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Krisha Kumar headshot
By Krishna Kumar, MBA, PMP
Senior Cloud Consultant

Gartner, Inc. says, “The worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 17.5 percent in 2019 to total $214.3 billion, up from $182.4 billion in 2018.” How will you invest your cloud dollars?

A tremendous shift to the cloud has required that organizations make new decisions, including what cloud service provider (CSP) to use. There are several key players on the market, and often, decision makers believe they must choose only one. However, once they realize the unique offerings of each provider, they often realize that different CSPs have different strengths. In many cases, a multi-cloud solution can have greater benefits.

Let’s focus on two services and do a comparison: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Cloud. While they might seem at odds, they actually can be used as part of a multi-cloud solution.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Microsoft cloud solution, Azure

AWS – AWS is a cloud service, a mix of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and packaged software as a service (SaaS). It offers compute power both in speed and functionality. AWS also offers database storage, content delivery, and other functionality to help organizations of all sizes.

Azure – Known for working with other Microsoft products, such as popular MS Office applications, Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service for app development and management. It, too, can be used in organizations of all sizes.

AWS and Azure have services similar to one another, but the depth and breadth of capabilities vary.  Both AWS and Azure are consistently being updated and enhanced, bringing greater flexibility, speed, and versatility to each, even as this piece is being written.

AWS logo in a floating cloud

What can AWS be used for?

Like any cloud service, usage varies depending on the needs of the organization. Some common uses might be:

  • website development and hosting for e-commerce
  • online data collection
  • online functions that require plugins
  • databases
  • large-scale data ingestion, processing, and data analysis
  • modeling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning

An older, developed and highly reliable cloud environment, AWS operates with the idea that all IT systems (like web and billing applications) and networks (switches, routers, cables etc.) fail at some point during their lifetime and must be designed to recover from the failure and operate with high availability. To build highly available systems, organizations have to invest large capital, and only large organizations can afford such systems. With the arrival of CSPs, the barrier no longer exists. Simple Storage Service (S3) from AWS provides a highly available and extremely durable storage and scaling system, making it a good option for organizations with large amounts of data.

Azure logo in a floating cloud

What can Azure be used for?

Azure can be used for similar use cases like AWS but works best with the Windows operating system. Azure extends the everyday Windows experience into the cloud. For example, a user might need to run a simple query and have the data exported to an Excel spreadsheet. Azure’s drag and drop interface makes it easy. However, because the Azure portal tends to be slower over the internet than AWS, provisioning of the cloud resources (i.e. the way cloud services are allocated to the user) is much slower.

Azure can be used for:

  • website development and hosting
  • hybrid operation between on-premises and cloud
  • databases
  • modeling, AI, and ML services

While Azure offers similar features to AWS, it also pays attention to the current day realities of protecting existing servers. Users can easily recover lost files, just like they can with their on-premises environment. Azure also provides file-share and file-sync services that enable seamless operation on a hybrid environment, with some on-premises and some cloud-based networks. This makes Azure a compelling choice for users who want to operate on hybrid environments.

How user-friendly is AWS?

AWS offers a wide array of compute resources (virtual machines with differing RAM and CPUs) and provisions those resources quickly, making it an appealing option in high-stakes environments. AWS can be easy to use, as the offering provides a variety of pre-canned virtual machine compute services typically matching the on-premises hardware models. The AWS console also offers a wizard style for provisioning to make it very user friendly. However, for increased, complex needs, the environment can create a steep learning curve with the pay-as-you-go model when subjected to cost constraints. The pay-as-you-go model can be challenging for the traditional budget administrator who is used to a fixed-cost model.

How user-friendly is Azure?

Azure is considered by cloud end users to be one of the more user-friendly cloud services. It has a drag and drop interface option, and it integrates with other Microsoft products which are touted as intuitive to the needs of end users.

Azure takes a longer approach, providing organizations the opportunity to extend their reach to the cloud and then migrate or co-operate their systems in the cloud. While the Azure portal is currently slower than those from some other services, Azure is constantly evolving and can be expected to become faster.

What other popular tools can be used with AWS?

AWS is well-known for supporting advanced analytics. Tools and integrations range from mid-level complexity to highly sophisticated and may include data collection and analytics tools like:

Tools may also encompass:

  • machine learning
  • Internet of things (IoT)
  • mobile apps development software

What other popular tools can be used with Azure?

Administrators comfortable with Windows tend to be more comfortable with Azure’s ability to integrate smoothly with on-site identity management like Active Directory and other Windows-based applications. But Azure is not limited to Windows tools. Integrate Azure with:

  • Windows servers
  • SQL database
  • Hadoop
  • Docker
  • Windows or Linux containers
Azure and AWS logo in a floating cloud

Using Azure and AWS in a multi-cloud approach

In spite of fierce competition, both AWS and Microsoft are widely accepted as viable solutions for commercial and public sectors. Many organizations can benefit from leveraging both AWS and Azure as part of a multi-cloud approach because the level of technical expertise differs among end users and usage. Right now, ECS is working with multiple enterprise organizations who have taken this approach. One size does not fit all, which is why the multi-cloud approach works.

An example of this approach would be one of ECS’ clients, a national political non-profit, that uses:

  • AWS to manage web workloads
  • Elastic scaling
  • a content delivery network
  • Docker containers for micro services
  • a data warehouse for analytics.
  • Windows servers to process and analyze datasets
  • custom software to manage data exchange between AWS and Azure

Which strategy would work best for your organization? The decision comes down to need, comfort and ability on the part of your end users. Reach out to an ECS cloud expert to discuss the best options to help your organization operate with peak efficiency and productivity.

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