Winner: Best cloud computing service provider

Modern Infrastructure staff
Amazon Web Services

Best cloud computing service provider winner: Amazon Web Services

Just say the words "public cloud" and those in IT likely think of Amazon Web Services. And that was certainly the case in the Modern Infrastructure Impact Awards, with Amazon Web Services public cloud winning the Best Cloud Service Provider category.

Best cloud computing service provider honorable mention: Microsoft Windows Azure

As evidence of the cutthroat, competitive nature of the cloud service provider market, Microsoft Windows Azure came in a very close second in the Best Cloud Service Provider category of the Modern Infrastructure Impact Awards.

With Windows Azure, software titan Microsoft has managed to stay firmly on the heels of Amazon Web Services cloud moves, pushing more frequent and granular updates to Azure's Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service offerings. That's resonating with customers. "Windows Azure is reliable and we like its pace of innovation," noted one reader.

One voter best summed up why his company chose Windows Azure. "It's cheap and meets our needs."

Since AWS entered the public cloud arena, it has continued to gain momentum -- first with startups and one-off development projects, then gaining more widespread acceptance within the enterprise. "We're currently using Amazon Web Services for a national website," noted one voter.

As the cloud market continues to grow, enterprises are faced with several choices for cloud service providers. How do IT pros decide which cloud platform to deploy? And how do cloud service providers differentiate themselves in a sea of options? Often, it comes down to cost.

Cost is another area where AWS has been leading the industry -- with multiple instance price reductions throughout this year alone. And IT teams have taken notice. "We like AWS for its overall innovation and leadership, combined with fair pricing," noted one reader.

Despite stiff pricing competition among cloud providers, AWS stands out in other areas. The cloud giant currently offers enterprises a wide array of cloud-based services. Service types include compute and networking; storage and content delivery; databases; deployment and management; and application services. And within each of these categories, AWS offers a range of services.

AWS also offers online documentation, training and a yearly conference to help customers navigate the ever-changing waters of public cloud computing.

Best cloud computing provider finalists

AWS won out over these other cloud computing service providers in the market:

Bluelock Virtual Datacenters and cloud services

Dell Cloud Dedicated Service

Google Cloud Engine

IBM SmartCloud

Joyent Manta Storage Service

Microsoft Windows Azure Infrastructure Services

ProfitBricks

Rackspace Hybrid Cloud

Stratogent Corp

Verizon Terremark Enterprise Cloud

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Winner: Best enterprise cloud app or view the full guide: Modern Infrastructure Impact Awards 2013

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