Microsoft Azure vs. Amazon Web Services

In the cloud space, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are the two heavyweights. Many developers agree that these two services are the best public cloud hosting available. Beyond that, it’s a polarizing discussion. Many professionals swear by Amazon, but just as many swear by Microsoft. In the following article, we compare them head to head and highlight the differences.

DEFINING THE CLOUD

A cloud is on-demand storage, computing and application resources managed remotely. A cloud provides either Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or both. These technologies are quite distinct, but a fine comparison is beyond the scope of this article. Since most end-users use IaaS, we’ll compare Microsoft Azure to Amazon Web Services from an IaaS-centric perspective. That does put Azure at a disadvantage, and is an important consideration for PaaS-centric consumers.

Business oriented clients tend to evaluate cloud based on the following five factors:

1. Application — Building blocks, such as relational databases and load balancers
2. Computation — On-demand resources for an array of applications
3. Datacenter — On-demand infrastructure in the area where the client does business
4. Integration — Flexibility, versatility, web-based console, API, command line
5. Storage — Short and long-term storage in an accessible, durable and secure manner

MICROSOFT AZURE

When it comes to cloud computing, Microsoft is best known for PaaS. Nevertheless, Azure offers a wide range of IaaS cloud-based services, including SkyDrive, Microsoft CRM Online, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live and SQL Azure for relational databases.

In terms of characteristics, Azure offers the following benefits:
  1. Highly durable long-term data storage
  2. Strong range of application building blocks
  3. Excellent integration, including web, command line and API for all features
  4. Superb datacenter coverage across the globe
  5. Good support for memory, processor and I/O configurations
  6. Good support for creating and loading instances from images

AMAZON WEB SERVICES

Amazon Web Services is a large family of technologies that has both IaaS and PaaS aspects, and it can meet enterprise needs in either fashion. However, Amazon Web Services is most associated with Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2), which is an IaaS technology. Other popular services include S3 for storage, SimpleDB for storage, Elastic Beanstalk and RDS for relation databases.

In terms of characteristics, Amazon Web Services offers the following benefits:
  1. Exceptional support for various memory, processor and I/O configurations
  2. Strong support for multiple operating systems
  3. Good support for creating and loading instances from images
  4. Highly durable long-term data storage
  5. Allows user to adjust durability and performance for individual instances
  6. Excellent range of application building blocks
  7. Strong datacenter coverage across the globe
  8. Excellent integration, including web, command line and API for all features
  9. Allows applications to be cloud portable


MICROSOFT AZURE vs. AMAZON WEB SERVICES

The first thing that stands out in this comparison is that Microsoft offers a mix of IaaS and PaaS services, and some might call that mix confusing. Amazon Web Services, on the other hand, has very clear separation between IaaS and PaaS. Microsoft’s configuration does make it better suited to complex enterprise-level solutions, at times. Most consumers, however, want either full-range PaaS or cloud-based virtual private servers.

Therefore, from an IaaS perspective, which is the perspective most clients are coming from, Amazon Web Service seem better suited “out of the box” to meet its clients’ needs. It offers excellent cloud and VPS services, has a wide range of configurations and support for operating systems, and it integrates a rich management system.

Microsoft does have great IaaS services in the form of SQL Azure Database and Windows Azure Storage, and if that’s all the client needs, this becomes a bit of a tossup. In fact, we might lean toward Azure in that instance. Most clients, however, do require computing services, and all of Microsoft’s computing services are PaaS, which makes Amazon the better choice for many.
Microsoft Azure vs. Amazon Web Services Microsoft Azure vs. Amazon Web Services Reviewed by Sandipan Chakraborty on January 31, 2012 Rating: 5
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