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AWS vs Azure: A guide to choosing which cloud is for you

When Amazon Web Services arrived in 2002, eyebrows were raised that a glorified bookseller could make a splash in a bustling software market where a handful of major enterprises held the sway.

Fast forward 10 years. AWS is beginning its ascent to the throne as the primary cloud services provider – leaving traditional computing giants such as Microsoft scrambling to keep up in a technology that few had even heard of just years earlier.

Microsoft responded, albeit tardily, with Azure in 2010. Considering it gave AWS an eight-year head start, the fact that Azure is able to compete in any shape or form is admirable. Today, many businesses and organisations are weighing up the AWS vs Azure debate in order to decide what set of cloud services are the most suitable for their needs.

Why cloud services?

The first issue to address when it comes to the AWS vs Azure question is – why do we have to choose either of them? The rise in the numbers of companies moving to the cloud in recent years has been quite remarkable.

Looking at the graphic, the sheer variety of reasons to move to the cloud is the first thing that strikes. Whilst some of the benefits of cloud computing are more obvious, there are several benefits which may not come to mind straight away.

In the early days of the development of cloud technology, there were major concerns from a variety of sources as to how secure it could be. While some naysayers continue to point out flaws in the way the cloud works, the truth is that the likes of AWS and Azure have gone a long way to provide layers of extra security for all their cloud products.

AWS vs Azure – Market share

Along with the other major cloud provider Google Cloud, AWS and Azure represent the large majority of the market in relation to cloud providers, specifically Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This has had an ongoing effect that the IaaS market itself has ballooned. According to Gartner, the IaaS market mushroomed to $23.6bn in 2017, with forecasts suggesting that it will experience further growth in 2018.

Traditional IT giants Oracle and IBM have seen their traditional stranglehold across this industry dwindle. The result being that they are now small players when it comes to cloud services as the likes of AWS and Azure grew.

AWS currently holds all the aces in terms of market share for cloud services. In 2016 they were recorded as having a 51% share, greater than all its competitors combined.

AWS has built a reputation for allowing its customers to pick, choose and build the cloud services they need. This approach has served it well and has attracted the type of customers that appreciate this level of flexibility, even if they have to put in a little work to make it run as they need.

Many solutions have even arrived that take that extra time and work away – such as what we offer here at Cloud With Me.

Azure has taken a slightly different approach in making its stack of products simple to use, as long you use them the way Microsoft has designed them to be used. Azure doesn’t offer as many products, making their offerings easier to navigate.

AWS vs Azure – Products

It’s hard not to be impressed by the array of products on offer at both AWS and Azure. As can be seen below, AWS especially has a huge catalogue of services for users to make the most out of. The majority of products can be broken down into five categories – Compute, Storage, Database, Migration and Networking.

Microsoft also boasts a wide range of cloud products through Azure. At this stage though it still struggles to compete with AWS on the basis of variety alone. This infographic shows a breakdown of Azure products.

Where Azure tends to focus a lot of its energy towards is wooing developers, many of whom find it the best quality product to find IaaS solutions. Two tools that are particularly loved by developers within the Azure network are its Service Fabric and Container Services. In addition, AWS does not have as many options on the app hosting side. But this might not be highly prioritised to their strategy.

Microsoft’s traditional position as the titan when it comes to the computing business has even afforded it an advantage when it comes to cloud services. A lot of companies and organisations initially used its IaaS products in the early days. That was before the likes of Amazon even began to tinker in the area. It makes it a lot easier for the same entities to migrate their infrastructure to Azure. The idea of legacy with Microsoft products is strong.

While perhaps it could be criticised for not having the same willingness to embrace change as AWS or Google Cloud, they are using their position as a tech giant to leverage business for Azure.

AWS vs Azure – Hybrid cloud

One of the most salient aspects of a comparison between any cloud provider is their willingness to embrace and execute hybrid cloud development. Despite the widespread recognition that moving to cloud services is a smart one these days, many are still reluctant to move to entirely cloud based solutions.

That’s where the idea of the hybrid cloud comes in. The matter of hybrid cloud computing has become an incredibly important part of choosing the right technology partner.

There is a strong belief in certain sectors, financial services being the major one, that there needs to be a consideration for private, on-premises data

That said, if you look at the products offered by the two cloud providers, Azure holds the advantage. Its newly released Azure Stack feature allows for a great hybrid cloud product. The stack is the perfect accompaniment for those in need of private data centres. In addition, should an organisation later choose to migrate them to the cloud, it can be done with ease.

In comparison, AWS has been slow to embrace hybrid cloud systems, although they have begun to address the issue. Amazon’s initial stance was that there was no need for private data centres at all. However, that stance has softened in the last year or so.

Amazon added a much needed hybrid element to its portfolio when it partnered with VMware in October 2017 to allow their customers to burst into its cloud environments. That said, they still have a way to go to keep up with Azure in this regard.

AWS vs Azure – Customers

Let’s imagine you are a small business owner investigation the options for moving your company’s infrastructure to the cloud. Does it really matter whether Walmart or Coca Cola use AWS vs Azure? You may not think do, but it really does. You can look at key clients of each platform and examine why it is that they choose each provider, to gain an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Take AWS for example. It counts on a large variety of institutional and private clients. These include the likes of Netflix. The streaming service made a complete move to the cloud in 2016, as well as AirBnB, Nike and NewsCorp. This is clearly a strong point of AWS. It has increasingly taken on large customer deals and shown that it can be relied upon.

For example, although the CIA eventually signed a contract with IBM for its IasS services, it awarded AWS a contract to build its private cloud in a one-off deal in 2013.

Microsoft perhaps has less high profile Azure users. However, the company is beginning to move away from targeting certain markets in favour of bringing in bigger clients. This strategy was revealed in a leaked email obtained by the Wall Street Journal in 2017.

AWS vs Azure – Conclusion

AWS and Azure offer many similar products and services which solve a variety of needs for a range of businesses. It’s not necessarily a matter of one provider being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other. It’s more a question of which will provide the necessary tools to help your business to thrive.

Hosting your website on either AWS or Azure can be a daunting process however. Luckily Cloud With Me can simplify that process for the less ‘techy’ amongst us. It allows you to move to the cloud quicker and easier than ever before.

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