Studying the differences between Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure brings to mind last year’s Formula One Championship battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Both gentlemen were undoubtedly the best at what they did, and both worked for the same team. It is the same situation for Azure and AWS. However in this case both Cloud computing platforms are from competing teams and the prize for first place is market domination and the opportunity to reshape the future. Similar to a choreographed duel, at times they are so closely matched, you tend to overlook that they are in fact competitors and you applaud them both for a game well played.
In a high stakes battle, where mistakes and lack of foresight costs valuable market share and revenue, we ask ourselves what is the differentiating factor that sets the two giants apart? Amazon Web Services is the monetisation of massive purpose-built infrastructure, back when the aim was to cater to the requirements of Amazon’s large internet based retail business. Azure, on the other hand, seems to be more of a customer retention and growth program to guard, retain, and continue to serve existing Microsoft customers, as well as maintain presence and acquire valuable customers in the fast growing Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) market.
AWS has bragging rights in terms of proof of solution, thanks to its unparalleled decade long experience in the IaaS field. Azure, however, holds an ace up its sleeve when it comes to serviceability and proactive marketing thanks to Microsoft’s large network of datacenters and sales offices around the globe. This makes it easier for Azure to reach out and acquire clients in need of Cloud solutions across the world, which could result in Azure experiencing faster growth in terms of client acquisition.
Microsoft Azure also offers Azure Stack: a hybrid Cloud model that allows enterprises to use Azure services within their own data centers. This is especially appealing to enterprises with sensitive information and agencies such as research labs with massive amounts of data to be processed. Azure Stack makes it easy to pick up and move an application or swath of infrastructure and move it from an Azure Stack Installation in a local data center and into the public Cloud. The only real difference between Microsoft Azure and Azure Stack is the amount of storage and computing power available.
When it comes down to global coverage of services, AWS speaks of 44 Availability Zones within 16 geographic regions and has announced plans for 14 more availability zones in five regions in China, France, Hong Kong, Sweden and a second CloudGov Region in the US. Azure mentions 40 regions that are Azure operational with plans to launch four more soon.
Pricing is somewhat similar with both service providers quoting pay-as-you-scale prices for utilising infrastructure. AWS regularly announces price cuts with Azure following suit soon. Considering the overall industry trend, and Moore’s Law where it was observed that computing power will increase over time leading to downward spiraling IT costs roughly every two years, declining price structures may continue. Both AWS and Azure offer free introductory tiers with certain limitations; Azure does so in the form of a 30 day free trial, and AWS does so by providing two separate free tiers (a ‘12-month free trial’ and an ‘Always free trial’, which we feel are quite generous).
AWS provides a price calculator here, and Azure does here.
It seems unfair to compare features between the two Cloud giants since, just as much as they operate in the same market, like cheese and curd they are as just as much different. Both serve somewhat the same purpose however: dairy products that can be consumed or used to enhance flavour. The difference lies in what you use them for.
AWS delivers largely out of Amazon’s 20 plus years of experience in massive online retailing. Azure takes on the task of readying for the future based on Microsoft’s success over the decades.
Studying available products listed on their respective sites, AWS seems to have focused more on Databases, Developer Tools, Management Tools, Analytics, Messaging, Security, and Identity and Compliance (IAM). For both service providers, while Computing Power, Storage and Networking are undoubtedly closely matched, Microsoft seems to have ventured a step further into the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Services especially in the areas of Vision, Speech, Language, Knowledge and Search. The projects listed under Labs sound exciting and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.
The table below provides a full list of services (note: this is not a comparison chart):