Little Risk, Yet Potential for Reward in the Cloud

While the cloud-computing market continues to grow, there appears to be some degree of blowback with the upcoming IPO of Box. While there are a few cloud-computing companies that are seeing far more investor buzz than profits, there are companies turning profits in the cloud. Adobe  has a nice niche with its subscription cloud model, while IBM and Amazon have different, but successful cloud strategies.

The three large-cap companies are diversified, but have solid positions within the cloud segment. They offer investors a less-risky alternative to the companies that are cloud-only, but still have the ability to capitalize on the anticipated growth in the cloud market.

Subscription model makes Adobe a cloud leader
Adobe has positioned itself to be one of the top performers in the cloud market. There was some skepticism surrounding the company's focus on cloud offerings, but that has been erased with recent earnings reports. The transition from perpetually licensed software to a cloud-based subscription model appears to be a success.

In the latest quarter, Adobe reported more revenue from cloud subscriptions than from its licensed software. With lower up-front costs, this model makes sense for consumers, and they are increasingly moving to subscriptions, with Adobe reporting 28% growth for the quarter.

As the number of monthly subscribers grows, the revenue loss from licenses will be more than offset. With the type of growth the company has been seeing, Adobe will meet its goal of having 3 million subscribers by the end of this year and 4 million by the end of 2015.

Services and software in the cloud equal success for Big Blue
IBM is the largest cloud company if you count software sales delivered via the cloud and private cloud offerings, beating out Amazon for the first time in the most recent quarter.

Big Blue has been aggressive in the cloud market, recently announcing a $1.2 billion investment in its worldwide cloud network, along with its acquisition of SoftLayer last summer.

In addition, the company has adopted the strategy of building open platforms, announcing last month that it's a founding member of the Cloud Foundry Foundation. This is a clear difference with its rival in cloud infrastructure, Amazon Web Services.

Perhaps IBM's greatest tool in the cloud market is its ability to keep customers on its infrastructure while building up layers of services and software. With this ability, the company will be major player in the cloud deep into the future.

$50 billion value for Amazon in the cloud
Amazon has been a leader in the cloud from the beginning. The company is the leader in providing infrastructure as a service. It is easy to overlook this, given the success of its retail segment. But some analysts have valued the cloud component of the company at $50 billion.

There is little to suggest that Amazon is going to lose its leading position in the cloud, but there are potential issues of which investors should be aware.

First, the company is committed to the public cloud. If tastes change and companies and enterprises begin to demand more private and hybrid cloud offerings, it could eat into Amazon's market.

Second, Amazon's cloud business is relatively capital-intensive. As it signs up more customers, it must invest in servers and data centers. If competitors begin to heavily discount in an effort to gain market share, it could cause a serious dent in Amazon's revenue from the cloud.

Google recently dropped prices on its cloud offerings, which in turn, prompted a drop in prices from Amazon. Microsoft also dropped prices on its cloud services. If these types of price wars continue, it will have a negative effect on Amazon's cloud business.

Going forward, all three of these companies should see growth in the cloud. Each company is also insulated from any disturbances that may occur as the cloud matures. Adobe has unique offerings and a leadership position in those offerings, while IBM and Amazon have offerings outside of the cloud. 

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