IDC predicts that cloud computing will be a $107 billion industry by 2017. Today 82% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy and, increasingly, enterprises plan to use a portfolio of clouds, with 82% reporting a multi-cloud strategy.

Gartner’s recent 2015 Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) Magic Quadrant present mention Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure in the Leaders Quadrant. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the oldest player and has held the leading position for over five years now.

Below, I’ve made a high level comparison between the marketing leaders Microsoft Windows Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Amazon Web Services vs. Microsoft Windows Azure vs. Amazon Web Services

  1. Market leader
Azure: 9% market share – around twice the scale of its nearest rival, Google, who has 4% market share AWS: 31% market share & market leader

 

according to the 2015 statistics from the Synergy Research Group

  1. Customers
57%+ of Fortune 500 companies use Azure

Customers include: Skanska, Heineken, 3M, Dyson, Paul Smith, Mazda, GE Healthcare, Trek, McKesson, Milliman, Towers Watson, NBC Sports, TVB). Pearson, Ford, NBC News, dunnhumby and Easyjet, to name but a few.

Powers hundreds of thousands of businesses in 190 countries around the world.

Customers include: Netflix, AirBnB, Aon, Channel 4, Financial Times, Dow Jones, Kurt Geiger, Lonely Planet, Nasdaq, Nike, Nisa Retail, Pfizer, and the Royal Opera House. A full list of AWS customers can be seen here.

  1. Cost

Working out pricing can be a challenge since pricing structures are sometimes complex. Still, prices are roughly comparable, but it is hard to compare apples to apples. There are so many particularities in configuration and measuring of computing units or services offered (compute, storage, database, traffic, etc).

However, the big differentiator should not be in the price as they can fluctuate quite significantly, as both Azure and AWS strive to remain competitive from a price point of view, nor in the buying servers per hour features, the big difference should be in the layered services, and the breadth and depth of service.

 

Price calculator

 

Microsoft here AWS provides a price calculator here

 

Azure instances are priced per minute

 

Azure supports quite well now non-traditional models. Their Service Fabric, Container Service and Batch services are a great help.

 

Amazon EC2 instances are priced per hour

Amazon tries to move from the buy by-the-hour computing. Its Kinesis services or the IoT APIs enable developers to manage a lot of their workload without ever needing to buy an EC2 server but in need of milliseconds of server time. For large workloads containers might be the best option and AWS (like Azure) supports containers reasonably well.

 

  1. Storage – similar storage options
  • its core Azure Storage service
  • Azure Blob block storage
  • Table, Queue and File storage
  • Site Recovery
  • Import Export
  • Azure Backup
  • its Simple Storage (S3)
  • Elastic Block Storage (EBS)
  • Elastic File System (EFS) Import/Export large volume data transfer service
  • Glacier archive backup and Storage Gateway, which integrates with on-premise environments.
  1. Global Cloud infrastructure

Both Azure and AWS provide excellent networking capabilities, allowing applications to be deployed at local or global level

A worldwide network of Microsoft-managed data centers across 22 regions—more countries and regions than Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud combined. Azure is also the first multinational cloud provider in mainland China. Owns the largest data centers in the world. They are located in 9 regions around the world: 3 in the US and 6 scattered strategically around the globe, in Europe, Brazil, Singapore, Japan and Australia; A tenth one is coming up in China.
  1. Openness and flexibility
Azure supports a broad selection of operating systems, programming languages, frameworks, tools, databases and devices. Azure supports the same technologies millions of developers and IT professionals already rely on and trust. AWS is a language and operating system agnostic platform. You choose the development platform, the programming model, the services you use, allowing you to focus on innovation, not infrastructure.
  1. Security
Microsoft owns various industry recognized certifications and audits.

Was the first:

  • Cloud provider recognized by the European Union’s data protection authorities for their commitment to rigorous EU privacy laws
  • First cloud provider to adopt the new international cloud privacy standard, ISO 27018.
Amazon Web Services also owns industry-recognized certifications and audits: PCI DSS Level 1, ISO 27001, FISMA Moderate, FedRAMP, HIPAA, and SOC 1 (formerly referred to as SAS 70 and/or SSAE 16) and SOC 2 audit reports.
  1. Similarities
  • Both AWS and Microsoft Azure offer similar capabilities to some degree, along the lines of compute, storage and networking.
  • They share the common elements of a public cloud: self-service and instant provisioning, autoscaling, plus security, compliance and identify management features.
  • They both make continuous investments in meeting new demands
  • They both developed machine learning and IOT features
  • Both support Docker containerization
  1. Pros
  • Microsoft’s strong presence within all major organization
  • Good development and testing tools (according to Forrester)
  • Microsoft’s strong presence within all major organizations
  • Strong PaaS capabilities
  • Familiarity of Windows and other Microsoft tools
  • Good for hybrid applications
  • Keeping data storage simple
  • Keeping performance predictable with SQL database – it comes equipped with SQL database functionality
  •  AWS marketplace has a large number of third party software services
  • Enterprise friendly services – highest rating from a CIO perspective (Forrester Enterprise Public Cloud Platforms)
  • Flexible
  • Easy to use open source tools
  • Instant provisioning of new servers
  • Programmatic/API access to do everything
  1. Cons
  • The are some restrictions when it comes to Microsoft in supporting other platforms beyond Windows Server but this long mentioned argument seem to have been overpassed – for example the support for Linux operating system is getting much better, especially since Redhat has gone under Microsoft’s umbrella or since Microsoft released a Linux Certification for Azure: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcsa-linux-azure-certification.aspx
  • everything is virtual – can be also good and bad – resources are distributed dynamically and the user doesn’t know the load is distributed among all virtual servers
  • if used as hybrid, it takes longer and requires encryption
  • requires internet access to manage
  • AWS hybrid cloud strategy – Many organizations prefer to keep sensitive data in house (eg: financial companies), using the public cloud for other purposes
  • It can get hard to navigate through AWS complex features
  • All servers are virtual
  • Instance types are rigid
  • Can get expensive at on demand rates if elasticity is not needed
  • Cross region communication is not natively available – “availability regions”
  • Because some AWS value-added services are built on EBS, they fail when EBS fails.

Although AWS had a great start and still rules the market, Microsoft is catching up fast, as they continue to invest in their cloud infrastructure and to match Amazon’s services and flexibility.

In any case, for organizations that made significant investments in Microsoft technologies, Azure is definitely in a favorite position.