AWS vs Azure: Who Is The Winner?

By Aida Pandur, 22/08/2022

Digital transformation has been one of the defining phrases the last few years. This was true especially during the pandemic and its aftermath, when almost everyone was forced to make some kind of digital transition and adapt to the unpredictable state of the world. The main purpose of digital transformation is to take your business to the next level using various tools to maximise success and productivity.

An important part of this puzzle are cloud service providers, or CSP. It’s almost an imperative to have one considering the current market. In this article we’ll examine why cloud services are important and the key differences between two cloud giants.

What is a cloud service provider?

According to Microsoft, “A cloud service provider is a third-party company offering a cloud-based platform, infrastructure, application, or storage services.”

In other words, cloud services provide availability without the constraints of on-prem, physical servers. They are flexible and scalable for any business size, and they can be utilised across a wide range of sectors; from healthcare to finance. Cloud services also provide excellent security measures.

The rise of CSP and Amazon

In the cloud services world, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure and Google are considered to be the Big Three, since they take up most of the market share. For the purposes of this article, we’ll look at AWS and Azure.

While cloud computing was first mentioned in 1996, it wasn’t until a decade later that it started becoming globally accepted. AWS launched in August 2006, and it quite literally changed the world. Being the only company offering those services, it put Amazon ahead of the competition for many years to come.

Microsoft only started developing their cloud services that very same year, and Azure finally launched in 2008. However, even without the glaring advantage Amazon already had, Microsoft wasn’t able to catch up easily as the service was slow and not user friendly.

How Microsoft caught up

Did you know Microsoft Azure was originally called Windows Azure until 2014? A major shift in Microsoft staff and approach to this department in particular caused many changes and transformations. As a result, Azure started gaining traction, on top of continuously improved services.

Having the Microsoft name attached to it also helped this cloud service’s growth. It was something people were familiar with, and after a while it caught up to AWS to the point where Amazon’s ace stopped being the only obvious choice.

In fact, a recent IDC report suggests that in 2021 Microsoft Azure surpassed Amazon Web Services by a close margin.

Enterprise businesses in particular seem to favour Azure a lot more. It’s reported that 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft Azure.

Key differences

AWS and Azure services more or less similar, but they differ based on how they operate. We will examine only a few differences below.

  • Compute

    AWS uses EC2 (elastic cloud computing) which adapts to customer’s needs as necessary.

    In Azure, users can create their own Virtual Machines from a virtual hard disc.

    The key difference is that the EC2 is highly customisable for other uses, while Azure VMs pair best with other cloud services.

  • Cloud storage

    AWS offers services like Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Elastic Block Storage (EBS) and Elastic File System (EFS).

    Azure has Blob storage, Table storage, Queue storage and File storage.

    Both have many common traits, and while there are no obvious key differences since most of the above are directly comparable, the details and pricing of each need to be considered when deciding what to use for a business.

  • Security and data privacy

    AWS is slightly more secure as it offers enhanced privacy.

    Azure services are not 100% secure by default as VMs might need manual configuration.

  • Documentation

    AWS overall provides extensive documentation, however adding users and access rules is more complex than Azure.

    Azure keeps all the user accounts and information in one place, but the documentation is not as friendly as AWS.

  • Licensing

    AWS has more features and is more configurable than Azure.

    Azure has a greater number of software as a service (SaaS) features.

    Most of the services on both, however, are almost identical.

  • Pricing

    AWS is billed on an hourly basis, with instances such as on-demand (pay for what you use), spot (bidding) and reserved (upfront payment).

    Azure is billed on a per-minute basis. Therefore, users can get a better expense idea for Azure than for AWS. However, as Azure instances grow in size, they also get increasingly more expensive.

Conclusion

There is no clear winner when it comes to choosing your cloud service provider. Ultimately, it all depends on your business model, your budget and preferences. One thing is for certain though: cloud computing is essential in this day and age, and more businesses are moving towards cloud solutions, whether it’s AWS, Azure or any other cloud service.

We can help you transition and as a certified Microsoft partner, we can offer advice on Azure services – just reach out to us and we’ll get you started on your transformational journey.

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