There’s no doubt that cloud computing is at its prime now and many businesses are using it to effectively meet their computing infrastructure needs - from applications to storage and processing power - without owning on-premise data centres. Another big factor behind the increasing cloud adoption rate worldwide is big data - the hotspot of driving business growth in today’s heavy competition. As per a report from a reputed market research firm, the global cloud computing industry is expected to become a whopping $623.3 bn market by 2023 and grow at a CAGR of 18.0%. Cloud Computing benefits have become even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are forced to work from remote locations and tasks are being increasingly done on cloud infrastructure. Now, when we are talking about cloud computing, it’s worth mentioning Microsoft Azure vs AWS as both are the top cloud providers worldwide and choosing between the two often becomes a conundrum for businesses (especially for the ones new to cloud computing). It’s quite understandable also as both are solid performers and strong competitors, but what according to me could make your job much easier is to figure out which of the two cloud service juggernauts suits your business requirements the best.
That said, I am offering below a comparison between Azure and AWS so as to help you assess the key differences and make a decision you can be confident about.
Microsoft Azure vs AWS - Which is the best for your business?
Both AWS and Azure provide brilliant compute services, which basically are processing resources for applications, activities, or workloads. We can technically say that it’s the ability that both the top cloud providers provide you to launch instances on a need basis so that you can meet your compute and application requirements at all times, without any hassles and burden on your part.
Elastic Compute Cloud
Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is the primary offering of AWS for computing services. The flagship product is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. EC2 offers tailor-made options for your needs and supports Windows, Linux, bare metal instances, GPU instances, high-performance computing, scaling up and down and more.
AWS also provides EC2 container services that support Docker, Kubernetes, and its own Fargate service to automate server and cluster management when using containers. Elastic Beanstalk for deploying apps and Batch for batch computing jobs are some other related services.
Azure’s main offering for compute services is known as Virtual Machines. It enables scalable computing on demand and supports Linux distributions, Windows Server, SQL Server, Oracle, IBM, and SAP. Other services like Azure’s Container Instances, Azure Virtual Machine, App Service and Azure Functions put Azure on the similar lines of capabilities offered by AWS.
Virtual Machine Scale Sets from Azure fulfils auto-scaling requirements. Azure Container Service supports Kubernetes, Docker Hub and Azure Container Registry. Similar to AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Azure offers a Batch service and Cloud Services for scalable Web applications.
In addition, both the cloud providers offer various developer tools to more rapidly and reliably build and deliver software products, even by using DevOps. For example, AWS offers developers tools such as AWS Cloud Development Kit, AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeCommit, AWS CodeBuild and more. Azure, on the other hand, offers its own set of developer tools including AzurePing, Cloud Explorer for Visual Studio, Cloud Combine, SQL Database Migration Wizard, Azure Blob Studio, etc.
Both AWS and Azure offer various options for storage services and you need to match your requirements to make the best bet. For example, the nature of your business. If your business is related to finance, you would look for storing confidential information for a longer time, so archiving and accessibility at any time anywhere would be your priority. Compliant Storage and data regulations across different global regions for business expansion could be a requirement too, so you need to weigh your options accordingly to establish the best fit for your business.
AWS deployment services offers storage facilities including Buckets, Simple Storage Service (S3), Elastic Block Storage (EBS) EC2, Import/Export large volume data, Snowball for offline data transfer, Elastic File System (EFS) for file storage, Glacier archive backup and Storage Gateway for on-premise environments and more. Most government organizations trust AWS, which means it scores higher when it comes to compliance and dealing with sensitive data.
Azure’s storage services include Blob Storage, REST-based, Queue Storage for large-volume workloads, File Storage, Standard Archive and Disk Storage. Data Lake Store is its storage service for big data applications. Blob Storage offers three classes of storage: Hot, Cool and Archive. Among 50 compliant offerings of AWS, some worth mentioning are ITAR, DISA, HIPAA, CJIS and FIPS. You need to do good technical research to identify the best storage features for your business and then make a choice between the two cloud providers, else they both would look equivalent to each other.
AWS Database Services
AWS provides database services that support NoSQL and relational databases. Its database services include Aurora, RDS, DynamoDB, ElastiCache, Redshift, Neptune and Database migration service. For analytics, AWS offers EMR (a managed Hadoop, Spark and Presto solution), Athena and Kinesis. AWS provides a more mature environment for big data and analytics.
Azure Database Services
Azure offers more database options than AWS, including SQL Database, Database for MySQL, Database for PostgreSQL, Data Warehouse, Server Stretch Database, Cosmos DB, Table Storage, Redis Cache and Data Factory. It also supports both NoSQL and relational databases. For big data and analytics, Azure provides HDInsight, Stream Analytics, Cortana Intelligence Suite (which uses Hadoop, Spark, Storm, and HBase), Data Lake, Analytics, Analysis and Services.
AWS ensures that end-users receive content in a way that reduces latency and improves user experience. Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and Direct Connect from AWS interconnect data centres to keep the data close to users while maintaining network separation between the public, private and hybrid cloud environments. AWS uses an API gateway for cross-premises connectivity. The cloud provider also allows creating isolated networks within the cloud as well as subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges, and network gateways. Other networking-related services include CloudFront, Route 53 and DirectConnect. Elastic Load Balancing as the name suggests is used for load balancing during networking.
Azure offers Virtual Network as an alternative to VPN to create isolated networks. Azure uses a VPN gateway for cross-premises connectivity, whereas Load Balancer and App Gateway for load balancing. Some other key networking services of Azure are Content Delivery Network (CDN), Traffic Manager, Azure DNS and ExpressRoute.
Security concerns have been the major roadblock to cloud adoption, but both AWS and Azure have addressed those concerns quite well so far. However, you need to know what security solutions both the cloud giants provide, and it’s also good to keep a disaster recovery option in the mind.
AWS offers Directory Service for authentication and access Management. You can manage the security of hybrid environments using IAM but you need to integrate it with on-premises tools like Active Directory, which is the identity and access manager for Windows and Azure. AWS VPC and Direct Connect help set up a virtual private network to transfer data between your data centre and a public cloud. AWS does not have a dedicated Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution but you can achieve it by combining different AWS services to meet your disaster recovery requirements. AWS does a better job in defaulting to secure configurations and has been more popular for private and public cloud offerings.
Azure approaches identity and security management through Active Directory. ExpressRoute and Virtual Network are two services similar to Amazon’s AWS VPC. Both the cloud providers offer key-based data management and encryption services and even the monitoring services are almost similar. However, it’s worth noting that Azure uses a single directory for authorization and permissions, whereas AWS requires you to configure federation, users, and access for each account. Having a single truth for authorization and permissions makes management easier and more consistent but results in less isolation and protection from different environments. Azure is more suited to a hybrid cloud. When it comes to disaster recovery option, Azure Site Recovery is the best in class DRaaS solution to store data in the cloud for easy retrieval in the event of a disaster.
Key Tools for Emerging Technologies
Both the cloud providers know that emerging technologies like AI & ML, IoT, edge computing, serverless computing and managed services will be the key differentiators among the top cloud service providers, hence offer various tools to stay ahead in the race.
Amazon’s Key Tools
AWS offers SageMaker to build, train, and deploy machine learning models at any scale. IoT Core is a managed cloud service that lets connected devices easily and securely interact with cloud applications and other devices. Greengrass is an IoT functionality for edge computing, allowing to perform data collection and analysis closer to its origin. AWS has also designed a deep learning library known as Gluon to help build and quickly train neural networks even without the knowledge of AI programming. AWS also offers DeepLens (for optical character recognition and image and object recognition), TensorFlow, Rekognition, Apache MXNet on AWS, Deep Learning AMIs and more machine learning and AI-based products. For serverless computing, AWS offers Lambda.
Azure’s Key Tools
Azure offers Cognitive Services, Azure Bot Service and Machine Learning for AI and ML. These services include a Web Search API, Text Analytics API, Face API, Computer Vision API and Custom Vision Service. Azure Machine Learning Studio allows developers to deploy machine learning models and services. For IoT, Azure offers IoT Hub and various management and analytics services. Its IoT Edge allows developers to carry out edge computing, which enables data analysis on the devices at the edge of the network rather than the cloud itself, saving cost and time. Functions is Azure's version for serverless computing.
For pricing, both AWS and Azure offer Pay-As-You-Go pricing model, along with a free trial period to try before you buy. After that, AWS charges per hour and Azure per minute, however, making an estimate for your requirements is tricky as there are many variables involved. There are also various services that are priced differently. Amazon’s calculator might not be very helpful because of the granular pricing structure, hence a third-party cost management tool or help from an outside cloud specialist is highly recommended. Same goes for Azure too as Microsoft's complicated software licensing options and use of situation-based discounts make it difficult to understand the pricing structure.
AWS is the oldest (incepted in 2006) and the most dominant player in the cloud market with 33% market share, whereas Azure entered the market in 2010 and has now become the second-largest cloud provider with 15% market share. Azure now gives a neck-to-neck competition to AWS. For example, some Azure tools that have no AWS equivalent include Azure Visual Studio Online, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Event Hubs, and Azure Scheduler. But again, both the cloud providers have potent capabilities and they keep coming with new tools, services and pricing discounts from time to time, making it very difficult to choose the best one. The decision finally boils down to understanding your business requirements and which one suits them the best. However, the most convenient and cost-effective way to solve the puzzle and make the digital transformation is to go for a tech partner with hands-on experience of providing AWS and Azure cloud services.