Microsoft Azure vs. Amazon Web Services

1st October 2013

Microsoft’s cloud offering is showing strong performance

According to a recent report from Forrester, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Windows Azure are the most commonly used platforms for enterprise cloud developers. The report showed that, whilst Amazon Web Services was the most used platform, Azure is leading the chasing pack, including major players such as Google, Rackspace and Red Hat. Such performance is particularly impressive given that Azure only launched in 2010, four years after Amazon Web Services.

Traditionally, we have seen competitors perform strongly in particular market segments – Amazon Web Services is way ahead in terms of overall usage overall, but Azure leads the way RDBMS, for example. However, Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond says that, looking forward, this will change:

“We’re moving away from distinct leaders in a single market segment, like IaaS or PaaS, and toward a model that mirrors a traditional buying pattern, where app development professionals choose between best of breed services (e.g., compute, storage, RDBMS, messaging, CRM) or integrated data-centers of services (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Salesforce/Heroku/Database.com).”

With this in mind, what are the features of Azure that are driving its growth – and that will continue to drive its growth as the market channels flatten out?

  • Familiarity – As a Microsoft product, Azure offers a familiar means of usage that, whilst not a reason on its own to choose a platform, should also not be underestimated. Also, users can use the same coding languages used for other Windows apps, meaning it is easy to find developers who are highly skilled in the environment.
  • Support – As with its other products, Microsoft provides excellent levels of support with Azure. As well as it’s own website, users have TechNet and the Developers Network on which they can find information – and there is a highly engaged network around all Microsoft products.
  • Software Development Kit (SDK) – The Azure SDK allows users to run a version of it on their own machines, meaning they can work locally should they need or wish to.

There’s no doubt that Amazon is the main player in the cloud hosting market – but Microsoft and Google have been late entrants to the market by comparison. Furthermore, they both have experience chasing down competitors and they both have the money to do so. We can expect to see the market become more competitive, but in the meantime organisations should still ensure they have a strong understanding of their needs before choosing a provider – for the time being, this is still an industry of niche offerings.

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