At this time both Amazon and Microsoft are offering Cloud services with pay as you go pricing. Amazon seems to currently have a higher adoption rate with some key entities such as Netflix, McDonald's, the CDC, and Dow Jones running on the Amazon platform. To me, Netflix specifically speaks to the quality of Amazon's offering since Netflix and Amazon provide competing video services.
Not to be completely outdone, Microsoft has some heavy hitters on board the Azure platform. Pixar, Ebay, Travelocity, and Mazda all operate on the Azure platform. What is notable here is the heavy tech influence on the Microsoft list. There could be a number of reasons for the concentration but right now it looks like Microsoft leads in tech focused companies while Amazon has more of a blend of industry on board.
In this arena the two are neck and neck. Both offer compute, storage, database (Hierarchical and schema-less), micro-services, and infrastructure. If you can envision an architecture it is likely that either company can provide that architecture. Here are how a single implementation plays out on both platforms. For this scenario we are simply launching a new web server with a custom domain running a WordPress website.
We're striving for the lowest cost possible here so let's go with an AWS free tier offering. To accomplish this you would launch a new instance under the EC2 service running Ubuntu Linux and hosting WordPress. To register a domain AWS offers Route 53 to register and manage DNS for your domain. Enter the domain of your choice and setup your DNS entries to point to the Static IP that Amazon provides via their EC2 Elastic IP Address service.
In a matter of minutes you can have your instance launched, configured, and ready to host your content. Start publishing pages and posts and you are off to the races for usually under $5 per month if you use the free tier offerings and have typical bandwidth utilization.
Microsoft offers a free tier on Azure as well but the default domain takes the form of http://<websiteName>.azurewebsites.net. If you want a fully custom web domain you will need to upgrade to a paid tier starting at $55.80 per month; a significantly higher cost than Amazon's offering.
The setup time for Azure takes just a few minutes but the configuration has quite a few choices that you will need to navigate. If this is your first setup it will take you some time to digest what is being offered and which is the best selection for you. After you've gotten familiar with the system you should be able to fly through the configuration fairly quickly.
The two offerings, once you get beyond the free tier where Amazon has a somewhat larger catalog, are very comparable in features and pricing. What differentiates the two are more UX and Theology than anything else.
Amazon's interface feels rather Spartan. It provides you a clean, text focused experience. You can do pretty much anything you want. There are not a lot of hard boundaries. Amazon seems to be a giant warehouse where you can make any selection or combination of selections you want and be on your way. What else would you expect from the largest online retailer?
Microsoft however wants you to understand they know what they are doing, and what is best for you. You will feel that you are being strongly advised as to which path to take in the Azure interface. This is great if you want to feel confident and mentored in your choices. If you enjoy more freedom this will make you feel stifled and claustrophobic.
Microsoft is Microsoft and Amazon is Amazon. Depending on your technology upbringing and loyalty you will prefer one over the other. I can't say one has a better or more competitive offering. They both get the job done from small to large. Your choice is going to come down to which mode of operation and style you prefer.
I will say Amazon does make it easier for you to get your feet wet and start tinkering with their platform if you are breaking into Cloud Services implementations. These same pathways exist with Microsoft but you are going to have to jump through a lot more hoops (in triplicate) to access them. If Azure is your platform of choice though you are going to find those well worth it.
So go forth and experiment. You're not going to be able to make a fully informed decision until you are elbows deep in the platforms.
Which do you prefer, AWS or Azure? What sold you? Please comment below.
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