Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Amazon Web Services vs Microsoft Windows Azure: Cloud Hosting Services Comparison and Competition

Amazon Web Services vs Microsoft Windows Azure: Cloud Hosting Services Comparison and Competition 

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure are the great players in the cloud hosting market and competing with each other to provide best and cheap cloud storage and hosting services. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure are the big cloud hosting services providers in the world who have proved their worth and growing day by day. In this article we have tried to compare Amazon and Microsoft cloud services with their brief history.

It's hard to find someone who doesn't agree that Amazon Web Services is the market leader in IaaS cloud computing. The company has one of the widest breadths of cloud services - including compute, storage, networking, databases, load balancers, applications and application development platforms all delivered as a cloud service. Amazon has dropped its prices 21 times since it debuted its cloud six years ago and fairly consistently fills whatever gaps it has in the size of virtual machine instances on its platform - the company recently rolled out new high-memory instances, for example.

Amazon AWS is by far the largest provider of public cloud services and many analysts see that run continuing well into the next decade. As reported earlier, new Morgan Stanley research projected that AWS will hit $24 billion (with a B) in revenue by 2024 and poses a real threat to all legacy IT providers — companies like Oracle, HP, VMware,  IBM, SAP and — oh yeah — Microsoft.  I might quibble with the revenue figure — who can project a decade out? — but not with the fact that AWS is already starting to eat these companies’ respective lunches. If any of the top dozen IT vendors in the world aren’t worried about AWS, they should be.

Windows Azure launched three years ago, primarily as a Platform-as-a-Service, to underwhelming response at least to folks out side of Redmond, Wash. The problem was that developers, first at small startups, and increasingly at larger companies flocked to Amazon’s more granular and more basic Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capabilities.

Amazon had a 3 year head start at that time and then it took Microsoft till April of this year to formally launch its AWS-like IaaS capabilities. When Microsoft subsequently claimed that Azure was already a $1 billion business, many (including yours truly) didn’t buy it. And a clarification of those numbers showed that $1 billion covered a lot of distinctly non-Azure-y stuff like Microsoft software sold via AWS and other cloud or hosting providers.

And in the years it took Microsoft to get its IaaS out the door, Amazon has churned out more, higher level services including things like its DynamoDB NoSQL database.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Microsoft will respond, not only to AWS, but to an array of other upstart clouds — especially the new Google Compute Engine  including VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service. When it rolled out its IaaS services in April, Windows Azure GM Bill Hilf said the company would meet AWS pricing on all basic compute and storage y services and that Azure pricing will be uniform across all geographies and data centers — a not-so-veiled reference to Amazon’s variable pricing. Microsoft runs 8 data centers worldwide, 4 in the U.S., 2 in Europe and 2 in Asia.

Microsoft wants the world to know it is ready to go head-to-head with Amazon Web Services on both features and price.

Microsoft has claimed that its Linux and Windows Server virtual machines (VMs) on Windows Azure are now generally available and ready for deployment. These are the persistent VMs that Microsoft publicly unveiled last June, and which provide users with a way to run existing Linux and Windows Server apps in the Azure cloud without having to completely rewrite them.

Microsoft announced last year that these persistent VMs will allow users to run Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, OpenSUSE 12.1, CentOS 6.2, Ubuntu 12.04 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 and apps built on these Windows Server and Linux variants on Windows Azure.

Microsoft is adding Microsoft-validated instances to its VM options for common Windows applications that users may want to run on Azure, including SQL Server, SharePoint Server, BizTalk Server and Dynamics NAV.

Microsoft also is making its Azure Virtual Network technology. Windows Azure Virtual Network is designed to allow business users to extend their networks by enabling secure site-to-site IPsec VPN connectivity between the Enterprise and Windows Azure. The idea is this will allow users to better connect their hybrid on-premises and cloud set-ups.

Microsoft’s pitch is that Azure — which runs Microsoft data centers — will act in concert with outside data centers running the latest Windows Server and Systems Center releases — as a hybrid cloud that can shift workloads back and forth seamlessly.

On the pricing front, Microsoft also made a commitment to match Amazon Web Services on price for all "commodity" services, including compute, storage and bandwidth. As part of this pledge, Microsoft is reducing its general-availability pricing on VMs and cloud services by between 21 to 33 percent.

Microsoft has come into markets way late before and by dint of huge spending and iterative improvements, caught up. Internet Explorer was a pipsqueak compared to Netscape Navigator. Anyone use Navigator now? Didn’t think so. (Of course I’m not sure how many IE users there are any more either.) Still even Windows bashers have to acknowledge that Microsoft’s installed base is humongous. If it can move even a fraction of into Azure, it will be a factor.

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