The cloud is no longer a one-size-fits-all endeavour. We are operating in a multi-cloud world where Service Providers will have certain workloads in one cloud and some in another. This will become even more prevalent because more organizations adopt the cloud and cloud spending continues to rise. With most of the market share with Amazon AWS (33%) and Microsoft Azure (18%) as eager runner-up, let’s have a closer look at how these two mega-providers relate.
Amazon Web Services pretty much invented the concept of public cloud in 2006. The initial driver was that Amazon wanted to completely separate their applications from infrastructure and commoditize that infrastructure, However, after a few years they realized that they could resell this IT infrastructure to businesses in the form of scalable and automated web services with consumption based monthly prices. That really was the start of cloud computing as we know it today: running workloads across the internet in someone else’s data centre. From there, AWS gradually built up their services from just 3 (SQS, EC2 and S3) to over 175 services now across the entire cloud spectrum.
Four years later in 2010, Microsoft commercially launched the Azure platform offering different cloud services, including compute, storage and networking, SQL Server Services and .NET and grew into what it is today: a robust cloud platform offering hundreds of services in the cloud.
Although AWS and Azure both offer great capabilities around flexible compute, storage and networking, plus a whole lot more – think AI, IoT, machine learning, DevOps – there is a basic differentiation between the two: their fundamental approach. Whereas Azure comes from a commercial starting point, linked into licensing, enterprise agreements or CSP (Cloud Solution Provider) Program, AWS started from a technical, developer-focussed point of view, providing a broad, code-driven infrastructure for what they call “builders”.
This fundamental difference means that we can distinguish a number of scenarios in which we see at Insight that Service Providers opt for AWS or Azure for cloud services. Having said that, we must make a reservation right away. We can set indications on what is best run in AWS or Azure, in real life we see hundreds of exceptions to this logic. We see, for example, companies running Windows based .NET applications on AWS and Linux workloads on Azure, which is completely the opposite of this logic.
“We can set indications on what is best run in AWS or Azure, in real life we see hundreds of exceptions to this logic. It is our strength to work with our partners and take their scenario as the guiding principle for which cloud solution suits them best.”
Cloud backup Service Providers tend to turn to AWS for backup and storage before Azure. This could be because of partnerships or because AWS makes it easier for them to do this on their platform. The AWS storage solution Amazon S3 is cost-effective and has a lot of functionality in terms of automatic tiering, which helps for cheaper storage. Additional features include advanced data protection layers against cyberthreats such as object-lock immutability functions that ensure that copies are invariable as long as the lock protection is applied, for example, for regulatory compliance.
AWS is very much an open-source-driven cloud, so you see a lot of Linux and open source software. As part of the open-source community, Amazon has been contributing to hundreds of projects for over a decade. This is why developers who want to get away from license-based products turn to AWS. They find a lot of assistance and tools – like AWS Lambda for serverless compute – to help them convert their proprietary databases and systems into open-source systems.
If you are traditionally in Microsoft workloads with .NET, SQL and other Microsoft services, you will have a lot of investments made in terms of money, skills and experience. In this case, Azure seems to be the logical choice, as Microsoft offers backup, assistance and many tools to make adoption to Azure easy, for example with Visual Studio, where Azure deployment is built in.
Microsoft originally has a strong footprint in many companies, from small to large. Microsoft 365 (earlier Office 365) is almost unchallenged as an end-user compute system or collaboration system. No vendor offers anything as good as that. Therefore, if systems or applications are very end-user focused, the obvious cloud would be Azure, also in combination with hybrid environments in which private and public cloud are connected. Microsoft offers very good integration tools and assistance for building services around Microsoft 365 on Azure.
Four standard scenarios, but which one should you choose? Technically speaking, Azure and AWS are quite similar, so the choice of cloud is very rarely technically driven. It usually depends more on the existing relationship, the ambitions of the company or the culture: whether you are an open-source-driven company or more of a Microsoft application-based company. In most cases, culture goes above technology. We also see that the choice for AWS is mostly driven from the development team, while Microsoft is driven from the CTO/CIO-level, which looks at the cloud from a more commercial perspective.
While for most Service Providers culture determines their decision for AWS or Azure, they come to us for guidance on how they split workloads in a multi-cloud environment and tailor their strategy. We have helped many Service Providers understand which choice works best for their business. If you have 10 different systems in your data centre, is it sensible to move them all to a single cloud or do you split them up across multiple clouds? And how does that relate to, for example, monitoring (separate cloud-native tools, single pane of glass, an abstract layer like containerization, e.g. cloud-agnostic Kubernetes), or your data strategy (costs, disruption, vulnerability)?
At Insight we talk with many Service Providers every day. That's why we know that each Service Provider and each of your customers have their unique needs, also related to the industry in which you specialize. We see it as our role to help you find the best solution for your individual scenario and help you increase your productivity and profitability in and with the cloud in the way that’s best for your company.
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