In a pretty short space of time, businesses have become spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing cloud infrastructure and platform providers – but the two undoubted leaders and most commonly-encountered options are Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure. Which one is right for you, and does the choice really matter?
Let’s first quickly take a look at how each respective offering shapes up. First, AWS. Amazon Web Services is the big dog of the cloud infrastructure space and offers a wide range of Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service options.
Some of these solutions have familiar names:
- EC2 IaaS
- PaaS configuration (Elastic Beanstalk)
- Storage (S3 & Glacier)
- Databases (RDS, RedShift, SimpleDB, DynamoDB)
- Networking (Route 53, VPC)
- Deployment & Configuration Management (OpsWorks, CloudFormation)
- Content Delivery (CloudFront)
- Load balancing
- Application development platforms.
One fact which may make Amazon attractive is its bragging rights: it owns the world’s biggest data centres, located in 11 public regions plus China (which is only used by Chinese customers), and finally the US Gov Cloud. Amazon is also famous for rapidly reducing the pricing of its offerings, having dropping the cost 51 times by the start of 2016.
What about Microsoft Azure, then? For starters, Microsoft is recognised not only as one of the biggest tech companies in existence today, but probably also one with the largest reach, providing everything from consumer products all the way to enterprise solutions and a lot in-between.
While its Azure platform doesn’t measure up in size against AWS, it offers a particular advantage for those businesses which are expressly ‘Microsoft’ shops (although Azure is by no means for Microsoft users only…and by the same token, AWS works very well with Microsoft environments, too). Where Azure’s advantage shines through for Windows-centric clients is in Visual Studio, .NET and Windows programming languages, such as VB and Visual C++, which are fully supported and optimally integrated.
Pricing and Performance
After ease of integration and interoperability with existing environments, for many customers the next big factor in making a decision is price and performance. That should be clear cut, right? Well, no. As already mentioned, AWS has cut its prices over 50 times to date, making it notoriously difficult to pin down a comparison. There is also the reality of the granular nature of services available from these two cloud giants, making direct comparisons very tricky indeed. And what’s more, the way those services are measured and billed can differ widely, too.
An interesting move by the team at Microsoft's Azure is offering $5000USD annual credits for eligible NFP in Australia. This is a monumental change in the landscape for NFP organisations that wish to leverage the immense power of the cloud for little to no cost. We're holding weekly webinars discussing the advantages for NFPs
Both of these providers are very much a moving target, then – but not impossible to get an idea. Check out this calculator which can provide some indication of price comparisons.
And performance. Performance, too, is difficult to measure owing to the number of factors involved in the delivery of a cloud service. That starts with the distance of the data centre from where your business is located, and includes factors such as your connectivity through your ISP (some offer direct links into Amazon’s Australian data centres and Microsoft’s Singapore facility), and even the connectivity in the ‘last metres’ in your premises.
Our view is this: choosing a recognised leader in cloud services is not a business critical decision. Going with either Azure or AWS will come down to personal preference. Neither provider got to where it is now by providing dud services – but do discuss the nuances with your service provider to identify any possible advantages of one over the other for your specific requirements.