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Cloud computing has become a key driving force for businesses today, as applications are moving out of on-premises data centers in a quest to innovate, increase agility and cut costs.
Cloud computing is a model where third-party hosts and maintains the servers, software, and storage on behalf of a customer. This includes hosting applications in a highly scalable ecosystem, where customers are charged only for the infrastructure they use.
Talking about the cloud providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are the biggest names in cloud computing. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has consistently led the pack in terms of market share, followed by Microsoft Azure.
The market remains dominated by AWS since day one and it enjoys a huge market share of 33% while Microsoft’s Azure has around 16% share in the current market. Though Azure is gradually catching up to AWS.
But which one is best for you? To help you make that decision, let’s have a look at what each provider brings to the table and the key differences between them.
Computing power is the standard requirement for any IT team. Any business investing in cloud services needs cloud services with enough horsepower to keep up with day-to-day demands and handle data during high-traffic periods.
AWS uses “Elastic Cloud Computing” famously known as EC2 allows its users to configure and customize their own Virtual Machines (VMs) and choose pre-configured Machine Images (MIs). And the best part is users hold the freedom to choose the power, size, memory capacity, and number of VMs they wish to use.
On the other hand, Azure users chose a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) to create Virtual Machines. That can be pre-configured by the user, Microsoft, or even by a third party but the user shall specify the number of cores and the memory. Azure depends on virtual scale sets for scalability purposes.
The fundamental difference here is that Azure Virtual Machines pair with other tools to deploy applications on the cloud while AWS can be tailored to a spectrum of options.
Successful cloud deployment relies on sufficient storage. Fortuitously, both Azure and AWS are evenly powerful when it comes to storage.
AWS’s storage relies on virtual machines hosted on AWS infrastructure. Storage is attached to individual instances; temporary storages are allocated once per instance and dismantled when an instance is ended. Block storage can also be attached to an instance, just like to a hard drive.
In case you want object storage, you can get it via S3, and if you want data archiving, you can get it done with the help of Glacier.
While Azure gives temporary storage solutions through D drive and block storage through Page Blobs for Virtual Machines, with Block Blobs and Files doubling as object storage. Just like AWS, it supports Big Data, relational databases, and NoSQL through Azure Table and HDInsight.
Azure provides two classes of storage: 1) Hot and 2) Cool. Cool storage is comparatively cheaper, but the user will have to incur additional read and write costs.
AWS comes with an object size limit of 5 TB, while Azure has a limit of 4.75 TB.
Whether you need a NoSQL offering or a relational database both AWS and Azure have amazing database offerings.
Amazon’s RDS supports six popular database engines:
- Amazon Aurora
- Microsoft SQL
On the other hand, Azure’s SQL database is wholly based on Microsoft SQL.
Both systems work perfectly with relational databases and NoSQL. They’re highly durable and offer easy, automatic replication.
AWS has more instance types that you can provision, while Azure has a delightfully user-friendly interface and tooling’s which makes it easy to perform various database operations.
Network and Content Delivery
The biggest problem many clouds users face is finding a network that’s isolated and secure. Your company’s data is important and that that data can contain various valuable secrets that your competitors would love to access.
That’s why having secure network performance is critical in a cloud solution. Azure and AWS both have their own spin on creating secured and isolated networks.
AWS uses a Virtual Private Cloud which lets the users create isolated private networks within the cloud. It uses API gateways for cross-premises connectivity and for smooth operation, it uses elastic load balancing during networking.
Users have plenty of options available within a Virtual Private Cloud. You can create private IP ranges, route tables, subnets, and network gateways.
Well, Azure has a different approach. Instead of a Virtual Private Cloud, Azure uses a virtual network that grants its users the ability to create subnets as well as isolated networks, route tables, private IP ranges, and network gateways. In case you want cross-network connectivity, you’ll have to use a VPN gateway.
Both AWS and Azure offer firewall solutions to elongate your on-premises data center into the cloud without endangering your data.
Every company wants to choose the best solution for the best available price and fortunately both AWS and Azure come with pricing that truly justifies their services.
On top of it, both AWS and Azure give free trial offers to give you an idea of how their systems work and how you can integrate them with your on-premises software. The best part is you can end or change your contract anytime if it’s not working out for you.
And as for the charges, AWS charges on an hourly basis, with instances purchasable like on-demand (pay for what you use) and Spot (bid for extra available capacity).
On the other hand, Azure charges per-minute, which in my opinion is a more exact pricing model than AWS.
Plus, you can get BT MPLS ExpressRoute pricing for Microsoft Azure, which means you would be able to extend your Private Business Network into the cloud along with desired functionality that too on a price you can afford).
Key Differences Between AWS & Azure
- Though both AWS and Azure support hybrid cloud but Azure supports hybrid cloud better than AWS.
- Azure grants express routes but AWS offers direct connection.
- AWS has Virtual Private Cloud while Azure has a Virtual Network Cloud.
- AWS has only 61 availability zones while Azure has 140 availability zones.
Pros and Cons
Enough of features and services, it’s time to look at the pros and cons of AWS & Azure so that you can make a better decision.
Frankly, both AWS and Azure are strong and well-made solutions having great functionality and both can be integrated into your on-premises software successfully.
Let us start by discussing Azure’s Pros and Cons
Azure is a comparatively young cloud platform. Microsoft was quite a latecomer in cloud computing but jumped off the gap by working with what it already had. Actually, it expedited up Azure’s development process by adapting its pre-existing on-premises solutions for the cloud.
It is good for users who are already fans of Microsoft’s Office, Dynamics Active Directory, SQL Server, Windows Server, SharePoint, and others.
Plus, Microsoft is present almost everywhere. Almost every organization relies on Microsoft applications and solutions. And as Azure fits in with other Microsoft solutions like it was always there, to begin with.
Organizations and enterprises that already rely on Microsoft solutions can very easily integrate Azure without any hassle.
But as I just said, Azure is relatively younger than AWS and it clearly shows in its enterprise performance. To be precise it’s less enterprise-ready as compared to AWS.
AWS’s dominating the market for almost a decade. One of the biggest reasons for its popularity is the scope of operations it gives to its users. One thing that makes AWS stand out in the market is that it has a pre-existing infrastructure that most of its competitors don’t have or haven’t fully developed yet.
Well, one thing that disappoints me a little bit is its pricing and in the long run, it can also turn out to be AWS’s biggest weakness. AWS is not a cheap option. It is priced like it’s the leader of the pack.
Many organizations find it quite difficult to make heads or tails with AWS’s pricing structure, which makes it harder to manage costs and justify those costs to upper management.
But again, AWS’s features and advantages far outweigh its pricing and cons. AWS has been the market leader for a decade and it still is only because of the top-notch services it provides.
What’s the Best Choice for You?
Let us get back to our original question, whether you should choose Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS? Which one is the best choice for your company and your team?
At first glance, it might look like AWS has an unparalleled edge over Azure, but a more extensive inspection will prove that it’s not the case. To choose the best one, you need to consider multiple factors, such as cloud storage pricing, rates of data availability, data transfer loss rate, etc.
AWS and Azure offer almost similar features and capabilities, so it’s not significantly a matter of one being “better” or “worse” than the other.
It all depends on your priorities and your organization’s needs. Doesn’t matter which provider you go with; you’ll be getting the benefits of a hyper scalable cloud solution that can easily meet your growing business needs.
Furthermore, both companies keep introducing new integrations, and new pricing structures. So, the final selection will ultimately depend on the needs of your organization.