Azure vs AWS: A comprehensive comparison
By Max Ikaheimo
3rd January, 2024
In cloud computing, two names dominate the conversation: Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. With AWS commanding a 32% market share and Azure close behind at 23%, as reported by Statista in late 2022, the choice between these two giants is a pivotal decision for businesses looking to harness the power of the cloud.
To help you choose between the two, we'll compare Azure and AWS across various critical aspects, including service offerings, pricing, performance, and security.
Whether you're a small startup or a large enterprise, this comparison will provide the insights needed to choose the cloud platform that best fits your business objectives.
Let's dive into the specifics of Azure and AWS and see how they stack up against each other.
Table of contents
In this post:
What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is a transformative technology that has reshaped the landscape of modern technology and business.
At its core, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”)
It’s like renting the technology services you need over the internet instead of buying and maintaining them yourself.
Cloud computing makes it easier and faster for businesses to get access to computing resources like servers, storage, and applications. This approach is changing how companies use technology, making it more about managing services and less about owning physical hardware.
Read more: A guide to cloud deployment
A brief history of Azure
Microsoft Azure, commonly referred to as Azure, is a cloud computing service created by Microsoft for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centers.
It provides a range of cloud services, including those for computing, analytics, storage, and networking. Users can pick and choose from these services to develop and scale new applications, or run existing applications, in the public cloud.
The early days
2008 announcement: Imagine it's 2008, and Microsoft announces Windows Azure. They're stepping into the cloud computing game, joining others like Amazon with AWS.
2010 launch: Fast forward to 2010, Windows Azure hits the market. It's all about letting developers create and manage apps in the cloud without worrying about the backend stuff.
Adding muscle (2011): In 2011, Azure gets beefier with Virtual Machines. Now, it's not just app-centric; you can run whole operating systems in the cloud, whether it's Windows or Linux.
Website wizardry (2012): By 2012, Azure makes launching and running websites a breeze with Azure Web Sites (now Azure App Service).
New identity and expansion
Rebranding (2014): Come 2014, Windows Azure transforms into Microsoft Azure. The new name reflects its broader tech appeal, supporting a variety of languages and tools.
Growing and glowing: After its rebranding, Azure keeps expanding, diving into AI, machine learning, and IoT (Internet of Things), and integrating more with Microsoft's other products like Office 365.
Big league player: Today, Azure stands tall as one of the top cloud services, alongside AWS and Google Cloud.
Innovation station: Microsoft continues to spice up Azure with new features, focusing on sustainability, security, and hybrid cloud solutions.
A brief history of AWS
Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing arm of Amazon.com, has a fascinating history that marks its evolution from a small addition to a large eCommerce company to becoming the world's leading cloud service provider.
AWS offers a broad set of global cloud-based products including compute, storage, databases, analytics, networking, mobile, developer tools, management tools, IoT, security, and enterprise applications.
The early days
Launch: Think of AWS in 2002 as a helpful neighbor offering tools and tips for using Amazon's web services. Back then, it was all about helping developers, but it wasn't the cloud giant we know today.
The game changer
AWS steps up: 2006 was a big year! AWS launched Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3). Imagine being able to rent virtual computers and store data online like never before. This was a game-changer, making computing power and storage accessible and scalable for everyone.
Growing and innovating
2007 and beyond: AWS didn't stop there. It kept adding new services, like a database service (SimpleDB) and a content delivery network (CloudFront). It was like watching a tech plant grow into a tech tree, branching out in all directions.
Becoming the cloud's big name
re:Invent kicks off: AWS started throwing its own party, the re:Invent conference, in 2012. This annual event turned into a big deal for announcing cool new services and updates.
Leading the pack
Steady growth: AWS kept growing, adding more services and attracting all sorts of customers, from startups to big companies.
Innovation leader: Always staying a few steps ahead, AWS became known for bringing new and exciting cloud technologies to the table.
Going global: AWS went on a world tour, setting up data centers in different regions, making sure it could offer great service everywhere.
Top of the cloud world: Now, AWS is like the king of the cloud service world, leading the pack in market share.
A service for everything: From computing to storage to machine learning, AWS has a tool for almost everything you can think of in the cloud.
Big and small, they serve all: AWS isn't just for the big players; it's also helping governments and large organizations meet their specific needs.
Market share and popularity
According to Statista, in the fourth quarter of 2022, the most popular vendor in the cloud infrastructure services market, Amazon Web Services (AWS), controlled 32 percent of the entire market. Microsoft Azure takes second place with 23 percent market share, followed by Google Cloud with 10 percent market share.
Together, these three cloud vendors account for 65 percent of total spend in the fourth quarter of 2022.
With Amazon Web Services (AWS) holding 32 percent of the market, it indicates that AWS is the most popular choice among cloud service providers. This popularity suggests a high level of trust and reliability in AWS's services, which could be due to its wide range of offerings, global reach, and strong security measures.
But Microsoft Azure is a strong contender with 23 percent of the market share. Azure is known for its integration with Microsoft's software products and services, which can be particularly beneficial for businesses already using Microsoft's ecosystem. This makes Azure a compelling choice for companies looking for seamless integration with tools like Office 365, Dynamics 365, and Windows Server.
This concentration suggests that these providers are setting industry standards in terms of technology, security, compliance, and service offerings.
|EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud)
|S3 (Simple Storage Service), EBS (Elastic Block Store)
|Blob Storage, Disk Storage
|RDS (Relational Database Service), DynamoDB
|SQL Database, Cosmos DB
|Content delivery and networking
|CloudFront, VPC (Virtual Private Cloud)
|Azure CDN, Virtual Network
|Big data and analytics
|Synapse Analytics, HDInsight
|Azure Machine Learning, Cognitive Services
|IAM (Identity and Access Management)
|Azure Active Directory
|AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodeDeploy
|Azure DevOps (formerly VSTS)
|Internet of Things (IoT)
|AWS IoT Core
|Azure IoT Hub
|AWS Amplify, AWS Mobile Hub
|Azure App Service, Xamarin
|ECS (Elastic Container Service), EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service)
|Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), Container Instances
|Broad set of certifications including HIPAA, GDPR, FedRAMP
|Broad set of certifications including HIPAA, GDPR, FedRAMP
|Pay-as-you-go, Reserved Instances, Spot Pricing
|Pay-as-you-go, Reserved Instances, Savings Plans, Spot Instances
|Offers a 12-month free tier with limited access to certain services, plus a set of services that are always free
|Offers a 12-month free tier with limited access to certain services, plus a set of always-free offers and short-term trials
|Charges per minute
|Charges per second (with a minimum of 60 seconds)
|Blob storage pricing based on the amount of data stored, operations performed, and data transfer
|S3 pricing based on the amount of storage used, number of requests, and data transfer
|Based on the type of database, size, and additional features like high availability
|Based on the database engine, provisioned throughput, storage, and additional features
|Data transfer costs
|Charges for outbound data transfer (data transfer in is generally free)
|Charges for outbound data transfer (data transfer in is generally free)
|Offers discounts for pre-committing to a certain level of usage for 1 or 3 years
|Offers Reserved Instances and Savings Plans for committing to a consistent amount of usage (compute or dollar amount) for 1 or 3 years
|Offers spot pricing for purchasing unused capacity at a discounted rate
|Offers spot instances for purchasing unused capacity at a discounted rate
|Provides volume-based discounts as part of the Azure Enterprise Agreement
|Offers volume discounts as usage increases
|Available for enterprise agreements and large-scale deployments
|Available for large or complex deployments with a high level of usage
|Global data center coverage
|Widespread, with data centers in 64 regions
|Extensive, with data centers in 27 regions
|Slightly higher than AWS
|Slightly lower than Azure
|Compute and storage performance
|Competitive with AWS, offering a variety of compute and storage options, including a range of VM types optimized for various purposes, premium storage options for high-performance scenarios, and Azure Autoscale for automatic scaling
|Competitive with Azure, offering a wide range of compute and storage solutions, including a wide variety of EC2 instance types optimized for different use cases, EBS optimized instances and provisioned IOPS for high-performance storage, and AWS Auto Scaling for automatic resource adjustments
|Strong performance for SQL Server and other major databases, including Azure SQL Database and Cosmos DB, with scalability and global distribution options
|Strong performance for relational and NoSQL databases, including RDS and DynamoDB, with scalability. Aurora is known for high performance and scalability
|Machine learning performance
|Excellent performance for machine learning workloads, with Azure Machine Learning service and Azure Cognitive Services
|Excellent performance for machine learning and artificial intelligence applications, with Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Rekognition, and Amazon Transcribe
|Supports Docker, Kubernetes, and other popular containerization technologies, including Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Azure Container Instances (ACI)
|Supports Docker, Kubernetes, and other containerization platforms, including Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Container Registry (ECR)
|High-Performance Computing (HPC) performance
|Offers a variety of HPC solutions for scientific computing and other demanding workloads, including Azure HPC
|Offers a comprehensive HPC platform for high-performance computing needs, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) P3 instances and Amazon Elastic Container Service for High Performance Computing (Amazon ECS for HPC)
|Generally considered to be more cost-effective than AWS for certain workloads, such as those that heavily utilize Azure's global network and Azure ExpressRoute
|Generally considered to be more cost-effective than Azure for certain workloads, such as those that require specific AWS services or data centers
|Integration with Microsoft applications
|Seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Office 365, Windows Server, and other Microsoft products, making it a good choice for organizations already using Microsoft products
|Integrates well with Amazon Web Services tools and services, allowing for easy integration with existing AWS workloads
User interface and ease of use
|Azure Portal offers a clean, modern interface with a dashboard that can be customized with tiles for different services. It emphasizes integration with other Microsoft services.
|AWS Management Console has a straightforward, functional design. It provides a comprehensive list of services, but the sheer number can be overwhelming for new users.
|Navigation and organization
|Azure's navigation is generally considered user-friendly, with services categorized logically. The search function is robust, helping users find services quickly.
|AWS offers a detailed navigation menu categorized by service type. However, the extensive range of services can make navigation a bit complex for beginners.
|Documentation and support
|Azure provides extensive documentation, tutorials, and quick-start guides. Microsoft also offers strong enterprise-level support and integration with existing Microsoft products.
|AWS is known for its detailed documentation, extensive FAQs, and active community forums. AWS also offers various levels of support plans.
|Azure might have a gentler learning curve for users already familiar with Microsoft's ecosystem, such as Windows Server, Active Directory, and SQL Server.
|AWS can have a steeper learning curve due to its vast array of services and options, but it's well-documented, and there are numerous learning resources available.
|Tooling and integration
|Azure integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft tools and services, which can simplify processes for users reliant on the Microsoft ecosystem.
|AWS offers a wide range of tools and SDKs for integration. It is particularly strong in integrations for DevOps, automation, and cloud-native development.
|Customization and flexibility
|Azure offers high levels of customization in its dashboard and allows users to tailor the interface to their specific needs.
|AWS provides customizable views and settings in its console, but the focus is more on functionality and breadth of service.
|Mobile app experience
|Azure has a mobile app that allows users to monitor and manage their resources on the go.
|AWS also offers a mobile app for resource monitoring and basic management tasks.
|Azure offers a wide range of compliance certifications, including global, regional, industry-specific, and government-specific standards.
|AWS also has an extensive list of compliance certifications, covering a broad range of regulatory requirements across different regions and industries.
|Identity and access management
|Azure Active Directory provides identity services that integrate with Microsoft’s cloud services and support multi-factor authentication, conditional access, and identity protection.
|AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) allows you to manage access to AWS services and resources securely. It also supports multi-factor authentication and fine-grained access controls.
|Azure provides robust network security capabilities, including Virtual Network, Network Security Groups, and Azure Firewall. Azure also offers DDoS protection and VPN services.
|AWS offers Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Security Groups, Network Access Control Lists (ACLs), AWS Shield for DDoS protection, and AWS Web Application Firewall.
|Azure offers encryption for data at rest and in transit, with capabilities like Azure Storage Service Encryption and Azure Disk Encryption.
|AWS provides data encryption for stored data (EBS, S3, etc.) and data in transit, using services like AWS Key Management Service (KMS) and AWS CloudHSM.
|Threat detection and monitoring
|Azure Security Center provides unified security management and advanced threat protection across hybrid cloud workloads.
|AWS Security Hub offers a comprehensive view of your high-priority security alerts and compliance status across AWS accounts.
|Security best practices and guidance
|Azure provides extensive documentation and best practices through the Azure Security Benchmark and Azure Security Center.
|AWS offers well-architected frameworks and extensive documentation on security best practices, including the AWS Well-Architected Framework.
|Azure has a proactive incident response team and provides tools and guidance for customers to respond to security incidents.
|AWS has an incident response guide and provides features and tools to help customers respond to and mitigate security incidents.
Unique features and differentiators
When comparing Azure and AWS, each platform has unique features and differentiators that set them apart. These distinctions can be crucial for businesses and developers when choosing a cloud service provider. Here's a look at some of the unique aspects of each:
Microsoft Azure unique features and differentiators
Integration with Microsoft products: Azure offers seamless integration with a wide range of Microsoft products and services, such as Office 365, SharePoint, and Dynamics 365. This integration is particularly beneficial for businesses already entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem.
Hybrid cloud capabilities: Azure excels in hybrid cloud solutions with Azure Stack, allowing businesses to bring Azure services to their own data center for a truly consistent hybrid experience.
Enterprise focus: Azure has a strong focus on enterprise needs, offering comprehensive solutions for large-scale businesses, including specific features for industries like healthcare, government, and finance.
Azure Active Directory (AD): Azure AD is a robust cloud-based identity and access management service, which is deeply integrated with other Microsoft services and widely used in enterprise environments.
Windows virtual desktop: Azure provides a comprehensive desktop and app virtualization service in the cloud, which is a significant advantage for businesses looking to move their desktop infrastructure to the cloud.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) unique features and differentiators
Market leadership and experience: AWS has been the market leader in cloud computing for a longer time, offering a mature and feature-rich platform with a broad and deep set of capabilities.
Extensive global infrastructure: AWS has the largest global footprint among cloud providers, with a vast number of data centers spread across more regions and availability zones.
Innovation and pace of introducing new services: AWS is known for its rapid pace of innovation, consistently introducing new services and features.
AWS Lambda and serverless leadership: AWS Lambda, the pioneering serverless computing service, allows running code without provisioning or managing servers, and AWS continues to lead in the serverless space.
Diverse customer base: AWS caters to a wide range of customers from startups to large enterprises and public sector organizations, offering solutions that meet a variety of needs.
Amazon machine learning and AI services: AWS offers a strong set of machine learning and AI services, including SageMaker for building, training, and deploying machine learning models at scale.
Integration and ecosystem
Microsoft Azure integration and ecosystem
Microsoft product integration: Azure is tightly integrated with Microsoft's software and services, including Office 365, SharePoint, Dynamics 365, and Power BI. This integration provides a seamless experience for businesses already using Microsoft products.
Developer tools: Azure supports a range of developer tools and languages, including Visual Studio, .NET, and open-source technologies, making it a versatile platform for a variety of development scenarios.
Hybrid cloud solutions: Azure stands out with its hybrid cloud solutions, offering Azure Stack for extending Azure services to on-premises environments. This is particularly beneficial for businesses that need to keep some data and applications on-premises for regulatory or operational reasons.
Enterprise focus: Azure’s ecosystem is tailored towards large enterprises with complex requirements, offering specialized solutions for different industries and deep integration with enterprise-level tools.
Marketplace: Azure Marketplace offers a wide range of third-party applications and services that can be easily integrated into Azure environments.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) Integration and Ecosystem
Broad service offering: AWS offers a vast array of services that cover almost every cloud computing need, from basic computing and storage to advanced machine learning, analytics, and IoT services.
Open source and third-party integration: AWS has strong support for open-source technologies and offers extensive integration with third-party tools and services, making it a flexible choice for various technology stacks.
AWS Partner Network (APN): The APN includes thousands of systems integrators and technology partners that provide a wide range of solutions and expertise for AWS customers.
DevOps and automation: AWS offers robust tools for DevOps and automation, including AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild, and AWS CodeDeploy, which integrate seamlessly with other AWS services.
Marketplace: AWS Marketplace features a vast selection of third-party software and services that can be integrated with AWS’s cloud environment.
Startups and scale: AWS is popular among startups due to its scalability and the breadth of its services, which allow startups to grow rapidly without needing to switch platforms.
Customer support and community
|Customer support plans
|Azure offers several support plans: Basic (free), Developer, Standard, Professional Direct, and Premier. Each plan varies in terms of response time, scope of support, and cost.
|AWS offers a range of support plans: Basic (free), Developer, Business, and Enterprise. These plans differ in terms of available support, response times, and technical account management.
|Technical support availability
|Azure provides 24/7 technical support for all paid plans, with varying levels of response times based on the plan.
|AWS also offers 24/7 technical support for all paid plans, with response times depending on the severity of the issue and the chosen plan.
|Azure has a strong community presence with forums like MSDN and Stack Overflow. Microsoft also hosts various Azure-specific events and conferences.
|AWS has a large and active community with forums like AWS Developer Forums and Stack Overflow. AWS also hosts events like AWS re:Invent and AWS Summits.
|Documentation and resources
|Azure offers comprehensive documentation, tutorials, and learning paths through Microsoft Learn and Azure documentation.
|AWS provides extensive documentation, tutorials, and digital training through AWS Training and Certification and AWS documentation.
|Azure Marketplace offers support for third-party solutions available on the platform, with varying levels of support based on the vendor.
|AWS Marketplace provides support for third-party products, with the level of support depending on the individual vendor.
|Developer tools and SDKs
|Azure provides a range of developer tools and SDKs, with support available through the respective support plans.
|AWS offers various developer tools and SDKs, with support included in the AWS support plans.
|User groups and forums
|Azure has a network of user groups and community-driven events worldwide, fostering a collaborative environment for sharing knowledge.
|AWS supports a wide network of user groups globally and encourages community-led AWS Meetups and events.
How to choose between AWS and Azure?
Azure Monitor vs. AWS CloudWatch: If your priority is advanced monitoring and integration with Microsoft services, Azure Monitor might be more suitable. For broader service monitoring and operational health insights, AWS CloudWatch is a strong contender.
Azure Cloud vs. AWS Cloud: Consider Azure if you're looking for strong hybrid cloud capabilities and integration with Microsoft products. Opt for AWS if you need a more extensive range of services and a larger global infrastructure.
Azure File and Blob Storage vs. Amazon S3: Azure offers Azure File Storage for SMB-based file shares and Azure Blob Storage for REST-based object storage, ideal for integration with Microsoft services. Amazon S3 is a robust choice for scalable object storage with high durability.
Cloud migration: If your migration needs are closely tied to Microsoft environments, Azure's cloud migration services might be more aligned with your requirements. AWS offers comprehensive migration services that are well-suited for diverse and large-scale migrations.
Simple storage service and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2): AWS's S3 and EC2 are industry-leading services for storage and computing. If these are your primary needs, AWS could be the better choice.
Reserved instances: Both Azure and AWS offer reserved instances, which can be a cost-saving option. Your choice might depend on the specific pricing models and discounts offered by each platform.
Overall cloud provider considerations: Evaluate each provider based on the breadth and depth of their services. AWS offers a wide range of services and excels in scalability and innovation, while Azure is known for its enterprise focus and strong support for hybrid cloud environments.
Cloud migration services: Both platforms offer robust cloud migration services. Your choice might depend on which platform aligns better with your existing infrastructure and the specific tools and support each offers for migration.
But AWS and Azure aren’t your only choices. You can always pick between Vercel and Netlify, the new serverless contenders to the big two dominance.
Read more: Vercel vs Netlify
When choosing between Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) for your cloud computing needs, it's essential to consider a variety of factors that align with your organization's specific requirements and strategic objectives. Both Azure and AWS offer robust, feature-rich platforms with unique strengths.
Azure stands out with its seamless integration with Microsoft's suite of products, making it an ideal choice for organizations heavily invested in the Microsoft ecosystem. Its strong capabilities in hybrid cloud solutions and enterprise-focused services make it a compelling option for large businesses seeking a smooth transition to the cloud.
On the other hand, AWS boasts a broad range of services, extensive global infrastructure, and a reputation for innovation and scalability. It's a versatile platform that caters to a diverse range of computing needs, from startups to large enterprises, making it a go-to choice for organizations seeking flexibility and a comprehensive set of tools and services.
Ultimately, the decision between Azure and AWS should be based on specific factors such as your existing infrastructure, scalability needs, compliance requirements, budget, and the particular cloud services your organization requires.
Both platforms have their unique advantages, and the right choice may even involve a multi-cloud strategy, leveraging the strengths of both to meet different operational needs.
By carefully evaluating each platform's offerings and aligning them with your business goals, you can make an informed decision that paves the way for a successful and efficient cloud computing experience.
Get in touch and let's discuss your business case