Microsoft Azure vs Amazon AWS
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Microsoft Azure vs Amazon AWS

Whether it's due to the cost savings pay-as-you-go characteristics, or the built-in security and data resiliency, chances are your organization is leveraging some cloud-based services, or at least that's what the data suggests. That's because today, upwards of 82% of workloads reside in the cloud, and 67% of enterprise infrastructure today is cloud-based.

So, as businesses look to move to the public cloud, there's still one question that continues to circulate among business leaders, cloud enthusiasts, and engineers, namely, which cloud is better, Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS? Of course, there are going to be a variety of factors that go into making a decision on which cloud is going to be the best fit for your organization.

However, in this post, we'll look to assess all of the pertinent similarities and differences between Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, and hopefully help you leave with a good understanding of which cloud — Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS — is the better cloud offering for your business.

An Overview of Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS

Amazon AWS stands as the market leader in public cloud services garnering 33% of the global market share, whereas Microsoft Azure currently accounts for 13% of the global market share. And in both offerings, both Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS offer similar cloud-centric features such as consumption-based pricing model, subscription pricing, native security, various compliance features, autoscaling, identity access management, high availability, inexpensive object-based storage, and instant provisioning.

In truth, both Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS align on a majority and services, so for the casual cloud practitioner, either Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS can act as a great fit. However, in the following sections, we will look at some examples of where these cloud offerings differentiate. First, let's look at a quick overview of comparable features and services in Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS.

What are the Computing Differences in AWS and Azure?

At the top of every IT team's list in computing capabilities. For organizations that are doing highly transactional and computationally intensive processes, compute can be the make-or-break differentiator in how businesses operate.

Here, AWS deployments are going to rely on virtual machine instances in AWS known as elastic cloud computing or EC2 instances. With AWS, users have the ability to configure their own virtual machines, and in doing so, have the freedom to choose the virtual machine size, power, memory, and other resources.

Comparatively, with Microsoft Azure, users chose a virtual disk or (VHD) to create a virtual machine. In doing so, users then scale the VM accordingly. The major take-home here is that with EC2 users can tailor their virtual machines based on resources, whereas Microsoft Azure users rely on a base function VM that integrates with Microsoft Azure services.

Network and Content Delivery in AWS and Azure

To keep cloud environments secure and private, as well as allow for communication between multiple locations, or communication between an on-premises location and a cloud location depends on cloud-based networking.

Amazon AWS addresses this by providing a VPC or virtual private network that users can leverage to isolate their AWS environment. APIs are then used to support communication between VPCs or between an AWS environment and an on-premises network.

Microsoft Azure approaches the concept of cloud networking in a bit of a different way. Rather than offering a VPC like AWS, Microsoft Azure provides users a private network where users are responsible for configuring the isolated network, subnet, IPs, DNS much like a traditional networking configuration seen in an on-premises IT environment.

Instead of a VPC, Azure offers vNet that provides a virtual network that grants users the ability to create isolated networks, as well as subnets, private IP ranges, route tables, and network gateways. Just like communicating between different sites, Azure users will need to set up a VPN to support communication between locations.

What are the Storage Differences in AWS and Azure?

One of the strongest offerings of the public cloud is inexpensive object storage. Whether an organization is cloud-first (operating 100% in the public cloud), a hybrid cloud deployment or simply consuming some cloud resources, storage in the public cloud seems to be at the top of every IT team's list.

Here, both Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS offer competitive storage offerings. For Microsoft Azure, this cost-competitive object-based storage tier is known as Azure Blob and for Amazon AWS, the object storage tier is known as S3.

Amazon S3: General S3 storage starts at $0.023 per GB Per month through the first 50 TB, after which the price goes down. Keep in mind, AWS does offer a free S3 tier known as the S3 Free tier. Here, users get 5 GB for free. Also, archive storage, known as Glacier, is $0.004 per GB per month.  

Azure Blob Storage: For the first 50 Terabytes of data per month, Azure blob storage comes in at $0.15 per GB for Premium, $0.018 per GB for hot storage, $0.01 per GB for cool storage and $0.00099 per GB for Archive tier. From here prices shift after the first 50 TB/month.    

The Pros and Cons of Choosing AWS or Azure

Of course, we know you can quickly get into a debate over which cloud provider reigns supreme, so we'll do our best to simply lay out some strengths and weaknesses of each cloud provider.

First and foremost, AWS stands out as a leader due to sheer market adoption. As a front runner in the public cloud space, AWS does have the advantage of investing serious resources into their platform and subscriber base to keep them incentivized to continue to use AWS. Because AWS has been in the cloud space longer than Microsoft it tends to follow that AWS is a leader in innovation in the cloud and other cloud providers tend to follow. That's what happens when you've been around as long as AWS and have the momentum as the market leader.

Another area where AWS has a clear-cut advantage is APIs access. For instance, when third-party services look to offload data into Microsoft Azure's secure Blob storage known as immutable object storage, they run into issues. In fact, often the APIs to move data from a third-party service into immutable blob storage are simply not available depending on the third-party service. Whereas, with AWS S3's immutable object storage tier known as S3 Object Lock, the APIs are in fact available for third-party use.

One place where Azure really shines? Microsoft Azure credits. Depending on the size of the business and industry (often state local and government agencies for example) will get free Azure cloud credits. When these two platforms are neck and neck in a lot for 99% of these features, free services can make it a pretty easy decision deciding between AWS and Azure.

Lastly, take for example individuals who are using existing Microsoft tools such as Office365. Whether it's Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams, or a variety of other Microsoft cloud-based services, Microsoft O365 is a firm staple in today's enterprise. And when O365 users opt for Microsoft Azure as their go-to cloud provider, they'll gain a variety of integrations between their O365 environment and their Microsoft Azure environment.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, what's most important when choosing between Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS comes down to what aligns most closely with your unique needs. Our suggestion would be to test out each cloud environment to help make this decision easier. Remember, both Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS offer free tiers, so you have the opportunity to get up and running in both environments without putting a lot at risk.

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