The Age of Cloud Optimization has Arrived


  • Cloud providers are focused on optimizing cloud spending in response to economic conditions.
  • Customers are reallocating resources to prioritize building new customer experiences, particularly in the realm of artificial intelligence.
  • Despite slower growth rates, cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft, and Google are still experiencing growth due to optimization.
  • The convergence of optimization and AI presents significant opportunities for enterprises.
  • AI was a major topic during earnings calls, with cloud giants investing heavily in AI capabilities.
  • The capital expenditures required for AI make it challenging for startups to disrupt established cloud vendors.
  • Expectations for immediate returns on AI investments should be tempered, as these projects take time to develop.
  • The current optimization phase is preparing for a surge in cloud spending, with enterprises positioning themselves for future AI-driven growth.
  • Cloud providers are competing to dominate the AI landscape and shape the future of the cloud industry.

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The Optimization Obsession: Cloud Providers Shift Focus to Artificial Intelligence

Last week, the leading cloud providers – AWS, Microsoft and Google – all unveiled their earnings reports, and the resounding topic dominating discussions was optimization. Cloud executives echoed the sentiment that customers are actively seeking ways to optimize their cloud spending amidst challenging economic conditions.

This theme reverberated across the earnings calls, with AWS stating, “Customers continue to evaluate ways to optimize their cloud spending in response to these tough economic conditions.” Similarly, Microsoft acknowledged that “Customers continued to exercise some caution as optimization…trends…continued.” Alphabet/Google chimed in, acknowledging “slower growth of consumption as customers optimized GCP costs reflecting the macro backdrop.”

While the euphemistic use of “optimization” may raise some eyebrows, it appears that customers are not simply reducing their net cloud expenditure. Instead, they are selectively reducing costs in certain areas to fuel increased spending elsewhere. And where is this increased spending directed? The answer lies in the realm of artificial intelligence.

Reallocating resources to drive novel customer experiences has become a paramount priority for organizations, despite the absence of an official recession. The earnings reports from Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet paint a picture of continued growth, albeit at a slower pace compared to previous periods. AWS experienced a 16% growth rate, while Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud achieved 27% and 28% growth, respectively. Although these figures fall short of the metronomic growth rates witnessed in prior quarters, the trend can be attributed to optimization.

The term “optimization” reverberated through the earnings calls of all three cloud vendors, highlighting its significance in customer behavior. While these companies fiercely compete for cloud workloads, they seem to have reached a consensus on nomenclature. Amazon emphasized the optimization trend, with CEO Andy Jassy stating that customers are explicitly expressing that their actions are not driven by cost-cutting measures. Jassy elaborated, “This is [companies] reprioritizing what matters most to [their] business… and trying to reallocate resources so [they] can build new customer experiences.”

This notion aligns with the long-standing promise of cloud computing: enabling enterprises to swiftly adapt as they develop innovative applications to cater to their customers’ needs. As I previously highlighted in June 2022, while CIOs might curtail spending in various areas during challenging times, cloud services prove to be somewhat recession-proof. The cost of forgoing potential innovation and digital transformation far outweighs any short-term benefits gained from scrimping on expenses.

Amidst this pursuit of optimized cloud spending, one particular domain emerges as a standout focus. Jassy underscored the significance of machine learning, emphasizing, “Few folks appreciate how much new cloud business will happen over the next several years from the pending deluge of machine learning that’s coming.”

As organizations strategically reallocate their resources, investing in cloud solutions tailored for artificial intelligence becomes increasingly pivotal. The convergence of optimization and AI presents an unparalleled opportunity for enterprises to leverage emerging technologies and forge ahead in a rapidly evolving digital landscape. The optimization obsession is reshaping the cloud industry, propelling organizations toward a future where customer-centricity and innovation reign supreme.

The AI Arms Race: Cloud Giants Compete for Dominance

In my previous speculation, I posited that large language models (LLMs) and AI, in general, have become a battleground for the major cloud providers. This week, the CEOs of these cloud behemoths confirmed the significance of AI in their strategies.

Interestingly, the term “AI” was mentioned more frequently than any other during the earnings calls, with Alphabet referring to AI 52 times, Microsoft 36 times, and Amazon 12 times (albeit with one notable lengthy mention, as highlighted by Kif Leswing). The cloud giants recognize the immense customer interest in AI and are investing substantial sums of money in bolstering their capabilities in this domain.

The capital expenditures required to fund LLMs and AI are of such magnitude that it becomes highly unlikely for startups to disrupt the established vendors in this arena. OpenAI, although often associated with a startup mentality, enjoys the backing of billions of dollars from Microsoft and other major players.

Enterprises seeking to ride the AI wave will almost certainly require assistance from prominent cloud vendors. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella emphasized, “We will continue to invest in our cloud infrastructure, particularly AI-related spending, as we scale to the growing demand driven by customer transformation. And we expect the resulting revenue to grow over time.

However, it is important to temper expectations regarding immediate returns on these investments, as cautioned by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy. “Those [AI] projects…take time to build,” he noted. There is a gestation period during which companies must not only define their objectives but also determine which existing workloads they can curtail or deprioritize.

Jassy suggests that many fail to recognize the considerable amount of untapped potential, which will eventually be converted into cloud consumption with the advent of large language models and generative AI. The majority of these workloads will not run on-premises; instead, they will find their home in the cloud.

In our current recessionary environment, we can consider the current optimization phase as the calm before the storm of cloud spending. Enterprises are actively exploring and experimenting, trimming certain areas while strategically positioning their AI investments for future growth. Now, more than ever, is an opportune time to leverage the capabilities of the cloud, whether as a user or a provider.

The race to dominate the AI landscape has intensified among the cloud giants, and their commitment to AI-related expenditures underscores the pivotal role of artificial intelligence in shaping the future of the cloud industry. As these powerful players continue to invest and innovate, customers stand to benefit from the remarkable advancements in AI-driven technologies, propelling us into an era where the boundaries of possibility are constantly expanding.


The focus on optimization and the increasing emphasis on artificial intelligence by major cloud providers, such as AWS, Microsoft, and Google, signals a significant shift in the market. Enterprises are actively seeking ways to optimize their cloud spending, reallocating resources to prioritize AI-driven initiatives and new customer experiences. This trend highlights the growing importance of AI as a key driver of future growth in the cloud industry.

As the competition intensifies among cloud giants, customers can expect to benefit from the rapid advancements in AI technologies and the expanding possibilities they bring. The market landscape is poised for continued innovation and transformation as organizations leverage the power of the cloud and AI to drive their digital strategies forward.