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  • Writer's pictureChaz Vossburg

Key differences between AWS and Azure

Find Your Cloud's Silver Lining


As the cloud evolves from being a disruptor to a must-have approach for IT, it becomes important to identify and leverage the right kind of partnerships and make informed choices about which vendor to select. 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are two of the biggest names in the public cloud computing space. There are others like IBM, Oracle, and Google, etc. 

In order to help decide which one is right for you, let’s highlight some differences and similarities between AWS and Azure. 

Cost 

Pricing comparisons are always difficult because of the rapidity with which both vendors seem to change pricing models and the various permutations and combinations that are permissible. These are some high-level considerations:   

  1. AWS builds the cost of a Windows server into the hourly rate. Thus, if you are already licensed with Microsoft, Azure is more cost-effective.  

  2. Both AWS and Azure offer pay-as-you-go models and they can be metered as low as per second. Exact comparison between the two depends on details on CPUs, memory, storage, etc. for a specific deployment. 

  3. If you need additional IP addresses and have high outbound transfers, Azure can be cheaper. 

  4. Both AWS and Azure offer discounts called “reserved instances” where you obtain discounts for long term commitments of between 1-3 years, in many cases requiring payment upfront. Thus, any ROI should be carefully considered. 

  5. Both vendors have a try-before-you-buy service where credits are offered to try the service. 

Support Plans

On AWS, support plan pricing is based on a sliding scale tied to monthly usage, so your bill could potentially be quite high with heavy use. On Azure, users are billed a flat monthly rate.  

Ease of Use

Given the preeminence of Microsoft technologies in the system administrator space, Azure is easier to use “out of the box”.  It is simple to use and easy to integrate.  AWS, on the other hand, is more feature and configuration rich and continues to evolve at a furious pace. However, even the most seasoned administrators will find a learning curve associated with AWS adoption. 

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid refers to an environment where assets on-premises are linked to cloud-based assets and may involve multiple vendors’ infrastructure. AWS is new to the hybrid space, having recently partnered with VMware to accelerate their efforts by releasing Snowball Edge, allowing workloads to be moved between its cloud and client data centers.  Microsoft has used their blueprint from legacy IT to make assimilation into a hybrid environment easier and has maintained strong support for hybrid cloud services like Azure StorSimple, Hybrid SQL Server, and Azure Stack 

Strengths

AWS was the first to provide hyper-scale clouds in 2006, and thus has a large percentage of the early and large enterprise clients. AWS also has a very useful partner ecosystem and is preferred by customers migrating from traditional data centers to cloud IaaS. 

Microsoft entered the IaaS market in 2012. Microsoft centric customers tend to favor Microsoft Azure. If applications are being built on Microsoft platforms, the advantage of using Azure is magnified. However, Azure is not just for Microsoft stacks. More than 50% of the workloads on Azure are now running on Linux! 

Both vendors are now increasingly providing additional services like artificial intelligence, machine learning, serverless computing, Kubernetes, Docker, etc.  

Weaknesses

For many years now, AWS has been marketing how its price has been dropping. But, according to Gartner, they have not made a meaningful price reduction in over 5 years, despite the falling prices of most cloud components. AWS is also known to put much more emphasis on being first to market, sometimes at the detriment of quality and compatibility.  

Given Amazon’s reach into so many areas of commerce, many competitors of Amazon have decided to move to other providers, rather than support a rival’s cloud structure.  Applications that are challenging to virtualize or run in a multi-tenant environment, including high-security deployments, require extra effort in AWS. 

Azure has had quite a few outages and the downtime has created serious issues for customers in most verticals. Tech support on Azure has also not been optimal and more work needs to be done by Microsoft in this respect.  

Increasingly, customers are also using a multi-cloud approach where they are maximizing the benefits of each vendor based on their needs and individual workloads. The downside of this is that managing multiple vendors in a blended environment can often become complex and cumbersome. 

In most instances, it helps to have a partner who can advise you on the pros and cons of how best to architect your cloud assets between vendors and for any potential hybrid adaptations.

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