If you are reading this, you are likely interested in or already utilize cloud solutions. Both Azure and AWS (Amazon Web Services) offer a variety of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) offerings. Selection between the two, with AWS the dominant market leader, is typically based on business requirements and online research or direct referrals (some of your contacts recommend a solution based on pricing, uptime or other). I could rehash vendor websites, favorable reviews, and other somewhat biased materials to prove the headline but, as always, I prefer to go my own route, bringing my own biases to the fore.
At the time of writing, both Microsoft and AWS are bidding on the same project, formally known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), a U.S. military cloud for the Department of Defense. Informally, it’s known as the war cloud.
AWS has a higher federal security rating than Microsoft and holds the Level 6 certification needed to host sensitive classified information. Microsoft is catching up, holding Level 5, with Level 6 pending. A black mark against Microsoft? Hardly. When you consider Amazon’s cavalier usage of customer data in smart devices, Amazon is not a company I’d associate with secrecy. In addition, Microsoft is not one of the companies required to defend its business practices in front of Congress or pay EU regulatory fines. This leads, almost like I planned it, to my first point. As Jack Nicholson asked in a similar debate in the 1989 movie Batman, “who do you trust?” In terms of customer trust, the winner has to be Microsoft. Love ’em or hate ‘em, Microsoft has been around a long time and coincidentally, their origins do not lie in e-commerce but in operating systems, business software and related solutions.
Why Choose Azure?
It’s a Microsoft product. Laboring the point a bit but I’d guess you already use several of their products, whether it’s Windows, Office, Skype, LinkedIn or Bing. AWS may well have been the first major public cloud service provider (2006) and have the largest market share but Microsoft is gaining ground. Other reasons for choosing Azure over AWS include the following but are not limited to:
Many companies seek to reduce outgoing expenses and Azure offers several ways to do just that. It doesn’t make sense to involve a provider other than Microsoft if your core software is in fact Microsoft-based. You will obviously pay more for Microsoft solutions through another provider.
Software licensing is another area of potential expense. With Azure, existing on-premise licensing is converted free for use in the cloud. In addition, holders of Enterprise licensing agreements can obtain Azure discounts. To estimate the potential costs of Azure, use this pricing calculator. For AWS, compare pricing here.
If you’ve checked both pricing calculators, you’ll have noticed that Azure’s is more user-friendly. The same is true of administration and configuration of services. AWS may have more services but uses unfamiliar processes and product/function names (Amazon Glacier vs. Azure’s “Data Storage”, for example), requiring tutorials and troubleshooting suitable only for the technically experienced. Who has the time to learn the names Amazon assigned for their long list of services? I’d much rather explore Azure’s offerings, broken down into sensible categories such as Security, Developer Tools, Analytics, etc.
Azure uses familiar trusted technologies that are based on existing solutions that were repurposed for cloud usage. In my opinion, cost-effective usage of the AWS platform requires special training or the hiring of someone with specific skills. With Azure, the skills required are already present in the form of a system administrator, who is already familiar with Active Directory, for example.
It’s generally accepted that AWS is weak on hybrid or private clouds, seeming to push users towards a 100% cloud adoption scenario. This is never recommended as you are then depending on a third party for business operations. It's always better to include redundancy in your infrastructure. If one solution is inactive, use another. Azure offers full hybrid capabilities to connect your data center to the cloud, including VPNs, content delivery networks (CDNs) and ExpressRoute connections.
Migration is always an issue when moving to the cloud. With Azure, all .Net developed applications are seamlessly migrated. Moving Windows apps to the cloud are straightforward, unlike other providers.
In my eyes, little more needs to be said but given the same choice, if I needed to move to the cloud, Azure is worth exploring further(given my familiarity and usage of Microsoft products). They offer a free trial to test it all out, with many solutions always free. AWS also offers a free trial before committing to a paid plan.
In conclusion, my own bias aside, both companies offer world-class class solutions and are 1 and 2 in the market. Ultimately, it’s a matter of choice as the above is not an exhaustive list, merely listing areas where Azure ‘excels’ (that reminds me, Excel and all other Office 365 solutions also integrate easily in Azure). You select the best option for your business; if you avoid Microsoft solutions then AWS is the alternative. There is no real reason why you shouldn’t experiment with both using their free plans. Whatever your cloud requirements, both will cover it. Is using multiple cloud providers the real answer? That’s a topic for another time… Bear in mind that service pricing (for all cloud providers) is difficult to predict and needs careful monitoring to avoid unexpected bills when on a paid subscription. Best of luck.