The cloud technology solves many problems that the ever more complicated and advanced business environment presents. It alleviates the pressures faced by companies to produce results more quickly, more efficiently, more economically, more collaboratively and more dynamically. Cloud technologies offer endless advantages and new ways of working. However, it is very difficult to select the correct service, as the range is broad, and not all services can be directly compared with one another.
My adventure in the clouds started roughly 12 years ago. Back then, I told our customers that nobody maintains their own windmill or electric power plan any more. After all, everyone buys their electricity directly as a service. IT should be purchased in the same way – from a cloud.
Even though this analogy is still topical, I hope that we will focus on the following question in 2017: “What cloud should we choose?”
The question no longer is whether to go to a cloud or not, or what a cloud is.
At present, many are considering the following question: “What is the right cloud for us?” To make it easier to compare different cloud service providers, I will compare two providers who are at the moment the most popular ones in the market. Below I have listed information collected from different sources about two options: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
In a commercial sense, AWS is the market leader by a clear margin among IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) providers. Microsoft has closed this gap, while leaving other competitors far behind. You can read more about this topic here.
Large service providers in a race
According to Gartner, the AWS service range is so broad and well-tested that it can be regarded as a safe choice. However, it is not that easy to use, operate and piece together. A skilled partner is often required.
Microsoft is coming, and fast. It has invested millions in service development, and the results are starting to show. Among large customers who have used Microsoft products for ages, Azure may seem like a logical route out of own data centre. However, Azure is still partly undeveloped compared with AWS. The bigger something is, the more slowly it can change. In other words, Azure will not catch up with AWS any time soon.
IAAS – INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE
With regard to the basic IaaS capacity, both cloud services have similar costs and properties, and this will not be a crucial factor when making a selection between the two. However, there are differences when the properties and prices of PaaS components are compared. Both AWS and Azure focus on the continuous development of new services. As a result, services related to databases, analytics, machine learning and the Internet of Things have improved significantly. For example, AWS Elastic MapReduce and Azure HDInsight offer the Hadoop cluster as a service.
PAAS – PLATFORM AS A SERVICE
PaaS plays a key part when considering independence of the supplier. When using PaaS components, there is always a strong dependency with the platform supplier. This may not be a bad thing, as building a separate service from readily available components is highly cost-efficient compared with a similar implementation following the IaaS model. When the IaaS capacity is used, the customer largely maintains control, as it is fully possible to transfer virtual instances from one cloud to another.
Is PaaS a vendor lock? Yes, it is. Does it matter if the service offers all the right properties? What if the solution has been built by efficiently using them?
WHAT ABOUT HYBRID CLOUDS?
Hybrids offer an intriguing twist to this tale. Microsoft has widely advertised its ability to provide its customers’ data centres with the same services as Azure offers by means of Azure Stack. AWS has not considered such an option.
AWS gives hybrids a completely different meaning. It has approached this concept from an architectural perspective where services or their parts are distributed between a customer’s data centre and AWS. This situation has changed when AWS, together with VMware, introduced their solution to scale traditional VMware environments in a cloud.
WHICH ONE IS BEST?
It seems that the choice between AWS and Azure is not always based on technical differences, but rather resembles a ‘religious’ choice. – Anton Floor
I believe that not even sensible reasons help to make a choice. To many, the choice is a fundamental one. Here are a few tips and pointers to consider when making a selection:
- Do not make an all-in choice.
- Select a cloud based on a built solution.
- You can use many different clouds.
- Pay special attention to risks and costs (PaaS vs. IaaS).
- Select a partner who can really help you.
Even though I only compared the services of two providers, this does not mean they are the best ones. There are a number of interesting challenges in Finland and in other countries. Take a closer look at their services and prices.