The Cloud World Market Leaders
Cloud Services are ubiquitous, and two companies in particular were able to build a name for themselves: Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. If you want to know how the two vendors differ and which one fits you best, this article will provide you with everything you need to know. Reading Time 7 minutes.
For IT managers, the introduction of new technologies is always a challenge and a risk. Cloud computing causes additional issues. Often the offerings of cloud services cannot be compared 1:1 with the well-known IT architecture in our data centers.
Below we would like to give you an overview of the two cloud computing market leaders Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure and suggest topics of interest to you as an IT infrastructure manager.
The cosmos of cloud providers is becoming increasingly complex. While existing providers are continually expanding their offerings, new players constantly emerge. Nevertheless, there are two giants who dominate the scene. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. We compared Amazon’s and Microsoft’s cloud offerings and summarized the strengths and weaknesses of their services. Of course, there are many other very good cloud providers. Yet this blog is intended to help you get started with the topic. Therefore, we ask all suppliers not criticized here for leniency.
With an expected revenue of $14 billion, Amazon Web Services is the industry’s giant. The servers provided by the company span many times the capacities of the competition. The cloud pioneer was founded in 2006 and has built up a deep expertise through his early presence.
Microsoft’s cloud service was founded in 2010. Although Azure cannot compete with the size of AWS’s data centers, the provider was able to rapidly expand its product range and thus to catch up with AWS. Azure scores particularly well with its excellent interface to established Microsoft products such as Office.
Breaking down the neck-and-neck race
Some companies do not have the choice to migrate their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud. Be it because of privacy policies or because certain systems need to be available with low latency.
With Azure the configuration of such hybrid solutions is simpler. Microsoft anticipated the demand for cloud architectures that can be integrated into existing on-premises systems earlier than Amazon. However, both providers offer different services to enable hybrid structures. For example, StorSimple, Hybrid SQL Server and Stack from Azure, as well as Storage Gateway, Dynamo DB Local and OpsWorks from AWS.
In on of our projects, we made use of the Microsoft Service Azure File Sync and documented our experience. If you are interested in hybrid scenarios and file services, you should definitely have a look at this article.
Quantity of services
Amazon’s range of services in uncontested and can be compared to a huge department store. There is a great variety of products, but it is not always easy to keep track of them because there are just so many. And once you found the shelve where the product you were looking for is supposed to be, there may already be a newer version and updates are necessary.
Following this analogy, Azure is a neat and structured yet small supermarket. The desired product can be found quickly – if it is offered at all.
A comparison of the services of AWS and Azure can be found here.
Open source compatibility
AWS has always been committed to open source applications, for example by offering Linux OS for EC2 instances (AWS virtual machine instances). Traditionally, Microsoft is not an advocate of the open source community (or generally of compatibility of products outside the Microsoft universe), but has been making a paradigm shift lately. No effort is spared to make Azure more friendly for open source applications and to catch up with AWS. However, it will take some time before this metamorphosis is completed.
On the other hand, the integration of Microsoft services into Azure is simple. For instance, enterprise agreements with Microsoft may include free capacities in the cloud.
Support and documentation
Cloud newcomers and companies planning to transform their IT systems involving cloud technologies can rely on the established partner network at AWS. Partners help constructing an individual and customized cloud architecture. Due to the aforementioned complexity of AWS’s offer, this help is quite important.
By contrast, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant suggests that Azure has a “disorganized and inexperienced ecosystem of managed and professional service partners”. So developing a cloud architecture with Microsoft can be more intense.
With customer support and documentation of the individual services the situation is similar. Gartner praises AWS for its “excellent business-class technical support” and “accurate documentation”, while again criticizing Azure.
However Microsoft excels in another area: training. In collaboration with the well-known education platform EdX, Microsoft offers extensive training courses. For both newcomers and cloud veterans.
Supra-regional availability and data protection
Amazon uses a two-level hierarchy for their cloud infrastructure. The superordinate components are called regions. Each region is a separate geographical area, which contains at least two isolated availability zones. The latter of which are connected with low latency.
Data can be replicated easily between availability zones within the same region. For some products, such as Amazon Simple Storage Solution, this is the norm and no action is necessary. In addition, data can also be stored in a secondary region. This will increase data durability as well as making it available to customers in different parts of the world.
Azure’s infrastructure consists of regions only. In each of these, there is a location with a data center that powers the region. To achieve data redundancy, users can choose between two options when initially setting up their storage.
“Locally Redundant Storage” ensures that the data is replicated within the same location. When using “Geo Redundant Storage”, files are stored in a secondary region that is at least 250 miles away from the primary data center but in the same geography.
Despite this possibility, customers will face challenges when trying to secure and use workloads in different regions.
In a nutshell
|Hybrid solutions||Hybrid solutions difficult to implement||Numerous services for hybrid solutions|
|Services||Large but at times confusing range of offers||Smaller but better structured range of offers|
|Open Source||Very good open source interface||Medium to good open source interface|
|Support||Strong partner network, helpful documentation||Inexperienced partner network, poor to medium documentation, helpful training courses|
|Availability||Easy cross regional deployment||Strong global presence, but poor cross regional deployment|
|Pricing structure||Complex pricing structure||Complex pricing structure|
Where all cloud providers break a sweat
Complex pricing structures and mechanisms
A flaw that many cloud providers have in common is the complex mechanisms involved in pricing cloud services. Considering the product range, this is not surprising. However, it is not always clear for what services you pay how much, depending on which parameters. This can result in high costs. Here is an example: Suppose you are running a virtual machine, finish your workload but do not shut it down afterwards. While it is certainly not adding any value to your company it continues burning money.
Particular care should be exercised when evaluating price mechanisms. Often times ostensibly cheap solution turn out not to be the most cost-effective solution.
On-premises applications aren’t cloud ready
A large number of services and apps that have been running in private data centers or a colocation cannot be transferred to the cloud without modification. It often requires customization or a complete overhaul until applications are suitable for the cloud.
Recommendations are difficult
Choosing the right provider
No one cloud provider is superior to the rest in every regard, and could claim to always be the means of choice. In fact, it is necessary to ascertain the provider that best meets the individual requirements.
Often it turns out that no single cloud provider is capable to cover the entire scope of required services. So different cloud providers are used for different workloads.
What do I need?
At EOS, we have had good success with instead of checking a provider’s entire range first evaluating what a customer actually needs. This is a matter of course, but sometimes we cannot see the wood for the trees. A solid requirements analysis delivers what is truly necessary. These requirements we check against the providers service offerings to asses what is feasible. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the many possibilities. Check your minimal requirements and differentiate between what’s possible and what’s sensible.
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