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AWS VS AZURE – Comparing the Basics

The main leading platforms today are Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon’s AWS, when it comes to enterprise-level IaaS.

Which one is right for your business? – Here’s how the two cloud platforms compare, complete with a side-by-side feature & services comparison.



Operating officially since 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is closing in on its 10-year anniversary. The meaning of it that Amazon has merely had that much more time to build an incredible head start over its competition.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure, entered the market in 2010. And has been rapidly building its infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering ever since.

Of course, insurmountable leads and shadows are largely irrelevant to your own selection. These companies are both global titans with the resources to make their respective cloud services as robust and expansive as they want. With server farms the size of cities, both are equipped to meet the needs of enterprises of virtually any size. But while the question: “So which of the two is better for my business?” is a simple one, the answer may be a little more complicated.

Azure and AWS: Comparing the Basics

In broad strokes, both Amazon and Microsoft organize AWS’ and Azure’s respective features into similar groups. AWS’ four core features consist of Compute, Storage & Content Delivery, Databases, and Networking — all operating under Amazon’s extensive admin controls, which include identity management, auditing, encryption key creation/control/storage, monitoring and logging, and more. AWS also gives its customers powerful analytics (Amazon EMR is the company’s Hadoop framework, and Kinesis can do data stream processing in real time) and tons of application services and deployment options.

Azure essentially covers these bases, too, lumping them into four general categories or functions: Build infrastructure, Develop modern applications, Gain insights from data, and Manage identity and access. Azure has its own Hadoop implementation, HDInsight, and Apache Storm can do real-time stream processing. You can get virtual machines (VMs) off the ground quickly and give your developers what they need to build and deploy apps. Storage and database options abound, as well.


Licensing Mobility

Paying to use either IaaS is one thing, but what about your existing licenses? Depending on the size of your enterprise, thousands, if not millions, of dollars in software licenses are in play, so it’s useful to know how Microsoft and Amazon’s respective IaaS offerings treat those licenses in the cloud.

Consider the example of running a VM with Windows Server 2003/2008 on Amazon’s cloud. Part of the cost of running the VM on Amazon EC2 includes a license key for that particular instance, which is something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, you won’t get a “discount” on any on-premises Windows Server license keys, but on the other hand, you can use that key to run an on-premises VM of Windows Server. The same setup is true for Azure. Again, the cost of a Windows Server license is built into what you would pay to run it as a VM on Azure.

You won’t have to double-up for every kind of license, though. In an effort to stay competitive with each others’ service, both Microsoft and Amazon offer license mobility to allow you to run instances of certain software in the cloud without buying additional licenses. Both vendors outline the process on their respective sites; Amazon lists the eligible applications and lays out the process for signing up, and Microsoft outlines the process of determining license mobility on Azure through Software Assurance:

Microsoft License Mobility on AWS

Microsoft License Mobility on Azure