AWS or Azure – Which one is right for you?

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are two of the biggest names in public cloud computing. Which one is right for you? To help you make that decision, let’s talk about what each provider brings to the public cloud table, and key differences between them.

Scalr, a hybrid cloud management platform manufacturer did a survey of their customers, partners, and some analysts. They found three key core facts that went across verticals.

  1. More often there is no cloud adoption policy, multi-cloud tends to just ‘happen’.
    1. Phase I – On premise (VMware, Hyper-V, OpenStack)
    2. Phase II – Pockets of developers and early adopters start using AWS and Azure
    3. Phase III – Central IT discovers this clandestine cloud usage across business units and now needs to come up with a plan to deal with it.
  2. Most companies use AWS or AWS + Azure.
    1. AWS is by far the leading single cloud provider.
    2. Single cloud companies are exploring other clouds for redundancy, pricing, and curiosity.
  3. Azure is gaining ground not because of technical superiority, but through an aggressive discounting campaign.
    1. Microsoft Enterprise Agreement customers will get significant discounts. It’s the lowest-cost bidder concept.
    2. AWS isn’t necessarily interested in playing the ground-game now that they’ve proved themselves.

There are some technical differences between AWS and Azure. Microsoft has managed to close the gap in many areas. Let’s look at some of the key differences.


AWS – Users can configure their own VMs or choose pre-configured machine images, or customize MIs. Users choose size, power, memory capacity and number of VMs, and choose from different regions and availability zones with which to launch from.

Azure – Users choose Virtual Hard Disk (VHD), which is equivalent to a Machine Instance, to create a VM. A VHD can be pre-configured by Microsoft, the user or a third party. The user must specify the number of cores and memory.


AWS – Amazon offers Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) so users can create isolated networks within the cloud. Within a VPC, a user can create subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges, security groups and network gateways.

Azure – Microsoft offers Virtual Network (VNET) that gives users the ability to create isolated networks as well as subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges, security groups and network gateways.

Both companies offer solutions to extend the on-premise data center into the cloud and firewall option.


AWS – AWS has temporary storage that is allocated once an instance is started and destroyed when the instance is terminated. They also provide block storage (Elastic Block Storage, EBS) with various performance characteristics like SSD, Magnetic and provisioned IOPs for guaranteed performance. EBS can be separate or attached to an instance. Object storage is offered with S3 and data archiving services with Glacier. There is also full support for relational and NoSQL databases and Big Data.

Azure – Azure offers temporary storage through D drive, block storage through Page Blobs for VMs. Block Blobs and Files also serve as object storage. Supports relational databases; NoSQL and Big Data through Azure Table and HDInsight. Azure also offers site recovery, Import Export and Azure Backup for additional archiving and recovery options.


AWS – Amazon has a pay-as-you-go model, where they charge per hour. They have three primary pricing schemes.

  1. On demand: Pay for what you use without upfront cost
  2. Reserved: Reserve an instance for 1 or 3 years with variable upfront payment discount options
  3. Spot: Customers bid for extra capacity available

Azure – Microsoft’s pricing is also pay-as-you-go, but they charge per minute, which provides a more exact pricing model. Azure also offers short term commitments with the option between pre-paid or monthly charges.


AWS – Pricing is based on a sliding scale tied to monthly usage.

Azure – Users are billed a flat monthly rate.


AWS – Amazon has had a long relationship with government agencies, and their compliance offerings include certifications in ITAR, DISA, HIPAA, CJIS, FIPS, and more. They also provide security so that only screened persons can access the cloud, a must for agencies handling sensitive information.

Azure – Microsoft claims to have more than 50 compliant offerings, including ITAR, DISA, HIPAA, CJIS, FIPS. Microsoft provides the same level of security as Amazon, setting up permissions so that only screened persons can access a government-level cloud.



  • Huge ecosystem of services, tools, and relationships with vendors
  • Strong IaaS and PaaS products
  • Aggressive release schedule. Every other day they’re making improvements
  • AWS developers and administrators are much easier to find than those that support other cloud platforms.
  • Choice paralysis – it’s a full-time job keeping up to date with everything being released and best practices
  • Easy to use, hard to master


  • Since 2015 Azure has been rapidly rolling out releases and support. Customers say that the overall infrastructure is ‘good enough’ for now.
  • Azure Stack, now getting close to fully functional, is an on-premises deployment that works great with cloud providers. It’s an extension of the cloud environment.
  • In efforts to race to market, not all features are finished, or have complete API support.
  • Documentation can’t keep up with releases.
  • In contrast to AWS, there’s a limited number of Azure experts.

In the end, most enterprises will end up with a multi cloud solution. Different business units and teams will use a particular public cloud for a specific solution. That’s not an issue though. Modern cloud management platforms you can take the concepts discussed above and easily abstract them to a higher level, meaning that visibility with pricing, security, role based access, and services are easily solved through one interface.

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Joe Goldberg

Author Bio: Joe Goldberg is the Senior Cloud Program manager at CCSI. Over the past 15+ years, Joe has helped companies to design, build out, and optimize their network and data center infrastructure. As a result of his efforts, major gains in ROI have been realized through virtualization, WAN implementation, core network redesigns, and the adoption of cloud services. Joe is also ITIL certified.

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