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AWS vs Azure: A Detailed Comparison

Are you trying to decide between AWS vs. Azure for your business but aren’t sure about the differences and similarities are between them?

Cloud services have made for easier and cheaper growth opportunities in the virtual business market. There was a time when every company that offered significant online services had to support the bandwidth with its own servers or a datacenter. Nowadays, you can get all the data storage and processing power you need at any time from a cloud solution.

But just because cloud services can be a good deal for business, it doesn’t mean the choices are always obvious. If you’re trying to choose between Microsoft Azure (Azure) or Amazon Web Services (AWS), you’ve probably noticed that making a knowledgeable and unbiased comparison is difficult.

How can you know which one is better for you?

This post will help you answer that question. We’ll compare the features, available options, and prices of Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud services. They’re two of the largest cloud service platforms out there and one of them is bound to have the support and solutions you'll need to succeed.

To discover more about the similarities and differences between AWS and Azure, keep reading this ultimate AWS to Azure comparison guide.

Are AWS and Azure Similar?

Azure and AWS both provide on-demand computing platforms and APIs to individuals and organizations. From hosting websites to storing terabytes of media for companies like Netflix, these services probably share more similarities than differences.

That said, when you’re choosing one for your business, the differences are what matter. Let’s start by looking at the way these services got their start.

How Amazon Web Services Got Started

As far as their origin stories are concerned, AWS and Azure are hardly the same. 

As its name suggests, Amazon Web Services got its start as Amazon’s own data management system. Way back in the early 2000s, Amazon had a jumbled mess of IT infrastructure from their fast and sudden growth. Their systems were so disorganized and inefficient that teams would often perform repetitive tasks that had already been done.

To resolve this, the software team at Amazon replaced their physical infrastructure with a collection of carefully documented APIs. An API, or application programming interface, is a software connection between computers and programs. Thanks to these APIs, Amazon’s servers could communicate seamlessly and keep all of their teams on the same page.

During a company retreat, Amazon executives realized they could use their new system to provide storage and computing services to others. Thus, AWS was born to offer datacenter solutions to people and organizations of all sizes. Since then, companies like Netflix, Expedia, Spotify, and Adobe have all used AWS to serve their respective customers.

How Microsoft Azure Got Started

To say AWS got a head start would be an understatement. In 2008, The Azure Windows Platform was announced in PDC and it would be an entire year later before Microsoft entered the cloud industry in 2010.

Predictably, Azure was not a huge hit when it first launched. Without the experience of early success that fueled AWS’s domination, it struggled to attract and satisfy customers. Other cloud services became more popular and Microsoft ceased to be the leader in software infrastructure that it once was.

Fortunately for Microsoft, Azure became more popular after it was revamped. It has undergone many updates since then and its systems only continue to be more scalable and accessible. It even became compatible with Linux and nobody ever thought that day would come! Today, Azure is a strong contender as the best cloud service provider with the dramatic improvements by Microsoft since 2010, especially in the last few years.

Next, we’ll look at other, more practical ways Azure and AWS differ from one another.

AWS vs. Azure Market Share

AWS might seem like it had an unprecedented advantage with an almost a decade head-start to Azure. But AWS has begun losing its hold on the market to competitors. Although AWS had a 68% market share in 2018, it has gone down to 56% as of 2021. Meanwhile, Microsoft Azure now has a 33% market share—more than twice that of Google Cloud, which has 15%.

Line graph illustrating market share trends between AWS, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba and IBM from 2017 to 2020. All gradually increasing with the exception of AWS.

 

Market share might not be your primary consideration as a business owner or IT manager. But it is helpful to know that Azure is quickly catching up with proven serviceability and resources. If you’re planning to get a job working with cloud services, knowing which platforms are most popular can also help direct your education.

Key Differences between AWS and Azure

As with most things, choosing the right cloud vendor will come down to each organization's respective needs and interests. Your workload, budget, and existing systems all play a role in the decision but there are several key differentiating factors in the ways AWS and Azure approach cloud services.

The key strength of AWS continues to be its broad range of features and services. AWS has more than 175 different comprehensive tools and features. It provides practically every service you could imagine, including storage, database, networking, analytics, mobile development, and more.

It’s safe to say that Amazon took full advantage as the first cloud service provider. AWS has done an excellent job of translating opportunities into economic benefits for its customers and recognition.

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But Microsoft hasn’t been standing still, either. While AWS seems to appeal to high-level executives in very large organizations, Azure gets the most attention from C-level executives and businesses that already have an established relationship with Microsoft. Not surprisingly, since Azure is offered by Microsoft, it’s an excellent choice for organizations that already use Microsoft services and software.

Microsoft has made sure to tightly integrate Azure with its other offerings, including Windows, Office, and Teams. As a result, Azure is often seen as a recognizable and safe global bet for businesses that need comprehensive solutions.

It’s also important to recognize that many businesses can and do use more than one cloud service.
A company might use AWS for its website and content management but then use Microsoft services on the back end with its employees. Simultaneously, it might also use Google Cloud for things like translation and machine learning.

AWS to Azure Comparison: Features and Services

At their core, Azure and AWS offer similar capabilities. They focus on flexible computing, storage, and networking features. They also share the features common to public cloud services: self-service, instant provisioning, security compliance, identity management, and seamless autoscaling.

Azure and AWS have both also produced tools and services to address emerging technologies. These include the Internet of Things, or IoT, serverless computing, and machine learning. Importantly, they both provide tailored packages that can be built on your unique needs, as well as managed services around popular container services, such as Kubernetes.

AWS offers SageMaker to simplify the adoption of machine learning in a business. It works by bringing a hosted environment together for Jupyter notebooks with built-in model management. It features automated spin-up of training environments with EC2 instances and HTTPS endpoints for hosting capabilities.

Azure Machine Learning is somewhat simpler and possibly more limited than SageMaker. However, it does allow developers to write, test, and deploy new algorithms. It also features a built-in marketplace to get off-the-shelf APIs.

Azure vs. AWS Infograph

Computing

AWS provides its own EC2 instances for cloud computing. These are highly customizable with a wide range of built-in options. Related services are also available through AWS, such as Elastic Beanstalk, Kubernetes, Lambda, and Autoscaling.

Azure offers cloud computing that is based on its own Virtual Machines service. Other tools, like Cloud Services and Resource Manager, help deploy apps on the cloud. It also has its own Azure Autoscaling service.

Database

Both services provide support for relational databases, including Amazon Relational Database Service and Azure SQL Database, respectively. Azure also supports NoSQL and DocumentB, while AWS supports Amazon DynamoDB.

Storage

Where storage features are concerned, AWS has several options to choose from. Simple Storage, Elastic Block Storage, Elastic File System, Glacier archive backup, and Storage Gateway are the specific options available. AWS also has an Import/Export large volume data transfer service.

In addition to its core Azure Storage service, Microsoft offers Azure Blob block storage and Table, Queue, and File storage. It also provides Site Recovery, Import-Export, and Azure Backup for more specialized uses.

Networking

Both AWS and Azure provide excellent networking solutions. They offer automated server load balancing and connectivity to on-premise systems.

AWS vs. Azure Pricing

While it would be nice if your choice could be motivated solely by the performance and quality of different services, pricing is always a big factor. This is especially the case for smaller businesses and organizations that can’t always afford the most advanced platforms. But when it comes to cloud services, advancement does not necessarily mean more investment. So does AWS or Azure offer a better deal?

As you might have guessed by now, the answer is, it depends. In general terms, the prices of Azure and AWS are roughly comparable. This is especially the case since AWS changed from by-the-hour to by-the-second pricing for some of its services, adopting the same pricing strategy as Microsoft and Google.

It is difficult to make a clear price comparison between them because AWS and Azure both work with slightly different pricing models. They also frequently offer discounts, price cuts, and volume discounts that can be negotiated by enterprise customers.

Also worth noting, is that both platforms offer free introductory tiers. Introductory tiers give customers the chance to try the services out before they commit to purchasing. There are even a few “always free” tiers with strict usage limits for less demanding needs.

AWS vs. Azure: Which is Better?

The answer to the question, “Which platform is better?” is, once again that it depends. Both Azure and AWS have their own pros and cons depending on the selective needs and preferences of each customer.

AWS certainly wins in the category of most features offered with nearly 200 distinct tools and capabilities; even the most varied and demanding business will find everything it needs from AWS. Their extensive track record as the longest-running cloud service provider doesn’t hurt either.

However, too many options can be more overwhelming than helpful. For some smaller businesses, AWS may simply seem too complex to deal with.

Azure is an obvious choice for businesses that already work with Microsoft products, such as Windows Server or Office 360. Although it has a smaller range of features, it integrates seamlessly with other more familiar Microsoft services for a simplified user experience.

As an added advantage, Microsoft has become more expansive and flexible to open source technology. Azure is now fully compatible with Linux systems, which we wrote about here. Azure’s technical support has been a target of customer complaints in the past but their ratings have improved, unlike AWS. Support can also be greatly improved with a Cloud Solutions Partner in Azure.

Ultimately, you’ll need to compare current pricing and feature availability to decide which platform is best for you.

Develop Your Cloud Strategy With CSW Solutions

By now you have a good understanding of the general similarities and differences when it comes to AWS vs. Azure. From pricing to usability, we’ve covered all of the main points here to make your decision as simple as possible.

Choosing your cloud service platform is just the beginning, though. You’ll also need to develop your cloud strategy and migrate your business onto the new platform. Without a highly knowledgeable team, your business may not be up to the task.

CSW Solutions can help. As a Microsoft Gold-certified partner and Cloud Solutions Provider, we specialize in helping businesses migrate to the cloud and make the most of their cloud solutions. Contact us today to learn more!