Microsoft Azure vs Amazon Web Services : A Cloud Platform Comparison

According to Gartner, “Cloud computing is projected to grow as a $300 billion business by 2021 and will account for nearly a quarter of all IT budgets.” Companies, regardless of their domain or size are flocking towards cloud services in order to improve their operational efficiency, increase data security and generate new streams of revenue. Adopting cloud computing gives the businesses a great option to access their data from anywhere anytime. Making a transition to cloud is an expensive and crucial decision which requires thorough research and planning. Enterprises often feel enormous pressure while choosing a cloud service provider (CSP) to meet their business needs. There are two players that have emerged as the most popular choices in the aggressive cloud platform wars- Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Even though these two cloud service providers have much in common and offer similar set of services, they do differ in several aspects. So, let’s explore the basic features of both the computing platforms and the key differences between them.

Overview

Amazon was the first to launch its CSP in 2002, thus gaining a head start in the cloud race and acquiring a dominant market share of 33%. Azure arrived on the market by 2010 and it has gained a market share of 13% till now. Amazon Web Services, being the oldest cloud player in the market, has grown into a mega-powerful platform at a breathless rate. AWS offers an extensive list of computing services and functions across 19 categories. Considering the industry experience factor and features, we can say Amazon is clearly a full-fledged CSP. However, Azure comes from Microsoft, the tech giant with an incredible legacy and reputation. So, majority of Azure’s features and functionalities are advanced and familiar with the enterprises, which makes it an attractive option. Microsoft Azure cloud storage has been growing at a rapid rate and has more global regions than any other cloud provider. According to the reports, AWS brought in $25.7 billion revenue and Azure reached $23.2 billion in revenue for the full 2018 year.

Compute

Computing power is an integral factor that determines the ability to scale a large number of nodes in just a few minutes. AWS’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) provides the core compute service and Azure’s Virtual Machines and Virtual Machine Scale Sets is designed for scalable computing on demand. AWS EC2 users can configure Virtual Machines (VM) with custom or pre-configured AMIs (Amazon Machine Image) while Azure provides a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) for configuring VMs.

Both AWS and Azure offer a number of predefined instance types that determine compute and I/O speeds and performance parameters. Load balancing (ELB) and auto scaling is inclusive for AWS services whereas Azure provides auto scaling per app or as part of platforms. The open source software of Azure VM supports Linux distributions, Windows server, SQL server, Oracle, IBM, and SAP.

Storage

Storage capability is a key functionality to consider while choosing a cloud service provider. Depending on the data type, use case and requirements, data storage also varies. Typically object storage is used for storing large quantities of unstructured data and block storage is for structured transitional data. When it comes to accessing active and inactive data, file storage tiers are used. Temporary storage is available for every running instance in AWS and Azure, but it is destroyed when the instance is terminated. Both AWS and Azure also offer exceptional permanent storage capabilities so that the companies can process and store their data securely. Block storage from Amazon Web Services is called Simple Storage Service (S3) and Blob storage comes from Azure. Both the CSPs have the basic functionalities such as REST API access, batch import and server-side data encryption.

Microsoft Azure offers three different classes of storage - Hot, Cool and Archive. Frequently access data is stored with Hot, rarely accessed data is stored with Cool for at least 30 days and Archive is used for storing rarely accessed data for at least 180 days with flexible latency requirements. AWS also offers data archiving services with Amazon Glacier. AWS and Azure cloud storage services fully support relational databases, NOSQL databases and Big Data.

Networking and content delivery

Having a strong networking and content delivery structure is critical for enterprises as it helps in delivering content in a way that improves customer experience. So, it is essential to reduce latency by keeping the data close to the end users. A cloud content delivery network that interconnects data centres helps to reduce the distance between servers and users spatially. Amazon’s network is termed as Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and Azure’s network is called Virtual Network. Both the networks allows its user to create isolated networks within the cloud as well as subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges and network gateways.

AWS uses API gateway for cross-premises connectivity, whereas Azure uses VPN gateway. Load balancing configuration that facilitates the distribution of incoming network traffic across a group of resources is available in AWS with its Elastic Load Balancing and in Azure with Load Balancer and App Gateway. Both Amazon Web Services and Azure offer a range of solutions for extending the on-premise data centers into a public or hybrid cloud.

Pricing

As the cloud wars gain momentum, there has been a continued downward trend on prices recently. AWS and Azure offer introductory tiers with restricted usage limits so that the prospects can try out their services before purchasing the services. Both the CSPs follow Pay-As-You-Go pricing model, where Amazon charges per hour and Azure charges per minute. AWS instances can be purchased in three models - On demand, Reserved and Spot. On demand model can be used without paying any upfront cost and users need to pay for what they use. If an enterprise wants to reserve an instance for one to three years, then they need to opt for reserved method by paying upfront cost based on the use. Whenever there is extra capacity available, customers can bid for it and this method is termed as spot instances.

Security

As the trust in public cloud seems to be growing, majority of the companies still remain skeptical about entrusting the cloud infrastructure with their sensitive data and operations. Security is a paramount factor in cloud computing, especially with the rising number of high-profile hacking cases, security breaches and technological attacks. When it comes to Amazon cloud services and Microsoft cloud platform, both the cloud providers ensure exceptional security on their cloud infrastructure by offering role-based access control (RBAC). Azure’s RBAC is called Active Directory, whereas AWS’s RAC is termed as Identity and Access Management (IAM).

Conclusion

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure may be different in their infrastructure and offering, but each can meet the diverse needs of any organization effectively. Making a pick between Azure and AWS always come down to your business requirements and needs. Hence, do conduct a detailed research to figure out what you need and what the provider offers before taking a decision.




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