Cloud Computing

Microsoft Azure versus Amazon AWS

Public cloud is more popular than ever and gathering pace in recent years, as more and more businesses move applications out of their data centres in a bid to cut costs and increase agility. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the oldest of the public cloud offerings and has held a position in the Leader quadrant for five consecutive years. Microsoft’s Azure runs a close second behind AWS.

Selecting one cloud provider over the other will come down to individual customer needs. Every company has got different demands and workloads. By looking at the offerings and services from these cloud providers, companies can make their choices. There is a big list to go through when it comes to evaluate and list items are;

    • Compute
    • Storage
    • Networking
    • Security & Access
    • Service Offerings
    • Support & Service Levels
    • Management & DevOps
    • Price & Billing

One of the biggest selling point is the “Price and Billing”. Saying that as many people know this is a quite challenging task for customers because of it’s complexity. There is no particular set “menu” of prices available. AWS charges customers by rounding up the number of hours used, so the minimum use is one hour. Azure charges customers by rounding up the number of minutes used for on demand. Azure also offers short-term commitments with discounts. Amazon’s Simple Monthly Calculator allows you to enter the number of Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances, the number of Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes, IP addresses, data transfer information, load balancing, and all of Amazon’s various offerings. Microsoft’s Azure Pricing Calculator is just as complex as Amazon’s, although it looks easier and more user friendly. Microsoft’s calculator allows you to choose SQL database options, Hadoop options, App services, networking, web, mobile, identity, and media services all on the same page. Microsoft’s calculator is thorough and complete. You can probably estimate your costs very closely with this calculator tool.

For computational offerings, AWS’s main offering is its EC2 instances, which can be tailored with a large number of options. You select the size, power, memory capacity, and number of VMs and choose from among different regions and availability zones within which to launch. EC2 also allows load balancing (ELB) and auto scaling. ELB distributes loads across instances for better performance, and auto scaling allow users to automatically scale available EC2 capacity up or down. On the other hand, Azure’s main offering is its Virtual Machines (VMs) which is equivalent to Amazon’s AMI, to create a VM. A VHD can be either predefined by Microsoft, by third parties, or be user-defined. With each VM, you need to specify the number of cores and amount of memory.

When it comes to Storage, AWS provides ephemeral (temporary) storage that is allocated once an instance is started and is destroyed when the instance is terminated. It provides Block Storage that is equivalent to hard disks, in that it can either be attached to any instance or kept separate. AWS also offers object storage with their S3 Service, and archiving services with Glacier. AWS fully supports relational and NoSQL databases and Big Data. Azure uses temporary storage (D drive) and Page Blobs (Microsoft’s Block Storage option) for VM-based volumes. Block Blobs and Files serve for Object Storage. Azure supports both relational and NoSQL databases and Big Data, through Windows Azure Table and HDInsight.

In the end both companies have got white paper to explain their services and offerings. When I went through everything I would say Microsoft is catching up, AWS’ existence is there and solid and they are reducing their pricing as well. One thing I notice which made me lean towards Azure was its hybrid cloud offering. Unlike Microsoft, AWS has ignored the benefits of on-premise private clouds. Many organisations prefer to keep sensitive data within their own data centres and use the public cloud as a branch office or another site.  I think this is very important as no one wants to move to the cloud completely, not just yet.


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