Just how big is Amazon Web Services’ lead? It depends on whom you ask

It’s uncontested that Amazon’s cloud is by far the biggest. Details beyond that, however, are mighty scarce. None of the major cloud providers — Amazon or its chief public cloud rivals Microsoft and Google — are particularly transparent when it comes to the revenues and profits they derive from cloud, the number of servers they host, or anything at all, really.

That leaves us as the proverbial blind men and the elephant. So here are a few recent snapshots from researchers that may be helpful in fleshing out just how big [company]Amazon[/company] Web Services really is..

Jillian Mirandi, senior analyst at Technology Business Research Group (TBRI), estimated that AWS will generate about $4.7 billion in revenue this year, while comparable estimated IaaS revenue for [company]Microsoft[/company] and [company]Google[/company] will be $156 million and $66 million, respectively. Amazon’s head start in this arena is a big reason for that delta: AWS launched in 2006 while Microsoft’s IaaS equivalent came online in April 2013, and Google Compute Engine debuted widely in December 2013.

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Microsoft Azure growth spurt

In terms of relative growth rates, Microsoft Azure wins the race, according to new third-quarter numbers from Synergy Research Group. Again, that is because Azure started with a much smaller base than AWS. “In absolute terms AWS growth rate over the past four quarters is greater than Microsoft’s total cloud infrastructure revenue over the same period,” wrote Synergy Analyst John Dinsdale. “AWS remains in a league of its own for scale.”

CIS 2014 Q3

As for Amazon’s own AWS sales numbers? Well, they’re buried in a category with a few other items but here’s the official take:

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Amazon remains king, but faces real competition for the first time

For now, the situation remains largely as it was in May when Gartner released its survey of public cloud providers. In that report, analyst Lydia Leong wrote that despite heightened competition from Google, Microsoft, IBM SoftLayer and others, AWS remained “the overwhelming market share leader with more than five times the cloud IaaS compute capacity in use than the aggregate total of the other 14 providers” surveyed.

Long story short? AWS, the great-granddaddy of public cloud, has built up a prodigious set of services and a huge user base over the past eight years. But it’s now in the unfamiliar position of  facing two competitors that can preempt it in price cuts and new features. It’s also trying to woo larger companies that already have lots of legacy IT in place which makes the cloud move more, um, complicated. Many of these companies will require that some of their workloads and data remain in-house, and taht’s where AWS will face challenges from vendors like Microsoft, [company]VMware[/company], IBM, [company]HP[/company] and others that already have lots of enterprise relationships in place.

Next week, Google will host another live cloud event and AWS Re:invent kicks off the following week so expect more news then.