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Azure vs AWS

Royal Rumble: Azure vs AWS

by Svitla Team

November 23, 2018
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Cloud Services: AWS and Azure

The two tech giants when it comes to cloud-based services are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure - and they intend to keep it that way.

With everybody moving to the cloud, AWS and Azure are the leading cloud platforms that offer valuable features, each with its distinctive differentiators that set them apart. Their time to rise came right in the transition that companies underwent to move workloads to a cloud infrastructure in order to save costs and reduce business concerns.

Through something as simple as buying a subscription, developers and companies now have access to virtually unlimited computing power thanks to these giants, Microsoft and Amazon, who have computing infrastructure to spare. With vast and efficient data centers, these cloud-based service providers help companies serve a broader customer ecosystem at a fraction of the cost, with less downtime and greater performance than if they were to use their own data centers. Plus, it’s a very attractive bonus to avoid the costs and labor of maintaining their own servers.

In this article, we are going to dive into the traits and characteristics of AWS and Azure to determine if there’s a clear winner between the two and why your business will benefit from selecting either of these options.

Azure Overview

Released back in 2010, Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing provider with a large portfolio of services that help users build, develop, and deploy applications and services. Microsoft Azure is the world’s most widespread cloud computing provider, with coverage in over 54 regions worldwide and with 90% of Fortune 500 companies under its client portfolio. Some of its biggest clients are The Coca-Cola Company, Chevron, FedEx, 3M, Walmart, NBC, Samsung, Boeing, and Bayer. 

Microsoft Azure offers Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service. Additionally, it supports multiple programming languages, tools, and frameworks, including both Microsoft-native and 3rd party software and systems.

Among its wide range of service categories, Microsoft Azure covers machine learning, analytics, computing, databases, developer tools, DevOps, integration, Internet of Things, migration services, media services, mobile services, networking, security, storage services, web services, and more. Each of these service categories is comprised of tools and products that make the lives of developers a lot easier.

As an operating system, Microsoft Azure uses Windows and Linux to run its fabric layer. It provides an API built on REST, HTTP, and XML to enable developers to interact with the services provided by Microsoft Azure.

AWS Overview

Launched in 2006, Amazon Web Services is an on-demand cloud computing platform that offers compute power, database storage, content delivery, and other functionality to help businesses build applications with flexibility, scalability, and reliability. The Amazon subsidiary has a subscription model that allows subscribers to use virtual clusters of computers at all times via the Internet. AWS has a global network of coverage that spans over 19 regions worldwide and includes over 1 million trusted customers such as Spotify, Netflix, Unilever, Pfizer, Kellogg’s, Airbnb, Comcast, Condé Nast, Ubisoft, and many more.

The broad service offering of AWS Cloud includes computing power, developer tools, storage options, networking and databases, management tools, media services, security and compliance tools, analytics, machine learning, integration, mobile services, Internet of Things, game development, business productivity, and many more. The most popular services include the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

Service functionality is oftentimes offered via APIs for developers that use the applications. AWS offerings are accessed over HTTP, REST, and the SOAP protocol.

AWS is the single most profitable part of Amazon’s business, a fact of note. As a  2017 AWS overview showed AWS held a market share of nearly 34%, which puts the cloud-based service provider at the forefront in the race of cloud computing. Its main competitor, Microsoft Azure holds 11% of the market while IBM stands with a stable 8% and Google makes steady strides with a 5% share.

Difference between AWS and Azure

IaaS offerings

In terms of IaaS offerings, AWS includes:

  • Content delivery and storage.
  • Compute.
  • Networking.
  • Database.

With Azure, the IaaS offerings include:

  • Data management and databases.
  • Compute.
  • Networking.
  • Performance.

Looking at Azure vs AWS, they both offer relatively similar services for storage and networking and include all the benefits of the public cloud. The differences between AWS and Azure are found in feature-by-feature comparison: AWS offers the biggest range of services due mainly to its earlier start in the cloud game.   While Microsoft Azure is making heavy investments to catch up, it is not quite up to AWS’ level.

Tools for developers

In terms of the number of tools developers can leverage to design, build and deploy an app, Microsoft Azure has been crowned the winner. Microsoft Azure has access to a pool of cloud-hosted developer tools provided by Microsoft.

Azure has several app deployment options such as App Services, Service Fabric, Container Service, and more. While AWS offers similar solutions with its Container Service, Elastic Beanstalk, Lambda, and more, it does not provide Azure ’s number of resources or features for app hosting.

Customer loyalty

While it may seem as though Microsoft Azure takes the cake in several accounts, it is undeniable that customers love AWS - without the shadow of a doubt. Their year to year revenue and staggering market share speak for themselves, making it the most profitable cloud service provider.

Licensing

For many companies, licensing is the main reason behind their move to cloud services. The pay-for-what-you-use approach serves small and big companies alike.

In the licensing framework, the difference between AWS and Azure is that Microsoft offers license mobility which means users don’t have to pay double for using Microsoft server applications that they already use. While not all Microsoft licenses are eligible, there are enough that make mobility valuable and cost-effective.

AWS is known for its hassle-free experience in terms of licensing - basically, AWS only charges for the licenses being used. 

Hybrid Cloud

Companies look for alternatives to combine a cloud environment with their data centers, which is where hybrid clouds come to play. Hybrid clouds are the perfect choice for companies that don’t want to fully commit to the cloud and want to maintain their data and systems in-house. With hybrid clouds, companies can run cloud applications and deploy infrastructure applications leveraging a cloud model while using on-prem compute resources, as deemed appropriate. 

Microsoft Azure was early in identifying this pattern, which is why it is well prepared for the use of hybrid clouds offering hefty support for users and making it relatively effortless to transition to the cloud by only using cloud-based resources as necessary.

Amazon is on the road to strengthening its strategy around hybrid clouds with offerings such as Storage Gateway, Direct Connect, OpsWorks, and DynamoDB Local. But for the time being, an Azure overview shows that Microsoft has the upper hand in hybrid clouds.

Government

Government institutions have recently become more and more interested in cloud solutions. With stringent compliance guidelines and heavy regulatory environments, cloud for the government is challenging.

Both AWS and Microsoft Azure have committed areas to tackle government solutions and meet any and all compliance needs.

While both cloud giants boast about their compliance with HIPAA, CJIS, FIPS, ITAR, and more, Amazon has a slight advantage because it is more stable and has more time on the market (and more compliance certifications), making it easier for government clients to know how to handle the AWS resources.

It is also true that the IT industry has a great deal of respect for Microsoft, which naturally helps boost Microsoft Azure’s standing in the government market. Microsoft Azure was the first provider to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and this is why Azure is on its way to becoming one of the most trusted vendors for government institutions.

Open Source

Until a couple of years ago, it was virtually impossible to use Microsoft Azure for open source shops. This situation left an open field for Amazon, which surely took advantage and now holds a significant lead over Microsoft Azure in the open source cloud hosting space. 

From its initial launch, AWS has been Linux-friendly, making it very comfortable for open source developers to use the available open source tool integrations.

Reliability

Both AWS and Microsoft Azure guarantee over 99.95% service availability and if there’s a time where that number drops, both providers give credit back to the client. While both services are continuously steady and reliable about their uptime, they have both experienced significant outages that have affected their long lists of clients.

Why Azure? Benefits and challenges of Azure

We are going to further explain some of the biggest benefits and challenges of Microsoft Azure.

Benefits:

  • Ease of use and integration: Microsoft Azure is considered a friendlier environment with a straightforward setup process. Additionally, it integrates easily with other Microsoft products due to Microsoft’s efforts and heavy investment in interoperability and interconnectivity among its suite of products, which makes the migration process for Microsoft products work seamlessly.
  • Pricing: Companies have options when it comes to pricing variety. Organizations of all sizes can choose the best option for their needs and the storage costs are set at fixed n amounts. Additionally, there are numerous support plans with a fixed monthly cost so organizations know what they are paying for.
  • Robust hybrid cloud strategy: Microsoft Azure was quick to identify the hybrid cloud needs of the market, making it easy for companies to adopt this structure with their tools and services targeted for hybrid clouds.
  • Bandwidth: Microsoft Azure has the capacity and capabilities to take businesses to a global level.
  • Security: Microsoft Azure uses Azure Single Sign-On protocol as a security measure.
  • Transitions: Microsoft Azure makes it very easy to transition to the cloud for companies that use Microsoft Azure to manage on-prem systems.

Challenges:

  • Support: Users need to pay for a support account if they want to generate an incident or ticket.
  • Data fees: All Microsoft Azure services are subject to data transfer fees.
  • Performance: The user experience of Microsoft Azure Machine Learning is reported to be moderately slow.
  • Restrictions: Microsoft Azure is more restrictive in its environment and range of service offerings. Companies oftentimes find it challenging to opt for a service within Microsoft Azure due to its limiting platform.

Why AWS? Benefits and challenges of AWS

Next, we are going to further explain some of the biggest benefits and challenges of AWS.

Benefits:

  • Pricing: AWS pricing plans are designed to charge upon actual usage rather than a monthly fee, making it attractive for small and startup companies.
  • Availability: AWS certified data availability effortlessly through widespread coverage of geographic regions and availability zones. Users can access, store, manage,  and update data from any place across the globe.
  • Service offering: AWS triumphs with the widest range of cloud service offerings over competitors. 
  • Storage: AWS offers customizable storage options, charging only for the amount and type of storage used.
  • Compliance: AWS offers the highest number of industry standard compliance certifications including HIPAA, SOC 1/SSAE 16/ISAE 3402, SOC 2, SOC 3, PC1 DSS Level 1, ISO 27001, FedRAMP, DIACAP, and FISMA.
  • Data security: With AWS and their layers of security, companies are guaranteed a minimal or non-existent loss in data while transferring it from one location to another.

Challenges:

  • Payment control: If the company grows quickly, their need for cloud services increase, which also elevates the price they pay in AWS. With a fixed, monthly payment, companies can control this cost, but AWS’ pay-for-what-you-use approach, while attractive for small companies, is a drawback for big organizations and organizations that are scaling quickly.
  • Hybrid cloud: As we’ve previously mentioned, AWS is not the best option for hybrid cloud solutions. Amazon is slightly behind in the race for hybrid clouds, and while they’ve admitted that they’re investing heavily to create a more robust strategy around hybrid clouds, it is not there yet.
  • Enterprise support: AWS does not include enterprise support in its default offering. Enterprise support is purchased separately as an add-on service.
  • Complex offerings: Due to its immense size, which is both a good and a bad thing, AWS can be daunting and complex for users who are searching for a product or service. This complexity also results in a steeper learning curve.

The third contender: Google Cloud

Slow and steady wins the race, right? While this is sometimes true, Google Cloud is not taking any chances and is entering the cloud computing service race fast and strong. Google has seen its rivals, Microsoft and Amazon, thoroughly win the race for cloud computing services over the years. Companies are moving to the cloud, there is no question about it, which is why Google is investing heavily to close the gap with its competitors.

Despite the dominance shown by AWS overview, both Microsoft and Google are gaining ground to increase their market presence for cloud computing services. Google, the internet titan, has been busy at work building public cloud services and a robust IaaS business under its Google Cloud Platform (GCP). 

AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud

For the time being, and as we’ve continually stated in this article, in Azure vs AWS competition, AWS is the clear market leader as the most successful option when it comes to cloud service providers. Being in the number one spot does not guarantee that AWS is the best service out there, but it is a testament to their maturity in the market and their remarkable depth and breadth in functionality, which helps them maintain their spot on top.

Microsoft Azure continues to gain terrain on AWS as they are one of the most trusted names in the IT industry with a reliable model that attracts companies of all shapes and sizes, specifically those that already use Microsoft products.

With an extensive array of cloud products and services, Google Cloud attracts companies that are data-intensive due to its data management capabilities, which are its strong suit.

It’s difficult to provide a definitive assessment of the state of the AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud royal rumble in cloud computing, as all the differences, benefits and challenges are unique to each cloud service provider. Still, numbers show why AWS is in the lead by a great deal, but that doesn’t seem to deter the efforts from Microsoft and Google. These three largest cloud providers are determined to be the most comprehensive, end-to-end cloud service providers in the market. 

by Svitla Team
November 23, 2018

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