AWS Vs. Azure: Key Differences and Business Benefits | Hacker Noon

The Big Three, Amazon, Azure, and Google, are driving the cloud computing market. The variety of opportunities they offer to businesses is endless which makes the decision even more difficult — which cloud will benefit my business the most?

In 2019, Canalys reported that 32.4% of the market preferred AWS to its competitors. However, there is a very curious ‘but’ — the annual growth in Azure is twice as high as in AWS.

Does this mean that more and more enterprises find Azure more effective than Amazon? Why? Is Azure going to outrun AWS soon? Let’s see.

Reasons for Migration

Business isn’t always all about money. Cloud solutions allow enterprises to considerably save on infrastructure maintenance. Also, the ability to scale faster, expand your network, increase resource flexibility, and the computing power makes the cloud solutions even more attractive for all kinds of businesses.

In this overview we’ll try to show you in detail why the Azure market share is steadily growing and if you need to consider it a worthy option for migration.

Very often the decision to migrate to a certain cloud or to a different cloud is driven by the marketing campaign of one of the giants. The competition between Azure and AWS has become an intense fight for customers. The cloud providers offer enterprises the platform assets for migration, thus, the company gets free infrastructure maintenance for a few months and eventually stays with the provider due to the cost of migration that they don’t want to pay.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that a company’s cloud computing needs depend on its infrastructure size and complexity. Thus, small and medium businesses would prefer simpler solutions to the ones that require more resource allocation. This is not always the case though, which is why we are going to break it down Microsoft Azure vs.  AWS offerings. Let’s get down to it.

AWS vs. Azure: Break it Down into Pieces

Since Amazon has the highest market share on the market with Azure challenging it, the most popular question among cloud users appears to be ‘is AWS better than Azure?’ This is what we are going to find out by comparing them piece by piece.

Migration Simplicity

Some might say that Azure has a very low entry barrier due to its ease of use, nativity, and simplicity compared to AWS. At first, you think everything is clear with AWS, but taking a closer look, you understand that working with AWS requires you to have related experience, and hire a certified DevOps engineer OR EVEN TWO :O. Unlike AWS, Azure is easier to migrate to and work with. 

It’s hard to estimate which cloud will be easier to start working with, but Azure can be easier for those who have previous experience with Microsoft products (because of the service names, some similarities in the interface, etc.) On the other hand, AWS tries to make everything as easy as possible and provides tools and documentation for flawless migration.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Microsoft has better integration between its products than Azure and always works on adding new features, such as the direct deployment of the application from Visual Studio to the Azure App Service.

The truth is that the choice of which cloud to migrate to depends mostly on the experience of the DevOps engineer you’ve hired. Whichever cloud they are experienced with will be easier to migrate to, it’s as simple as that.

Compute

Users of AWS EC2 can configure their containers themselves or choose a pre-configured image. They can specify the size, power, memory capacity, number of VMs, and more importantly, the region where the data center is located.

In Azure users choose a Virtual Hard Disc (VHD) to create a VM. The VHD can be pre-configured by Microsoft, the users, or a DevOps services provider. The number of cores and amount of memory need to be specified while configuring the VMs.

AWS and Azure have almost the same prices for the basic block of any cloud — compute unit (AWS EC2, Azure VM). It may vary a little depending on the specific workload (memory optimized VMs or I/O optimized VMs), but the biggest difference is in very specific fields that are on the cutting edge of progress — Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, and Big data. Since all of the above-mentioned fields require specific processors (that are developed individually for each cloud), the price and effectiveness can vary among clouds.

Complexity

Both clouds offer dozens of managed services that can be integrated for an additional fee (compared with self-hosted services running on top of the virtual machine). They make such processes as backup and disaster recovery, security updates, fault-tolerance, autoscaling totally painless.

For example, CloudEndure Disaster Recovery in AWS offers automatic data replication in the unfortunate case of disaster. Azure provides a combination of services: Azure Backup, Azure Site Recovery, and Archive Storage to prevent data loss at the time of crisis. 

Storage

AWS invented the cloud object file storage (AWS S3), but today each cloud provider has its own interpretation of it (Azure Storage accounts) with the same price and functionality. Moreover, each provider offers different types of storage services depending on the workload. It can be volumes attached to virtual machines (AWS EBS, Azure Managed Disks), different implementations of the network file systems (AWS EFS, AWS FSx, Azure Files), different databases (Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, Azure Cosmos DB, Azure Cache, Azure SQL Database), data lakes, etc.

Pricing plan

Even though the amount of money you pay for the same infrastructure on AWS and Azure may vary, there is rarely a drastic difference. AWS and Azure even offer the same pricing plans:

  • Pay-as-you-go model. This pricing method is convenient for infrastructures with unpredictable or spiky workloads. Unlike AWS, Azure charges for seconds (minutes in AWS) which ensures more precise pricing. 
  • Reserved VM instances. This model considerably differs from the pay-as-you-go one by its comparatively long-term commitment (one to three-year contract depending on the region). However, in return, clients get a price cut of up to 72%. This pricing model would perfectly work for products with steady usage and companies that want to have a predictable budget. 
  • Spot instances. This is an extreme solution for clients that want to significantly reduce expenses on cloud computing. Using the spot compute capacity can save up to 90% on your cloud expenses. Spot instances pricing model will only work for applications that can tolerate interruptions or have a flexible execution time.

Azure vs. AWS Cost Comparison

The prices for instances on AWS and Azure may not differ much, but the way solutions are implemented varies from cloud to cloud. Check out the details with this example — here is the same infrastructure implemented on Amazon Web Services vs. Azure with accurate price calculations.

Networking

It makes sense to consider the number of data centers around the world and mention that the closer the datacenter is to the client working on your cloud application – the faster it will work. If compared to Azure, AWS has many more data centers. All interconnections inside one cloud are similar and provide the same level of security, manageability, and price.

Support

The support plan on AWS works on the sliding scale so the bill might be quite large if you are a frequent support services user. On the other hand, Azure charges its users a flat monthly fee. Again, no DevOps provider will recommend migrating to a certain cloud without having previously reviewed your infrastructure, access to DevOps resources, and the needs of your team.

Integrations and Open Source

Both cloud giants are investing a lot of resources into open-source to provide integrations with popular tools. However, AWS has warmer relations with open-source and more tools are alredy integrated.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that it somehow negatively affects Azure. Why? Azure Cloud is developed by Microsoft, remember? So, companies that are already using Windows development tools are good to go with native Azure integrations. For example, you could use the same AD account to sign in your Office 365 or Azure SQL instances. 

Azure is also great for .net developers as they can take advantage of the Azure integration with Visual Studio and use ready-to-go templates to quickly and easily build applications on Azure within the environment already know.

Even though Azure has just begun to catch up on the integrations matter, now, companies can use Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Apache Hadoop clusters in Azure.

Containerization and Orchestration

As containerization and orchestration of containers are now a trend, both parties are heavily involved in providing managed services such as AWS EKS, Azure AKS, AWS ECS, Azure AppService to provide registries to store and analyze containers (AWS ECR, Azure Blob Storage).

AWS has strong, mature analytics offerings that involve IoT, Big Data, and Machine Learning approaches to container orchestration and analysis. They also provide Docker support. On the other hand, Azure is not far behind the AWS offerings. In fact, it may appear a formidable competitor to AWS in the matter of container orchestration.

Azure provides Hadoop support with Azure HDInsight service, Windows Server 2016 offers integration with Docker for both Windows and Hyper-V containers. Moreover, as we mentioned before, Azure supports Windows and Linux containers which makes Azure Cloud something much bigger than just a challenger to AWS. 

Compliance

Both cloud providers offer a wide range of certifications including ITAR, DISA, HIPAA, CJIS, FIPS, and more, as well as maintain a high-security level which is a must for companies storing sensitive data.

Hybrid Cloud Capabilities

Unlike the matters of Azure vs. AWS comparison previously mentioned, understanding the differences in hybrid cloud capabilities is quite simple. AWS has just recently turned from a ‘public cloud or nothing’ policy to an ‘okay, maybe we should embrace hybrid cloud too’ policy. In November 2020, Amazon presented its Snowball Edge, offering its users a 100TB hard drive to be able to move workloads between its cloud and clients’ data centers. Also, a partnership with VMware allowed its clients to enter the AWS cloud environments.

AWS, as mentioned above, is just starting its journey into hybrid cloud opportunities whilst Azure has been actively embracing it for a long time and has now developed strong hybrid cloud support.

Such platforms as Azure StorSimple, Hybrid SQL Server, and Azure Stack allow Azure users to freely bring full public Azure cloud functionality onto their on-premise servers. Moreover, the pay-as-you-go pricing model is available for hybrid clouds too.

So What Do I Choose: AWS or Azure?

Unless your enterprise has very specific requirements to the cloud provider which, as we mentioned earlier, will be determined by your DevOps team, your choice of cloud boils down to what development environments you are already using and what experience your DevOps engineers have.

Concerning the most frequently mentioned requirement — the pricing difference between AWS and Azure  — check out the price calculators on AWS or Azure website or request an infrastructure comparison on Azure vs. Amazon and see how they will be implemented including the pricing specifics of the two clouds.

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