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Amazon Web Services vs. Microsoft Azure

Cloud computing is already gaining popularity and offers a degree of financial levity and reduced downtime from maintenance. The bigger tech companies present already recognize that potential and have established their own solutions for offer. This article aims to give some insight to the two biggest competitors as well as how the two compare to each other.

What is Cloud Computing?

 

During app development and maintenance, there are plenty of extraneous costs that can be directly attributed to server hosting, whether it be physical or digital.  Like renting a car, the primary purpose of cloud computing is to provide these mechanisms over the internet on-demand, helping to alleviate many of the up-front IT costs typically related to infrastructure and letting companies get right to launching their applications sooner.  Services on offer usually range anywhere from additional servers to additional storage or computing power and processors.  For additional details on cloud computing, we have a great article you can read here.

What is AWS?

 

Amazon provides a number of tools on the cloud and has been the forerunner for providing cloud tools for over a decade - predating even Microsoft’s Azure.  Amazon’s tools are incredibly diverse and there are a hundred and seventy-five services in total that cover everything from analytics to developer tools.  Though it can be hard to understand at first, AWS also comes integrated with learning tools that adjust capacity based on expected interaction to best minimize wasted uptime and money spent on the monthly AWS bill.  For those looking to get started with AWS, feel free to check out the article we have on the matter.

What is Microsoft Azure?

While Amazon has largely remained dominant within the cloud tools industry for over a decade and a half, Microsoft has made significant headway into building their own counterparts.  Historically, Microsoft has been a popular choice for executives with existing long-term relations with the company, meaning they can keep many of their computing needs all in one place.  Even with as long as they had remained in second place, Microsoft has managed to make the most of Azure, Office 365, and Teams in conjunction with each other and has made similar ventures into artificial intelligence that Amazon has.  As Microsoft continues to aim for being viable in a market already dominated by AWS, they may come ahead in some aspects while remaining behind in others.

Main Features

 

Key Components and Services

Because of its comparatively longer history, AWS does have a greater diversity in services it has on offer, each ideal for handling a wider variety of situations.  If there is a specific industry with a specific set of conditions and needs, AWS either has the exact tool needed or a close fit that can be made to work.

Comparatively, while there are fewer services on offer, Microsoft’s offerings aren’t weak in comparison and do have the flexibility to match.  Additionally, Microsoft does have the resources and capacity to continuously maintain and run the services it provides and will continue to expand its catalog going forward.

Computing Power

By default, AWS offers Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) as the primary resource for users for computing capabilities within the Amazon Cloud.  The key feature to EC2 is its scalability in how easily it can withstand high demand and adjust to high traffic.  Users can tailor this virtual machine with a variety of options for size, power, memory, and the number of machines the user wants to run in parallel.  It’s a powerful tool with variety in how users apply it.

In comparison, Microsoft offers virtual hard disks (VHDs) to create virtual machines.  Though with less control once they are in use, VHDs can be pre-configured by Microsoft, the user, or whatever third-party the user is working with.  VHDs are dependent on virtual scale for modeling their scaling after.  However, it does have the capacity to pair with other tools in order to deploy to the cloud.

Storage

AWS uses machine instances for storage - virtual machines hosted on AWS infrastructure.  In turn, storage is then tied to temporary individual instances that are allocated once and terminated once they are no longer needed.  Additionally, there are different services for different data types such as the Simple Storage Service (S3) for objects or Glacier for data archiving.

Azure similarly offers temporary storage and object storage through Page Blobs for virtual machines.  Like AWS, it does support relational databases, Big Data, and NoSQL.  Additionally, there are options for cold and hot storage depending on how long data needs to be stored and how frequently it will be accessed.  For all intents and purposes, Azure’s storage capabilities are on par with AWS’ services.

Databases

This is a field AWS will definitely edge out.  Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) supports multiple database types, including the in-house Amazon Aurora, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL, MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL.  Azure only works with Microsoft SQL.  Other than that, both work perfectly fine with NoSQL and relational databases, are highly available, durable, and offer easy replication.

Pricing

Both services utilize a pay-as-you-go model with easy methods of terminating the contract if it doesn’t work out exactly.  AWS charges by the hour with additional instances that can be purchased and impact the bottom line.  Such instances are either on-demand or reserved for anywhere between one and three years at a time.

Azure on the other hand charges by the minute, charging users much more tightly for what they actually use.  They also offer monthly and prepaid charges.  Generally speaking, Azure is going to be a bit cheaper than AWS.

Both services are going to require some degree of investment before getting too far into it.  However, both groups do also offer free tiers to dip your toes in the water and get a feel for how either service works.  We do have a full checklist of services on AWS’ Free Tier.

Pros and Cons

AWS

    • Pros
      • There is a strong presence in the market for cloud services. It has been around the longest and has had the time to adapt and expand.
      • A variety of services are available
      • Great for large services
      • Has infrastructure globally
    • Cons
      • Expensive - AWS’ pricing model is a bit esoteric and difficult to manage
      • Perceived lack of cost transparency for some users

Azure

    • Pros
      • Microsoft has managed to rapidly close the distance with what it had on the cloud already with Azure, making the transition easier for fans of Office, SQL Server, Windows Server, and others
      • Microsoft is ubiquitous enough to the point multiple organizations globally rely on their services in one way or another, and as such will fit in nicely with Azure
      • Existing Microsoft customers will get a discount on Azure services
    • Cons
      • Still a novice service
      • Struggles in enterprise performance despite Microsoft’s history as an enterprise vendor
      • Primarily tailored towards enterprise customer

Dolan Cleary

Dolan Cleary

I am a recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin - Stout and am now working with AllCode as a web technician. Currently working within the marketing department.

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