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Amazon profited immensely from being the first mover in the world of cloud computing. For nearly 7 years, they were the undisputed top dog of the cloud.
From 2002 to 2009, any firm looking for a Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS) provider had one and only one option: AWS. They were the only game in town.
But there’s a downside to being first to market. Closely behind the First Mover is always the Fast Follower — and that’s not a bad position either. You can learn from the incumbent’s early mistakes and save money by being more selective in targeting. Enter Microsoft’s Azure – the software giant’s response to Amazon’s cloud services.
Microsoft is chipping away at AWS market share
By the numbers, Microsoft’s Azure doesn’t hold up to AWS. However, Microsoft is chipping away diligently at Amazon’s market share with Azure and even Office 365. They’re perfectly viable options for any company that wants to jump into the cloud computing services arena.
And to be fair, the comparison (and granting leader status to AWS) isn’t perfect. They’re certainly in the same market, but the reality is that AWS and Azure are wildly complex, diverse, and broadly powerful. Both have unique strengths. Microsoft has made considerable leaps forward in market share by targeting the areas where they have a unique competitive advantage (or where AWS falls short), like enterprise-level solutions. Amazon, on the other hand, is the sweetheart of Silicon Valley — and any company created in their image.
Amazon was initially a better product
At the outset, the strongest card in Amazon’s hand was its data availability and transfer stability. They invested heavily in geographically diverse data centers, meaning customers could store their data or send their processing to available zones close by for cheap.
In addition to that, Amazon invented protocols that made data transfer uncommonly stable, with minimal losses. Meanwhile, Azure — in classic Microsoft tradition — has been laden with glitches, and fixing them often costs its users both money and time.
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Microsoft found the gaps in Amazon’s market
But Azure truly started to shine when Microsoft leaned into the place where AWS was generally considered to be failing: Hybrid cloud solutions. Companies who didn’t want to exclusively store data or run apps away from their own internal cloud infrastructure didn’t have a lot of options, where AWS was concerned. And for companies with particularly sensitive or proprietary information, that was a non-starter.
Azure’s substantial support for hybrid cloud applications helps companies protect the information that they deem particularly delicate or sensitive. Microsoft was able to tap into its considerable background and experience with enterprise-level solutions in developing its hybrid approach and that has paid huge dividends.
Some of Azure’s products offer a sliding scale of hybrid cloud platform functionality, with one of their newest products providing almost all of the functionality of Azure on a company’s own on-site data centers, and the payment and maintenance equal to the public equivalent.
Microsoft is a household name
Most organizations all over the world already use Microsoft, in one form or another. Therefore, for many companies, transitioning to Microsoft’s cloud systems is less daunting and potentially more rewarding.
Legacy apps and systems already running on Microsoft products may not transition seamlessly to their hybrid cloud solutions. However, the transition is considerably easier than a wholesale transition to entirely public, offsite cloud servers, as would be the case with AWS.
When Microsoft added support for a wider range of programming languages, operating systems, and finally made peace with Linux, they signaled to the world that they were serious about the cloud computing market. And their market share increases reflect that.
Today, cloud computing lowers operating costs for companies, increases efficiency, improves collaboration, reduces capital expense, increases innovation, and just gets products to the market faster.
The bottom line
The differences between the two services are complex; some of AWS’ functionality is not duplicated by Azure, and vice versa. Those differences are subtle and require fine-tuned understanding, but the bottom line is this: Microsoft’s serious investment and considerable growth in the cloud computing market shows that cloud computing is not going anywhere.
Now that there are three very serious contenders for the crown (we’ve gone this far without even mentioning Google’s cloud alternatives), we can say one thing with certainty: The cloud is only getting bigger and it’s definitely not going away. Perhaps it’s time to get Azure-certified?