The Azure vs AWS debate has been going on for a while. Experts go back and forth on the features, capacity, strengths and weaknesses of each platform. Despite all the debate, there is no clear consensus. The real answer? It depends.
The demand for hosted or hybrid cloud solutions like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services is a top trend in 2017. Gartner’s 2016 report recently scored AWS higher for IaaS. The truth is they are both leading cloud service providers.
Organizations of all sizes can build out public, private and hybrid cloud solutions with an array of AWS and Microsoft Azure configurations. When evaluating Azure vs AWS in your cloud implementation strategy, it’s important to know the distinct benefits each solution brings, but more importantly, how it will fit in with your unique business goals and strategy.
The Cloud and the Bottom Line
The cloud has already gone mainstream. Currently, 38 percent of enterprise IT is based in the cloud, and analysts expect it to reach 45 percent by 2019, according to a study by The Economist. The same study also concluded that organizations moving into the cloud with confidence had “higher revenue, profit and share price growth.”
Industry giants like Microsoft, Amazon and Google have built a huge amount of computing infrastructure around their cloud solutions, bringing economies of scale to data crunching. Their data centers are vastly more powerful, efficient and secure than any server room a normal company could afford to run.
Here are some key market changes that cloud providers have introduced:
- A proliferation of new business models from startups like Spotify and Bitcasa.
- Instant disaster recovery, with small enterprise two times as likely to keep backups in the cloud.
- Two-thirds of companies depended on cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in 2015.
From a tech standpoint, cloud-based solutions make supporting business functions more efficient and scalable. For instance, you can quickly deploy new cloud solutions and outsource maintenance.
From the CFO’s point of view, the cloud is more cost-efficient, lowers capital expenses and delivers greater value from existing company resources. The question isn’t whether to use the cloud, but rather which cloud makes the most sense for each company.
Some Background on Amazon Web Services
Amazon defines AWS as “a platform offering compute power, database storage, content delivery and other functionalities.” Some of those other functionalities in high demand include data analytics, application hosting and deployment services.
AWS is primarily a public cloud, but it also offers a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) option. In the end, many businesses end up running some form of hybrid cloud arrangement.
From sole proprietors to global enterprises, AWS helps businesses react more quickly to market changes at a lower total cost of ownership. It made an immediate impact by giving businesses a more flexible IT structure to grow in. Scaling up is as simple as adding more AWS capacity. No installations, no provisioning, no headaches. That’s why some of the earliest adopters of AWS remain their top clients, including innovative startups and traditional companies like Airbnb, BMW and Netflix.
Comparing Azure Vs AWS
Both AWS and Microsoft Azure can exist within the same company network, but it’s important to recognize where each one excels. Some IT analysts have characterized Microsoft Azure as more user-friendly and requiring less training time. The learning curve will not be as steep for IT specialists already familiar with Windows servers and .NET.
However, dedication to AWS does pay off in terms of greater flexibility and a wide array of third-party integrations. Before you decide between AWS or Microsoft Azure, or some combination of the two, seek out input from hybrid cloud deployment experts.
Here’s a breakdown of the benefits and downsides of AWS and Azure and factors to consider in your decision.
Benefits of AWS
AWS has a diverse customer base and broad range of uses, especially for enterprise and critical applications. It also has the largest share of compute capacity currently in use by paying customers. As a result, AWS has attracted a sizeable ecosystem of open source tools and over a thousand technology partners who have integrated their software to run with AWS.
No longer a newbie in the cloud market, AWS has remained an agile, innovative leader in IT markets. However, while it provides deep capabilities for managing a vast amount of users and resources with nearly unlimited flexibility, it still has some downsides.
Cautions with AWS
While it’s easy to get started with AWS, fully utilizing the platform requires expertise. When moving to AWS, businesses may need full time professional services, not just support.
AWS is constantly releasing new services and extended capabilities for existing services. If businesses don’t have the IT support to successfully implement and take advantage of new features, they could easily be overwhelmed by the range of options. Extensive training and third-party assistance is recommended to take advantage of AWS’ full range of capabilities.
Benefits of Azure
Microsoft Azure operates as a unified whole. Its services are standalone offerings, but also integrate seamlessly with on-premises infrastructure like Windows Server, System Center and Active Directory. Microsoft’s brand and deep customer relationships also make it an appealing option for many businesses. They’ve been heavily promoting Azure with discounts and offers that make it a cost-friendly option for current Microsoft customers.
Cautions with Azure
While Microsoft has rolled out critical promised features for enterprises, including security, performance, networking flexibility and user management, not all functionality has the desired completeness or API enablement desired by many customers.
Where AWS has built an extensive network of partners, Microsoft is still in the process of building out its Azure ecosystem. Many of the managed service and professional services partners lack extensive experience with the Azure platform. Without an expert partner, the quality of Azure solutions can be compromised.
Other factors to consider
Beyond the Azure vs AWS debate, there is the issue of how each solution integrates with your current goals and operations. Here are a few factors to consider when evaluating Azure vs AWS.
- Existing staff. Do they have the knowledge and training for the solution you’re considering? What’s their preference? If you have long term, valuable employees, getting their feedback is critical to your decision.
- Pricing estimates. Pricing can vary significantly according to your unique business needs. What is the pricing estimate for the first 6 months? 24 months? Billing and subscription management?
- Alignment with strategy. How do AWS and Azure align with your server and storage strategy? Development strategy?
- Compliance and security. Certain industries have various compliance and security needs that should be factored into your decision.
The Final Word on Azure vs AWS
The bottom line? At a high level, both solutions are leading cloud service providers. The answer depends on your business goals, licensing, employees’ skills and culture, needs and current infrastructure. The good news is we can help you with your decision. Visit Agile IT’s cloud implementation services page and talk to a cloud expert to be sure you have the cloud structure that fits with your future strategy.