Microsoft Azure vs Amazon Web Services: A Comparison of Two Cloud Computing Giants

Cloud computing has revolutionised the way organisations operate, offering a flexible and scalable infrastructure to support business growth. Small startups and multinational corporations alike leverage cloud computing to enhance productivity, efficiency, and innovation; and, in the competitive and rapidly evolving market, there are two cloud computing platforms that companies most often turn to: Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Microsoft Azure, developed by tech giant Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services, pioneered by multinational e-commerce company Amazon, have transformed the IT landscape by providing a wide range of services, enabling businesses to build, deploy, and manage applications and infrastructure on a global scale. While both companies have garnered immense popularity and market dominance, serving as the go-to choices for businesses seeking robust cloud solutions, the question is, what are the pros and cons of each, and how do you decide which is right for your business?
Overview of Microsoft Azure

An Overview of Microsoft Azure

Built on Microsoft's extensive experience in enterprise software, Azure offers a comprehensive suite of cloud services and solutions. The platform boasts a robust infrastructure that spans across data centres worldwide, ensuring high availability and scalability. What’s more, Azure provides a wide range of services, including compute, storage, networking, databases, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, and more. Azure's strength lies in its integration with other Microsoft products and services, allowing seamless collaboration and compatibility within the Microsoft ecosystem.

As a trusted platform, Azure has gained popularity among businesses of all sizes, including startups, enterprises, and government organisations. Its hybrid capabilities, including Azure Stack and Azure Arc, enable seamless integration between on-premises infrastructure and the cloud, providing flexibility and supporting diverse deployment scenarios.

Being a Microsoft product, Azure also holds a certain degree of brand-centric pedigree that users predisposed to a wholistic experience will likely enjoy. This is because hardware, software, and cloud computing can all be purchased from, supported by, and updated with the same company.

Overview of Amazon Web Services

An Overview of Amazon Web Services

AWS has a strong market presence and a global infrastructure with data centres strategically located across all regions. This allows businesses to leverage its services and cater to a diverse range of needs. Meanwhile, AWS offers a comprehensive set of services, including compute, storage, databases, networking, machine learning, analytics, and more.

The platform's scalability and elasticity have made it particularly appealing for startups and enterprises experiencing rapid growth or unpredictable demands. AWS's breadth of services, coupled with its focus on innovation, has positioned it as a preferred choice for organisations seeking robust and cutting-edge cloud solutions.

The Pros and Cons of Azure and AWS

Both Azure and AWS have established themselves as leaders in the cloud computing space, continuously expanding their services and capabilities to meet evolving market demands. Azure and AWS are similar in that they are both leading cloud computing platforms, offering a wide range of services, scalability, and global infrastructure. However, they differ in certain aspects. In this section, we compare both cloud giants across a variety of significant factors.

Infrastructure and Services

Azure has a widespread network of data centres, availability zones, and regions, ensuring global coverage, and provides a comprehensive range of services, including compute, storage, databases, networking, AI, and IoT solutions. On the other hand, AWS boasts an extensive infrastructure, with a larger number of data centres, availability zones, and regions compared to Azure and, as part of its wide array of services, provides specialised solutions tailored to specific industries. With that said, it is important to note that Azure has a dedicated data server in Canberra ACT. This location, combined with Azure’s significantly more stringent security standards, has meant that Microsoft holds significant market share in the Australian public sector.
It is important to note that both Azure and AWS are IRAP and ACSC certified, meaning that both hold the highest level of data security certification in Australia, and both are viable for use in the public sector. With that said, within New South Wales, Microsoft holds the vast majority of government tenders, and in 2022, signed a five-year contract extension to manage NSW Government’s cyber security, data security, cloud computing, and ICT services. To read the full breakdown of why Microsoft Azure was chosen as the preferred cloud infrastructure and service provider for NSW Government, click here.

Pricing and Cost Management

Azure follows a pay-as-you-go model, allowing businesses to pay for usage on- demand and also offers reserved instances for discounted pricing on long-term commitments. AWS has similar pay-as-you-go and reserved instances options, with its own pricing calculator. However, AWS offers additional pricing options like spot instances for flexible, low-cost computing.
Another important consideration is that of Virtual Machines (VMs). Whilst Microsoft charges per-minute for an Azure VM, AWS charges on an hourly basis. However, Azure works out cheaper overall for this service, as shown in the image below (Source: Microsoft).
Additionally, Azure offers Hybrid Benefit Licensing, allowing greater discounts for existing on-premise licence holders, e.g. SQL Server or Windows Server
Of course, it is difficult to provide an exhaustive list of pricing options and comparisons between Azure and AWS in this article, since pricing changes regularly and new service levels are added over time. However, for a complete guide to pricing comparisons between Microsoft Azure and AWS, click here.

Scalability and Performance

Both platforms support auto-scaling and load balancing to handle varying workloads efficiently. Azure provides features like Azure Autoscale and Azure Load Balancer, while AWS offers services like Auto Scaling and Elastic Load Balancer. Regarding high availability, Azure’s architecture emphasises availability sets and availability zones, while AWS utilises availability zones and regions. Azure offers Azure Service Fabric and Azure Functions for microservices architecture, while AWS provides services like Amazon EC2 and Lambda.
Azure’s ability to easily scale with companies is one of it’s ultimate strengths, and is part of the reason why AWS has stagnated around the 30-32% mark in terms of market share, whereas Azure has grown from 15% to 23% in just two years. As more businesses grow, and larger clients want to scale in an efficient but secure manner, Microsoft Azure becomes more and more attractive as a cloud computing service.

Security and Compliance

Azure and AWS prioritise security and compliance but have differences in their approaches. Both platforms offer robust encryption, identity and access management, network security features, and compliance certifications. Azure emphasises its integration with Microsoft security products and services, such as Azure Active Directory, Azure Security Center, and Azure Sentinel. Meanwhile, AWS provides a comprehensive security framework with services like AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM), AWS Key Management Service (KMS), and AWS Security Hub. That said, Microsoft has arguably the comprehensive security on the market; the combined security provided by Microsoft Defender, InTune, and Microsoft Purview for Compliance means that Microsoft likely has the edge in this bracket.

Developer Tools and Integration

Azure offers seamless integration with Microsoft development tools and platforms like Visual Studio, Azure DevOps, and Azure Functions. It supports popular programming languages and frameworks, including .NET and Java. Meanwhile, AWS offers its own suite of developer tools like AWS CloudFormation and AWS CodeDeploy, with support for various programming languages. This mostly comes down to user preference between .NET or Open Source coding languages, as Azure and AWS tend to be best optimised for each of these respectively.
Azure Active Directory also acts as a single source of truth for developers. In AWS, account access must be configured separately to determine different permissions and authorisations. In Azure, all users and user levels can be configured from a single directory, making this a much simpler solution for developers in larger organisations.
A major advantage of Azure in the Integration and Adoption stages is the fact that the transition to a cloud-based system is almost unnoticeable for the average user. This is because Azure uses technologies that users are already familiar with, such as Windows, Defender, and more. The transition to a cloud-based ecosystem is therefore much smoother for companies already operating in Windows (or even Linux). Developer tools and skillsets are also able to transfer seamlessly in these scenarios.

Customer Support and Documentation

Azure provides comprehensive documentation, including online resources, tutorials, and guides and offers support plans with varying levels of responsiveness and expertise. Azure also offers professional services for more tailored assistance. Meanwhile, AWS provides extensive documentation, including user guides, whitepapers, and FAQs and offers multiple support plans with 24/7 access to support engineers.
Azure provides 24/7 support to any companies on a support plan. This applies to all levels of support plans, and is a huge bonus for those considering an Azure solution. Microsoft provides 24/7 support, self-help resources, access to Microsoft Learn, Azure Portal How-To videos, Microsoft community support forums, and support documentation. This comprehensive support suite augments the professional credence that is to be expected of a Microsoft product,. and companies that operate in a Windows ecosystem will find that documentation and support are easily accessible as Microsoft continues to optimise and integrate their software to work seamlessly with Azure migration and maintenance.

Deciding Whether Azure or AWS is Best for Your Business

The choice between Azure and AWS depends on your specific business requirements, workloads, and preferences. To come to a decision, you should carefully evaluate your business needs, considering factors such as integration with existing systems, performance requirements, budgetary considerations, and compliance obligations. With that said, 95% of the Fortune 500 companies use Azure, and this is likely due to the security, reliability, support, and brand value associated with a Microsoft product, and the likelihood that many of these companies already use Windows as an operating system

You can also consult with an expert to help make an informed decision that aligns with your unique circumstances. At Intergy, we specialise in assisting businesses with their cloud computing requirements and offer a host of Microsoft Azure migration, hosting, maintenance and optimisation services. Cloud computing is a strategic investment that can significantly impact your success. By seeking expert advice, you can choose the cloud platform that best suits your needs, unlock the full potential of the cloud and drive innovation and business growth.

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