AWS vs. Azure: A Tale of Two Cities
...and Their Cost of Living
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was an age of big data, it was the age of startups, it was the epoch of mass marketing, it was the season of DIY. At this point, cloud computing is nothing new. There is no shortage of large enterprises offering cloud services globally in private and government sectors. Of those, we’ll be taking a look at two rivals: Amazon’s AWS vs. Microsoft’s Azure.
The Brass Tax: AWS vs. Azure
Cost, the determining factor of many things. Which is cheaper? How much is this going to cost me? With both AWS and Azure, determining cost is by no means straightforward. There is no universal flat rate on many configurations. Cost is determined by:
- How often it’s used (even down to the minute)
- What services are being utilized
- How much data is being requested and transferred
As such, finding which is going to be more affordable depends on your infrastructure, and your needs for that particular billing cycle. Fortunately, both AWS and Azure offer pricing calculators to compare and contrast what your environment requires.
There’s more to consider with cost than simply a base price. Many factors specific to your environment are going to affect your total cost.
“Everybody Wants Something for Nothing”
Both AWS and Azure offer a certain level of freebies, which though targeted towards those starting their journey into cloud services, can be leveraged by those who have experience under their belt. Some freebies have a limited use of time, whereas others are truly free. Depending on your situation, leveraging free services initially or long term can save money and may enhance the value of one over the other. Infrastructures utilizing microservices will benefit the most.
Around the World in 80 Transit Gateways
Location, location, location. Even if one cloud provider has a marked cost advantage over the other, you must consider locations. Lacking support in your target area will inevitably result in high latency. To overcome this latency you may need to deploy more resources in the area. If your target area is prone to natural disasters or political instability that may result in an outage event, it would be sensible to consider backup locations nearby. Limited availability in your target area could result in higher prices and less availability as others will be competing for those same resources. If the majority of your end users are in the USA, AWS may be the way to go. However, if your audience is primarily in Dubai, Azure is the clear winner.
Hybrid Cloud: AWS vs. Azure
Nope, it’s not a flying Prius. Netapp defines it well:
“Hybrid cloud refers to a mixed computing, storage, and services environment made up of on-premises infrastructure, private cloud services, and a public cloud—such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure—with orchestration among the various platforms. Using a combination of public clouds, on-premises computing, and private clouds in your data center means that you have a hybrid cloud infrastructure.”
On-premise resources that you already own are very inexpensive, and sensitive data remains local. However, expanding your infrastructure to handle heavy temporary workloads, newer hardware, and broadening capabilities for the future are common, price-conscious reasons businesses opt for a hybrid cloud setup.
For similar reasons, some businesses are opting for a multi-cloud environment using two or more cloud providers to leverage cost and select services. Between AWS and Azure, Azure is better geared to work with physical data centers and other cloud providers. This functionality may present a real cost savings.
Somebody to Lean On: AWS vs. Azure Support
AWS and Azure both offer free basic support for their cloud platforms, along with premium support (for a price). Each has 4 support tiers. AWS calculates support plan costs based on a fixed percentage of your overall AWS spend over a base price, with discounts offered for the big spenders. As is the general rule of thumb, Azure’s pricing model is less murky: tiers 2, 3, and 4 support being $29, $100, $1000 per month, respectively. (Azure also offers an additional tier of support, which encompasses other Microsoft products such as Microsoft 365 that could offer a true value).
Getting help quickly is a cornerstone of a support service. Here’s the breakdown:
AWS Support Response Times
Azure Support Response Times
“License and Registration, Please?”
There are many license types across a plethora of software that you may wish to deploy, but let’s look at the Microsoft license, as that is often a determining factor for those considering Azure. You will pay for licenses for Microsoft products regardless of platform. As an incentive, Azure offers a discount on licenses on their platform:
“Azure Hybrid Benefit is a licensing benefit that helps you to significantly reduce the costs of running your workloads in the cloud. It works by letting you use your on-premises Software Assurance-enabled Windows Server and SQL Server licenses on Azure. And now, this benefit applies to RedHat and SUSE Linux subscriptions, too.”
Azure provides an Azure Hybrid Benefit savings calculator.
AWS counters this cost savings by quantity and quality of their stack:
“[...]we host nearly two times as many Windows Server instances in the cloud as Microsoft. And more and more enterprises are entrusting their Windows workloads to AWS because of its greater reliability, higher performance, and lower cost, with the number of AWS enterprise customers using AWS for Windows Server growing more than 400% in the past three years. [...]They found a better experience, stronger support, higher availability, and better performance, with 4x faster launch times and 35% lower costs compared to Azure.“
AWS may be quite correct here in saying that simply because you save on license cost, doesn’t necessarily equate to savings overall, as you may need to spend more with Azure to get the same results as with AWS-- but, as always, that depends on your environment.
As stated no shortage of times above, comparing prices between these two competitors will depend heavily on where you’re coming from and where you’re going. If you’re dependent on select services, make sure that the one you choose has what you need. Location, location, location. Licenses types. On-premises dependencies. And inevitably, how well can billing sort out complex monthly invoices? Of course, why choose when you can have two? Hybrid Cloud is a great alternative but carries with it the challenges of both platforms. We at Bloomip can help clear the confusion. If you’re debating AWS vs. Azure, contact us.