Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon’s AWS are top choices when it comes to enterprise-level IaaS. Which one is right for your business?

The many benefits offered by the cloud – on-demand scalability, reduced costs – have made it an irresistible choice for businesses. According to RightScale’s Fifth Annual State of the Cloud Survey of the latest cloud computing trends, AWS continues to lead in public cloud adoption.
But as you can see in the graph above, Microsoft’s Azure is galloping closely behind. A recent report by Morgan Stanley, based on a survey of 100 CIOs, predicted that Azure would be the largest Infrastructure as a Service vendor by 2019.
Each cloud provider offers a different set of features/capabilities to suit different requirements – so you first need to know and understand your specific requirements. Read on to learn how Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure compare:


Operating officially since 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is closing in on its 10-year anniversary, giving it a head start over Microsoft Azure, which entered the market in 2010.

What They Are

AWS is an umbrella offering that includes various branded IaaS and PaaS solutions. The largest and best-known of these is the EC2 IaaS solution. Amazon owns the largest data centers in the world. The AWS Cloud operates 35 Availability Zones within 13 geographic Regions around the world.
AWS has a diverse customer base and a broad range of use cases in enterprise and mission-critical applications. It has the largest share of compute capacity of all other providers in the market. This has enabled AWS to attract an ecosystem of open-source tools, and over a thousand technology partners that have:

  • Licensed and packaged their software to run on AWS
  • Integrated their software with AWS capabilities
  • Deliver add-on services.

AWS also has a tiered and competency-badged network of partners that provide application development expertise, managed services and professional services such as data center migration. That ecosystem, along with AWS’s training and certification programs, makes it easier to adopt and operate AWS in a best practice fashion.
Microsoft Azure encompasses integrated IaaS and PaaS components that operate together. Microsoft has been rapidly rolling out new features and services, and has a vision of infrastructure and platform services with leading stand-alone offerings that seamlessly extend and operate with on-premises Microsoft infrastructure. Microsoft has become less reliant on its Windows franchise, and Azure’s support for Linux and other open-source technologies is improving.
Azure is not the size of AWS, but Microsoft has been working hard to match Amazon’s services and flexibility. Many organizations consider it a contender, and base their vendor decision on factors other than technical capabilities. And Microsoft’s brand, existing customer relationships, history of running global-class consumer internet properties and deep investments in engineering and innovation have enhanced its status as a strategic cloud IaaS provider.
Azure is generally available in 26 regions around the world, and has announced plans for 8 additional regions. Geographic expansion is a priority for Azure because it enables its customers to achieve higher performance and it supports their requirements and preferences regarding data location.

Azure and AWS: Comparing the Basics

  • Both AWS and Azure cover the basics of enterprise cloud services quite well. The core features of AWS include: Compute, Storage and Content Delivery, Databases, and Networking all operate under Amazon’s comprehensive 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 covers these same areas under Build Infrastructure, Develop Modern Applications, Gain Insights from Data and Manage Identify and Access. Both AWS and Azure provide analytics and the ability for real-time stream processing. 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 employees what they need to build and deploy apps. Storage and database options abound, as well.
  • Azure’s ‘Basic’ service level removes auto-scaling and load balancing for those clients who don’t require such services, such as those running test environments and batch processing applications. For Windows-centric development or hosting, Azure offers slightly better options – Visual Studio, .NET and Windows programming languages such as VB and Visual C++ are all fully supported and well integrated.

AWS vs Azure: Storage and databases

  • AWS provides temporary storage that is allocated once an instance is started and is destroyed when the instance is terminated. It provides Block Storage that is equivalent to hard disks, in that it can either be attached to any instance or kept separate. AWS also offers object storage with their S3 Service, and archiving services with Glacier. AWS fully supports relational and NoSQL databases and Big Data.


  • Azure uses temporary storage (D drive) and Page Blobs (Microsoft’s Block Storage option) for VM-based volumes. Block Blobs and Files serve for Object Storage. Azure supports both relational and NoSQL databases, and Big Data, through Windows Azure Table and HDInsight.

Microsoft Azure vs Amazon AWS: Pricing

Both Microsoft and Amazon have a great deal of transparency in pricing their services, and each have calculators available to allow you to structure your cloud service needs:
Microsoft’s Azure Pricing Calculator
Amazon’s AWS Pricing Calculator

AWS vs Azure vs Google: Networking

Amazon’s Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs) and Azure’s Virtual Network (VNET) allow users to group VMs into isolated networks in the cloud. Using VPCs and VNETs, users can define a network topology, create subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges, and network gateways.
There’s not much to choose between AWS vs Azure on this: they both have solutions to extend your on-premise data center into the public (or hybrid) cloud.

Microsoft Azure vs AWS: Customers

A high-profile user base may not be the main reason for choosing either cloud provider. But it can help the more cautious organizations understand how the public cloud is benefitting others in their sector. This is clearly a strong-point of AWS. It has increasingly taken on large customer deals, leading to the intriguing situation of a company owned by what was once simply an online bookseller threatening to usurp some of the biggest names in IT.
For example, although the US Central Intelligence Agency eventually signed a contract with IBM, awarding AWS a contract to build its private cloud in a one-off deal in 2013 could be seen as symbolic of a change in mentality by buyers.
A major proponent of AWS has been Netflix – a long standing customer which recently claimed it would soon be shutting the rest of its data centers in a final move to the cloud. But aside from web pioneers, its real success has been in convincing more traditional businesses to move to the cloud. Other major customers include: AirBnB, Aon, Channel 4, Financial Times, Dow Jones, Kurt Geiger, Lonely Planet, Nasdaq, Nike, Nisa Retail, Pfizer, and the Royal Opera House.
Microsoft perhaps has less high profile Azure users, with most of the messaging from the vendor appearing to be around its widely used Saas tools. But the Redmond firm has also notched up some notable customer wins, including Heineken, GE Healthcare, Pearson, Ford, NBC News 3M and more.

AWS – Government Ready

AWS has a significant lead in helping a number of government agencies move some of their operations to the cloud. Amazon calls this service GovCloud. The goal here is to provide the US government with a place to store sensitive workloads and projects. There’s not a lot of information about this product, but we know it must be compliant with a number of protocols ranging from HIPPA to ITAR in order for the government to consider it as a legit player in the cloud.
Microsoft is taking a similar approach with Azure, having cordoned off part of its cloud and calling it Azure Government. But it’s not nearly as mature, and that gives Amazon AWS a major advantage in this area. If you have a considerable investment in Microsoft products, it might wise to take a “wait and see” approach with Azure Government. Otherwise, AWS is your best option today.

What are customer’s saying?

  • AWS has built a reputation for providing flexibility, allowing its customers to pick and choose and build the cloud services they need (and AWS offers many, many product choices).
  • Microsoft Azure has created a stack of products simple to use, as long you use them the way Microsoft has designed them to be used. Azure doesn’t offer as many products as AWS, making their offerings easier to navigate.

The Bottom Line

Both of these options are best in class products from companies that have defined and dominated the tech world from 20 years.
AWS has historically been the go-to choice because of its outstanding quality, first to market, plethora of choices which keep increasing, trust in the company, and cost.  Strong for:

  • All use cases that run well in virtualized environments.
  • Applications that are potentially challenging to run in a multitenant environment, including highly secure applications, strictly compliant or complex enterprise applications that require special attention to architecture.

Microsoft is becoming legitimate player in the market. Larger enterprises are now becoming more comfortable with the idea of the cloud infrastructure concept. Those enterprises pilot with Microsoft because IT departments are very comfortable with them as a vendor. Microsoft offers a good set of features and services and have been investing heavily into Azure such that the two options are somewhat neck and neck.  Microsoft’s platform and services can be more integrated, including Cortana Intelligence Suite, whereas some AWS services are disparate and may require higher engineering costs to implement and support. Strong for:

  • General Business Applications and development environments that use Microsoft Technologies
  • Migration of virtualized workloads for Microsoft-centric organizations, cloud native applications (including IoT applications) and batch computing.

There you have it. A quick comparison of AWS and Azure. For a more detailed side-by-side comparison of AWS and Azure,  view this chart.
As you know, things change fast in the cloud computing world, so be sure to follow Menlo Technologies on Twitter to stay up to date.
Menlo Technologies has forged partnerships with Amazon AWS and Microsoft. We are Microsoft Silver Competency Partners in Cloud Development.  

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