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The 2020 cloud acquisitions AWS, Microsoft and Google should make

The major cloud providers offer a wide range of services, but they're far from perfect. Here are the 2020 acquisitions AWS, Microsoft and Google should make to shore up their platforms.

Each of the three major cloud providers have specific weaknesses in their offerings they could address through acquisition.

With the right additions, these providers could add substantial benefits for their customers and put themselves in a position to measure more favorably against their competitors. Moreover, there are growing tech companies out there with excellent leadership that could make these improvements.

Here's a look at some cloud acquisitions each of the major IaaS vendors could make, based on existing gaps in their portfolios -- as well as the possible red flags or integration issues these potential deals could pose.

Amazon Web Services: Auth0 and Algolia

AWS' primary weakness is its complexity; its cloud platform includes so many different services that do so many different things. And, because the teams that build these services are all relatively independent, users often face a significant learning curve when they work with a new AWS tool, even if they're already well versed in another part of the platform.

Amazon has made some efforts to address this issue. AWS Amplify, a development platform for web and mobile apps based around open source components, has made enormous strides toward providing developers with a centralized, one-service-to-control-many interface and library. For example, you could use it to build the entire back end of a conference app.

However, even Amplify's trajectory is hampered by another AWS service: Amazon Cognito. This user authentication service for mobile and web apps is the weakest link in AWS' higher-level offerings, despite being a critical component in many applications. This is why it would make sense for AWS to acquire Auth0, a leader in authentication as a service.

Auth0 could provide AWS users with capabilities that currently require significant workarounds -- or are next to impossible -- with Cognito. This includes making its user database more of a real data store, a fully functional web console that supports editing and simple, fully fledged social sign-in and Security Assertion Markup Language integration. Auth0's team also has immense experience with enterprise authentication and changing authentication standards that Cognito has, at best, partially integrated.

In a similar vein, AWS should also pursue Algolia. AWS relies upon Elasticsearch as its searchable index service, but Elasticsearch has begun to show its age in a world increasingly focused on developer experience and security. IT teams inevitably have to run a homegrown proxy in front of it, and they need to massage data as it goes into Elasticsearch -- not to mention the pains around horizontally scaling. Algolia handles all of that for companies and provides a simple set of security rules -- such as rate limiting and restricting which fields can be searched and/or returned -- tied to separate API keys.

On the business side, it also doesn't help that Elastic.co is increasingly at war with AWS for monetizing Elasticsearch as a service much better than Elastic.co has so far. Integrating Algolia into AWS and moving away from Elasticsearch could quell some of those tensions.

The biggest risks with these cloud acquisitions would be integration with other AWS offerings. Cognito is especially ingrained across other AWS products, and it would likely be quite an engineering project to drop in Auth0. That said, the payoff could be immense.

Microsoft Azure: Netlify

Microsoft Azure has mostly missed the developer-led serverless revolution that started nearly a decade ago with Firebase and Parse. That shift has continued with Netlify -- and Jamstack -- as well as Google's expansions of Firebase and AWS' investment in Amplify.

A core benefit of IaaS is the ability to develop, deploy and scale software more quickly. The pace of development only increases with higher-level services that let developers focus on key differentiators, rather than reimplement the same common services that most people need, such as authentication, image manipulation and searching.

With Amplify and Firebase, AWS and Google each have core platforms and teams that are building out their higher-level service strategies and consoles. However, Microsoft hasn't been aggressive enough in serverless, with only some container orchestration and functions-as-a-service support.

Netlify is really the only independent serverless/API economy platform that isn't owned by Google or Amazon. And Netlify's leadership understands this next generation of software development that utilizes services to deliver better software quicker. If Microsoft acquired Netlify and put its leadership in charge of its serverless strategy and higher-level services, it would immediately have more comparable services to AWS and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Microsoft could also continue to use Visual Studio Code and GitHub to push adoption of these technologies on Azure rather than its competitors.

This potential cloud acquisition would introduce few red flags; Microsoft has transformed itself into the type of company that could take and empower Netlify to cover this essential gap in its current offerings.

Google Cloud: Hasura

Google has essentially reached parity with Azure and AWS in regard to VM and containers, but the development of its higher-level cloud services -- which were once industry-leading -- have stagnated over the past five years.

Firebase is a prime example of this. Google had a huge, early advantage over the competition when it added the service, but someone who used Firebase in 2014 might not notice much of a difference today, beyond the addition of functions. Yes, there's Firestore, but that only adds a product that's comparable to Amazon DynamoDB, without doing anything new or better than AWS' NoSQL database service. This weakness reinforces Google's reputation for ignoring customer feedback and letting projects wither.

Accordingly, Google should buy Hasura, which has a phenomenal rate of development in exactly the places where Firebase has lagged: support for relational databases, GraphQL and iterating rapidly with developer feedback. Owning Hasura would breathe significant life into Firebase.

Of course, Firebase was also an acquisition. So, if past is prologue, then red flags abound. However, for GCP, acquiring Hasura could be worth the risk.

Next Steps

Hasura 2.0 expands GraphQL API-to-database connectivity

Okta acquires identity rival Auth0 for $6.5 billion

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