Let’s start this blog by pointing out the elephant in the room: the “cloud” is the fastest evolving thing that has existed in IT for decades (since “The Internet” started blowing up, that is). Simply trying to keep up with all the new features being developed and released is a full-time job. New things are being released so quickly that the cloud providers themselves can’t even keep up — new features come out for certain regions and not others, sometimes taking months to be fully deployed.
So how do you even go about choosing one?
Well, let’s start at a super high level. There are three main competitors in the market, but … realistically, there are two. Amazon, Microsoft and Google are the three main people playing in the field right now, but we are going to mainly focus on Amazon and Microsoft. Here’s why …
The Google Cloud
Google has mostly relegated itself to educational, non-for-profit and other edge categories, rather than the business/enterprise space. In Google’s standard approach, they hit the market hard early on and then kind of cooled their heels and have been leisurely adding features and growing since then. They are substantially smaller in the public cloud sector than Amazon and Microsoft.
Microsoft Azure vs. AWS
Amazon and Microsoft are locked in arms race of features and competition right now. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is substantially larger than Microsoft’s Azure, but the gap has been shrinking quickly as Microsoft plays catchup. Amazon launched AWS about three years before Microsoft’s Azure, but in the same way Google took their normal approach, Microsoft attacked the public cloud with their normal ferocity … once they let someone else show them it was a good idea. Azure’s growth and feature addition in the last three years has been so fast it is shocking. From a feature comparison standpoint, the two are essentially on parity now, with Azure actually having some additional features.
Microsoft is also much more hybrid-cloud friendly than AWS is. If that’s an important part of your strategy, perhaps Azure is the way to go. This is not to say you can’t go hybrid using AWS — it’s just cleaner and more integrated on the Microsoft platform. Also, if you’re a hardcore Microsoft shop, a lot of things in Azure will be easier for you to adapt to than AWS, as it’s made for “Microsoft people”. That being said, the previous understanding that AWS was for open source and Microsoft wasn’t is no longer the case. Microsoft has whole heartedly adopted the open source community and has a massive Linux presence on Azure.
For pricing … your guess is as good as anyone’s. Both options have many variables to their pricing such that it’s hard to estimate exactly what it will cost to utilize it without it having your workload running in it. Both options are punitive for data evacuation, so proceed with a cautionary test environment with either. They both have free trials.
When it really comes down to it, neither option is a bad one. Both have huge footprints and near feature parity. Both are backed by diversified mega-corporations and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you want to be on the (currently) largest player, go with AWS. If you’re a Microsoft shop and/or you need a hybrid environment, Azure is the better option.