, with Google Cloud Platform seeing high interest in Germany.
Computing parent The Channel Company has conducted an independent research study into the "mindshare" enjoyed by the three largest public cloud brands by their channel partners (resellers, distributors, managed service providers, integrators) across the US, German and UK markets.
In total, more than 1,900 partners were examined across the three markets.
To identify the 1,900 partners with the most advanced cloud offerings, The Channel Company Analytics and Insights team used its proprietary Intelligent Index methodology, which applies web text analytics to determine company capabilities, to its database of 700,000+ channel partners across the globe.
This sample therefore represents some of the best public cloud channel partners in the industry.
The study looked at mindshare, a measure of channel partners' focus on specific public cloud brands. The greater the mindshare among its partners, the more success a brand can expect to achieve through the channel.
The key variables used to conceptualise partner mindshare are:
- To what extent and how many of these partners optimise their search engine results for specific public cloud brands (blue bar graphs below)
- How many of them are able to elicit web traffic (red bars)
- How many visitors each partner can expect, on average (green lines)
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a good indicator of partners' efforts to build top-of-the-funnel leads for a brand, as partners produce content to promote that brand and will want potential customers to find it. The resulting traffic is a measure of the market's reaction to these efforts.
Of course, SEO activity is only one indicator; others not taken into account here can also influence results. However, given the scale of the study across the three regions, we consider the focus on SEO and web traffic to provide a strong indicator of the channel's attitudes towards the three brands.
Cloud is a pivotal technology
Partners across all three regions show very high levels of activity for all three vendors, with almost 80% of partners engaged in attempts to optimise search results for their content in the case of AWS. This compares to 15% - 20% engagement typically seen for other areas of technology such as storage.
AWS is the SEO leader but Azure is closing the gap
AWS has the highest proportion of partners optimising search for its content (blue bars in the charts) across the three regions, and also the largest proportion of partners actually driving traffic from these efforts (red bars).
However, Azure is not far behind, indeed it is marginally ahead in the UK. Importantly, across all three markets, partners optimising for Azure see 1.5 to 3 times the number of visitors per partner.
This is likely a function of a more established and therefore more competitive ecosystem around AWS, which yields less traffic per partner, and also the ubiquitous presence of Microsoft. Microsoft's products are present across the entire enterprise and Azure touches many of them, so there is more reason for customers to search for Azure.
Also, AWS Marketplace can be seen as a self-contained environment, where customers can find what they need without having to search for its offerings on Google. Nonetheless, the results are a testament to Microsoft's ongoing efforts to bolster its channel: as little as two or three years ago TCC researchers found the gap between the two brands to be significantly wider, with AWS well ahead.
In the UK Azure has inched ahead of AWS
In the UK, Azure and AWS are neck and neck, with the former if anything very slightly ahead in terms of partners' SEO efforts.
In terms of average traffic per partner (green line) Azure is significantly ahead of AWS, much more so than in Germany and the US.
This implies that in UK, Microsoft has the potential to strengthen its presence with partners even further, with the possibility of cementing a lead over AWS in terms of partner mindshare for its cloud services.
GCP impresses in Germany
Despite the huge progress that Google Cloud Platform has made with partners and its recent milestone of reaching profitability, by most metrics it remains a distant third to AWS and Microsoft Azure in terms of partner mindshare.
This could be a symptom of CEO Thomas Kurian's strategy to focus on large commits and gain a foothold and leadership with the biggest partners first. By default, this means GCP has fewer partners to promote its wares.
However, in Germany, GCP generates a significantly higher number of visitors per partner than AWS or Microsoft Azure. This could be a result of the somewhat delayed cloud adoption in the German market compared with the other regions. By the time the shift to the cloud started in earnest in Germany, GCP was already sufficiently established and mature to merit consideration by customers alongside the other two.
The high level of SEO activity overall shows both the central importance of cloud services to customers, and the eagerness of channel partners to grab a piece of the action.
The TCC study shows a very high level of engagement from channel partners, magnitudes higher than with other topics.
This means that public cloud vendors need to compete hard for partner mindshare, with attractive offerings, innovative go-to-market strategies and sound execution. Despite the apparent saturation, fewer highly proactive partners can generate more visitors than a larger number of less active partners (as is the case in Germany with GCP versus AWS). For cloud vendors, then, focusing on a smaller group of more active partners can bring greater rewards.
Both AWS and Microsoft Azure are well positioned to execute against this strategy, with mature distributor layers to pick up smaller and less cloud-centric partners while their partner and enterprise customer teams focus on the larger ones.
GCP is a little behind in that journey, but Google has more room to innovate with novel go-to-market strategies before it solidifies the distributor layer of its channel.
The high level of competition between the two leading clouds with a third player gaining on the leaders is a situation that's good for both customers and the prized partners that these brands are trying to woo.
The TCC Analytics and Insights team reports on competitive intelligence, distribution and market segmentation among technology vendors and suppliers based on web-text and SEO data. For more information contact Andrejs Bogdanovs