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AWS vs Azure: What are they and what's the difference?

Embarking on the journey to cloud can be daunting. This beginner's guide aims to shed light on AWS and Azure platforms, offering insights into some key features, their cost models, and security.

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Introduction

When embarking on a new cloud deployment or migration initiative, selecting the most suitable cloud provider is crucial. This blog aims to demystify the selection process between AWS and Azure, empowering you to make well-informed choices for your cloud architecture.

What is AWS?

Amazon Web Services, or AWS, holds the largest market share in the cloud computing market. It offers a comprehensive suite of services, ranging from pure computing power and storage, to databases and analytics. AWS has become a cornerstone for cloud-native businesses, providing scalable and feature-rich solutions within a ‘pay as you use’ consumption model.

Key Features of AWS:

  • Extensive range of services covering computing, storage, networking, analytics, AI, ML, and IoT.

  • Global infrastructure across many availability zones. AWS’s total global server capacity eclipses all other providers.

  • A thriving ecosystem and developer community that fosters innovation and collaboration.

What is Azure?

Like its counterpart, Microsoft Azure boasts a portfolio of cloud services designed to support various business needs. Azure sets itself apart through integrative potential. Its compatibility with Microsoft's suite of tools and applications makes it a preferred choice for businesses already deeply embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem, or running a hybrid estate.

Key Features of Azure:

  • Comprehensive services including virtual machines, app services, databases, AI and IoT.

  • Seamless integration with Microsoft's suite of products and services to support a blend of cloud and on-prem.

  • Strong support for Windows-based applications and hybrid cloud solutions.

Why choose AWS or Azure?

AWS and Azure’s key capabilities are very similar. They offer compute capacity and storage across a broad range of services, and both share the common traits of a public cloud provider – from instant provisioning via a self-service console, the ability to scale and subscription model pricing.

It is worth noting that these whilst AWS and Azure are by far the market leaders (and the focus of this article) - they are not the only cloud IaaS providers in the market. Oracle, Google and smaller providers also offer cloud services which may provide specialised features that suit your needs too.

Azure Pricing vs AWS Pricing

AWS and Azure both offer free introductory tiers, allowing users to explore their services before making a purchase. They also provide credits to attract start-ups to their platforms.

AWS follows a pay-as-you-go model, charging by the hour, while Azure's similar model charges by the minute. AWS offers significant savings with higher usage - the more you use, the lower the cost per unit. Microsoft Azure offers flexible short-term commitments, allowing users to choose between prepaid or monthly billing.

Whilst Azure's pricing model is slightly less flexible, some find it easier to track and forecast their spend with the Microsoft offering. It is generally agreed that whilst AWS offers lower-cost compute options, Azure often provides more affordable storage solutions, so the comparison here hinges on the intricacies of your specific cloud operations.

To get an accurate estimate tailored to your specific needs, make use of the pricing calculators offered by each cloud provider. This is a crucial step in your cloud journey, and will help to avoid unexpected consumption charges.

Azure Security vs AWS Security:

Both AWS and Azure prioritise security, providing customers with a plethora of tools and features to fortify their data and infrastructure. We cannot compare every feature in this blog, there are quite literally hundreds, but the Identity and Access Management toolsets can give us indicative insights:

Identity & Access Management (AWS IAM vs Azure Active Directory)

AWS IAM offers very detailed control over user access and integrates very well with other AWS services. If you’re all-in with the AWS ecosystem, it’s a fantastic solution. However, this granular control can be complex to learn, introducing business risk if not configured correctly. You will most likely need an AWS specialist in-house to get this right, or spend time training existing staff.

By contrast, users we speak to tell us that Azure AD (now called Micrsosoft Entra ID) is simpler to deploy, and may be more suitable for larger organisations thanks to its versatility. Its settings and features are geared towards enterprise level deployment and integrate better with third parties, on prem directories, and even other cloud services. This lends itself better to a hybrid or multicloud approach.

Security landscape

The sheer breadth of possible security configurations makes it difficult to draw a conclusive comparison, but in general - AWS offers a more expansive range of capabilities, which offers a greater degree of choice. However, these services are only useful if you need them, and have qualified teams to implement and manage them. Cloud security engineers are in high demand, and whilst both providers offer certification programmes, demand still outstrips supply.

Azure often shines with its integrations, especially for businesses already using Microsoft products. This makes it easier to pick up the basics and deploy a cloud security configuration that is reliable and robust - mirroring their on-prem posture. However, for organisations with unusual or unique requirements, cloud security teams may find the feature set limiting.

Conclusion

Understanding the nuances between these platforms is paramount in navigating the complex landscape of cloud computing. Whether you opt for AWS or Azure, you will need a network provision to reach them. For this, Cloud Gateway is the obvious choice, no comparison required!

Cloud Connectivity with Cloud Gateway

Cloud Gateway provides private, on-net connectivity to hundreds of Cloud Service Providers (CSP) established and ready to go, so we can rapidly allocate capacity and connect you in as little as 5 working days!

Cloud connections are deployed via our dedicated UK data centre on-ramp, or IPSec VPN over the internet, it's up to you. All cloud traffic that passes across our SASE platform is scrutinised and protected by our Security Enforcement Core (SEC), meaning you don’t necessarily have to rely on AWS or Azure default options. We’ll manage it all for you.

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