This post was originally published on DevOps.com in October 2016.
In a previous post we discussed Azure & OpenStack, the less-explored hybrid cloud, and we thought we’d segue on the hybrid cloud theme, and follow up with an additional post focusing on a question we’re often asked …
Azure or AWS?
It’s one of the most common questions enterprise customers today face as they look to go to the cloud. According to this year’s Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report, the two cloud powerhouses are the clear market leaders, and as they each add new services to their arsenal and expand their service offerings, customers must decide which one is best-suited for their business needs. This, of course, is in the context of public cloud, whereas the question of OpenStack vs. VMware usually arises in the context of private cloud. And with reports popping up all the time that demonstrate growing numbers around every hybrid cloud mix-and-match scenario, many enterprises are debating on what to bet their cloud strategy.
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To begin this comparison, it’s important to understand how each has evolved. Azure was built as a holistic platform and has been geared toward the enterprise from the beginning. It began as a platform as a service (PaaS), making it easier for developers to build applications without worrying about the servers on which they’re running. In addition, part of the Azure approach always has been to think about how to integrate each service to the platform as a whole and support enterprises’ IT flexibility with keeping specific workloads on-premises while complementing their IT requirements with services running on the cloud.
AWS, on the other hand, started scaling from the infrastructure from the beginning. Its approach has been to continually be ahead of the innovation curve and offer services that IT operations can easily comprehend and use to support their compute and storage requirements on demand.
Market Share Comparison: The Path to Growth
It’s not hard to see why both AWS and Azure have grown into their roles as the market leaders. Today more than 70 Amazon services can be utilized, including the basic compute, storage and network building blocks, as well as “up the stack” services such as database as a service and even frameworks to easily scale mobile applications, databases and more. AWS has a massive public cloud with the largest data centers in the world, and excels at allowing their customers to choose the building blocks they need to create a variety of service offerings.
That said, Azure is growing as well, and quickly gaining ground on AWS. Microsoft has moved aggressively to match AWS by enhancing and building up its array of offerings. The company has been selling to the enterprise market for decades and, as a result, has garnered strong relationships with many large global organizations. These efforts and relationships seem to be paying off, as a recent survey of 100 CIOs by Morgan Stanley predicted that Azure would be the largest infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) vendor by 2019.
Enterprise-Grade Product Capabilities
AWS and Azure both provide comprehensive enterprise cloud services, and they both do it well. The core features of AWS include a large suite of infrastructure and application services that enable running nearly everything in the cloud, from traditional enterprise applications to large web-scale workloads. AWS is the clear winner these days in terms of the number of services it offers; the services are well-connected and provide full cloud capabilities for most enterprise needs.
Azure is also fast closing the gaps with the enterprise cloud market, including with large-size virtual machines, StorSimple Virtual Array, itsNAS offering and the SQL Data Warehouse. In addition, with its recent announcement of Azure Stack, and via solutions such as Cloudify, Microsoft strengthens hybrid architecture and workload mobility between on-premises and public cloud workloads.
Other factors that are driving enterprises to adopt Azure include the Azure Security Center (ASC), which provides a centralized view of security policies and configurations from multiple Azure subscriptions; the ability for customers to save time and effort through unified operations tools such as SQL Manager, Visual Studio and other such services; and seamless VM migration to migrate servers between disparate environments.
Microsoft also plans to invest heavily in cloud growth going forward, with a big push and investment in new features and infrastructure. Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud unit continues to be the focal point of the company’s growth strategy, as the company claims that nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies use at least three of Microsoft’s cloud offerings.
Both AWS and Azure, in fact, are investing heavy capital expenditures on worldwide data centers and servers. AWS, for example, has just announced a new Asia Pacific region in Mumbai, India, with two availability zones. And with the introduction of new regions in the U.K., Microsoft has announced 34 Azure regions around the world, with 28 generally available today—more than any other major cloud provider. With certifications such as MCSE and many more, Microsoft has more certifications than any other cloud provider in the industry.
Both AWS and Azure are poised to continue growing, and both companies have big futures in the cloud market. It’s clear, however, that in the cloud game today, Azure is narrowing the functional gap. Azure gives enterprises the ability to use existing Microsoft software licenses under the Enterprise Agreement (EA), giving enterprises better terms and packages. Microsoft enterprise users are potentially ‘power users,’ and prefer a DIY approach versus pre-packaged and opinionated options. This leaves the market open to more collaboration, such as through the use of Docker Swarm. With this type of approach, users have control over the way they run their apps on various platforms, with open-source orchestration to allow consistent management and control of their applications and services.