This post was originally published on DevOps.com
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?
If this question comes to your mind, you’re not alone – the Azure vs. AWS debate comes up for many enterprises as they explore their move to the cloud. As market leaders in the enterprise cloud space (with Google trailing at third), Amazon and Microsoft are both strong contenders for the market with their offerings. Ultimately, the decision lies on the enterprise themselves, and which service best meets their needs. Keep in mind, when we speak about Azure and AWS, we are discussing them in the context of public cloud. The debate would move to OpenStack vs. VMware were we to discuss private cloud. Over the years with the growth and adoption of hybrid cloud scenarios – combining providers to build the ultimate environment to fit their needs – many enterprises are debating where to invest in their cloud strategy.
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Let’s start the comparison between these two solutions by looking at their evolution.
Microsoft’s Azure has been enterprise-focused since its inception. A holistically-built platform, it began as a Platform as a Service (PaaS), which made it easier for developers to build apps without consideration of the servers running them. A part of the approach Azure takes, is a strong consideration of how to integrate services to the platform as a whole, to support IT flexibility by allowing specific workloads to remain on-prem, while leveraging the cloud to supplement enterprises’ IT requirements by running other services.
Amazon’s AWS has been scaling from the infrastructure from the very beginning. AWS’ approach is to push ahead of the curve with innovation, adding services that IT Ops find easy to understand and implement, and to use to address their requirements on demand.
Market Share Comparison: The Path to Growth
It’s easy to see why Azure and AWS have both risen to the top in the cloud space.
Today, Amazon has 175 services fully featured services – from basic computing, network building blocks, and storage, as well as more feature-rich “up the stack” services including database as a service. They even offer frameworks for easily scaling mobile apps, databases, and more. AWS has some of the largest data centers in the world, supporting a massive public cloud, and they are known for their ability to enable customers to choose what they need in order to create a variety of service implementations.
That said, Azure is still the enterprise favorite and holds its own against AWS. Microsoft has shown itself fully capable to aggressively rival AWS’ offerings by building up an array of its own. With decades of experience in the enterprise market, they have strong relationships and trust built with many global organizations. They’ve leveraged this relationship with organizations to understand what they want, and to build an offering to suit, in a format that straddles SaaS and Iaas. Azure easily plugs in to and supports enterprise favorites in the software lineup, such as Salesforce, SAP, and Adobe amongst others.
Enterprise-Grade Product Capabilities
Both Azure and AWS have comprehensive cloud services that are well-suited to the enterprise. AWS has a core feature set including application and infrastructure services to enable running nearly everything on the cloud – from web-scale workloads to enterprise applications. AWS could be considered the leader in terms of services – the sheer volume is very comprehensive, to say the least – providing full cloud capabilities to suit most enterprise demands.
But don’t count Azure out of the running. Microsoft comes in with it’s own solutions and services, addressing demands with large-size virtual machines, StorSimple Virtual Array, the SQL Data Warehouse, and a NAS offering. Microsoft also has a strength in hybrid architecture. The Azure Stack paired with solutions such as Cloudify, enables workload mobility between public cloud and on-prem workloads.
There is more to Azure that makes it an appealing solution in the enterprise. Azure Security Center (ASC) provides a centralized view of configurations and security policies across multiple Azure subscriptions. Customers also save time and effort by having unified operations tools, such as Visual Studio, SQL Manager, and other services. Azure also enables seamless VM migration for servers moving between disparate environments.
Seeing the remarkable potential of the cloud, Microsoft has invested heavily in new features and infrastructure for many years now, solidifying its commitment to the market. Microsoft’s growth strategy now is to focus on the hybrid cloud, with 2019’s announcement of Azure Arc – an offering which allows customers to run Azure management tools and services in their own data center, or in another cloud. Rather than seeking to dominate the cloud market, Microsoft is instead focusing on giving enterprises the freedom to create the environment that best suits their own goals. Their strategies seem to be working: a recent statement from a Microsoft executive claims that 95% of Fortune 500 companies are using Azure.
Azure and AWS have both invested capital expenditure on broadening their reach, through worldwide servers and data centers. While they keep the specifics of their data center locations private, we can say that AWS has a global infrastructure spanning 22 geographic regions and 69 availability zones, serving 245 countries and territories. They’ve also announced plans to launch 16 more availability zones and 5 more regions. Meanwhile, Azure is globally available in 52 regions with plans to launch in 5 more.
In the well-established and still rapidly-evolving market of the enterprise cloud, both Azure and AWS have put their proverbial steaks in the ground, committing themselves to the future of the industry. For large enterprises, Azure offers the flexibility of the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA), allowing organizations to use existing licenses to access better terms and packages. Generally speaking, Microsoft enterprise users tend to be power users, with the capacity to leverage a DIY approach rather than trying to conform to predetermined solutions – thank goodness for Azure Arc. Supporting the hybrid cloud encourages a collaborative market, driving innovation and progress from proprietary and open source providers alike.