Cloud Storage and your computing platform are the foundation of any digital workplace that needs to support collaboration among employees from anywhere in the world.
The cloud computing space is dominated by two industry giants: Microsoft and Amazon. They’re both widely adopted by enterprises worldwide and offer a wide range of services to meet various requirements. Here are some key areas you should consider when choosing the right platform for your organization.
Microsoft Azure is both a Platform as a Service (PaaS) and an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering. Supported by Microsoft’s extensive SaaS capabilities, Azure has powerful features that few providers can match.
Azure provides everything from computing, web & mobile, data & storage, and analytics to e-commerce, game development, media, IoT, networking, enterprise integration, developer services, and management & security — making it easy to have all your technology needs under one roof.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been in the cloud computing market for over 10 years. It offers PaaS, IaaS, and Software as a Service (SaaS,) although it is behind Microsoft when it comes to SaaS.
AWS services are helpfully categorized by use case, industry, and organization type. Solutions include deployment and management (e.g., enterprise applications, mobile services), application services (e.g., administration & security, analytics), and foundation services (e.g., computing, storage & content delivery, database, networking), and many more.
Feature and Services
Overall, the two vendors have very similar basic capabilities. They provide all of the common elements of public cloud services, such as self-service and instant provisioning, autoscaling, as well as security, compliance, and identity management.
Both Azure and AWS have also been launching services that use cutting-edge technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT) and serverless computing. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have also gained a lot of traction. Gartner predicts that by 2023, cloud-based AI will increase 5x from 2019, and 40% of frontline workers will use wearables as their primary computing devices.
Getting Started with Cloud Services
If you’re new to cloud services, your choice in providers may come down to two things: the skillset on your IT team and your current application line-up. Why? Because there are vocabulary, interface, and command differences between the two platforms.
To quicken your speed to productivity, choose Azure if your development team has experience with the Microsoft stack and its vocabulary, interface, and commands. If your team has more open source experience with Linux and Unix, then AWS is the best choice.
Azure AI supports machine learning and data mining. It allows you to manage your ML models across the cloud and at the edge. Its cognitive search feature enables users to extract insight from all the stored content. These services are designed to support enterprise-level functions in various industries such as finance, manufacturing, retail, and healthcare,
AWS’s pre-trained AI services offer advanced text analytics, demand forecasting, chatbots, document analysis, automate code review, fraud prevention, text-to-speech, and more. There are many services geared toward customer insights and customer interactions. But some of the newest deserve mentions like detecting anomalies in metrics and computer vision to identify missing components or irregularities in production lines. Like Azure, AWS also has use cases for various industries.
Computing Power and Scalability
Both platforms are highly scalable even though they do so using different mechanisms. Azure users create a virtual machine (VM), which pairs with other tools to deploy applications to the cloud. It relies on virtual scale sets for scalability such as adding cloud capabilities to existing infrastructure.
Meanwhile, AWS uses elastic cloud computing (EC2) to allow the available resource footprint to grow or shrink on demand. Users can configure their own VMs or choose from pre-configured machine images (MIs) and select the size, power, memory capacity, and number of VMs based on their needs.
Incidentally, how developers perform these tasks differs between the two platforms as indicated in our Getting Started section. Azure’s portal is more intelligently designed. If you are looking for a virtual machine, you look for the node labeled virtual machines. AWS’s interface isn’t designed for “users;” it’s “designed” for developers. In AWS, you won’t find a label for virtual machines, but you’ll find EC2. Some prior familiarity with AWS will shorten any learning curve and speed to implementation.
Azure offers several types of storage accounts. Each type supports different features and has its own pricing. They are Standard, Premium (block, blobs), Premium (File shares), and Premium (page blobs). Standard is recommended for most scenarios. The premium for block blobs is for high transaction rates, smaller objects or low storage latency requirements. Azure recommends Premium for file shares for enterprise or high-performance scale applications.
AWS has a range of storage classes designed for different use cases. According to AWS, these include, “S3 Standard for general-purpose storage of frequently accessed data; S3 Intelligent-Tiering for data with unknown or changing access patterns; S3 Standard-Infrequent Access (S3 Standard-IA) and S3 One Zone-Infrequent Access (S3 One Zone-IA) for long-lived, but less frequently accessed data; and Amazon S3 Glacier (S3 Glacier) and Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive (S3 Glacier Deep Archive) for long-term archive and digital preservation.” Full specs for each storage class are available at the link provided.
Both systems work well with NoSQL and relational databases. With Azure, you can “take advantage of fully managed community editions of MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MariaDB, support for a wide range of tools and languages, and API compatibility with MongoDB, Cassandra, and Gremlin. Flexible compute options include serverless, provisioned compute, and pools. Azure is the only cloud to offer serverless compute for both SQL and NoSQL workloads.”
AWS supports popular database engines — Amazon Aurora, MariaDB, Microsoft SQL, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL and has 15 purpose-built, fully managed database engines. They include relational, key-value, document, in-memory, graph, time series, wide column, and ledger databases. According to AWS, their databases are 1/10th the cost of commercial databases.
Both database services are highly available and durable, with easy and automatic replication. Although AWS allows for more instance types, Azure’s interface and tooling are more user-friendly, making it easier to perform various database operations.
Network and Content Delivery
Azure uses a virtual network architecture that allows users to create isolated networks, such as subnets, private IP ranges, route tables, and network gateways.
AWS uses a virtual private cloud (VPC) to support the creation of private networks and then uses API gateways for cross-premise connectivity. It uses elastic load balancing during networking. With AWS, you can connect VPCs and on-premises networks through a central hub.
Choosing the Right Cloud Computing Platform For Your Enterprise
Although Azure is a relatively young cloud solution, it makes up for “lost time” by leveraging Microsoft’s vast capabilities. It’s very easy to integrate Azure with your existing Microsoft applications, including Office 365, SQL Server, Windows Server, Dynamics Active Directory, Sharepoint, and more. Also, current Microsoft customers will get discounts on Azure.
AWS was the first cloud computing platform on the market and has the most mature services available. Therefore, you’ll likely experience less change with the platform. Its sheer scope of operations means there’s something for everyone. However, it’s a costlier option with a complex pricing structure that can be harder to navigate.
Choosing the right platform for your enterprise will depend on many factors. You need to consider your existing infrastructure and applications, networking and security requirements, technology roadmap, IT budget, and the experience of your IT developers.
You also don’t have to limit yourself to either solution. You can work in both AWS and Azure. The clouds integrate well with each other. So if your business needs and applications would work best with a combination of the two platforms, both AWS and Azure make that possible.
Contact us to see how we can help you navigate this complex cloud computing landscape, or download this matrix to compare AWS vs Azure for yourself: