Amazon Web Services (AWS) is to Microsoft Azure what McDonald's is to Burger King: They both provide the same core types of products and target the same audiences and use cases. But they do so in different ways, and understanding the differences between AWS and Azure is critical for choosing the right solution for your team or organization.
Keep reading for a breakdown of the main differences between AWS and Azure. As you'll learn, either public cloud will probably work for virtually any mainstream workload you'd want to run in the cloud today, but nuanced differences in areas such as hybrid cloud solutions and networking services may make AWS or Azure a better fit for you, depending on your needs.
- CI/CD Pipeline Solutions on AWS vs. Azure
- Hybrid Cloud on AWS and Azure
- Cloud Networking Solutions
- Cloud Monitoring on AWS vs. Azure
- Market Recognition and Support of AWS vs. Azure
1. CI/CD Pipeline Solutions on AWS vs. Azure
AWS and Azure both offer suites of cloud services that you can use to set up a CI/CD pipeline in the cloud.
On the whole, however, Azure's CI/CD solutions are tighter and better integrated with each other. Azure provides a straightforward set of services, which it collectively calls Azure DevOps, that are designed to integrate with each other seamlessly and that cover all of workflows you'd need to manage within a CI/CD pipeline — from agile project planning, to code integration and testing, to source code management, and beyond.
AWS' CI/CD offerings are not as expansive or as well-connected. AWS also doesn't really have a built-in agile planning solution, and it leans more heavily on third-party solutions to address software testing requirements.
None of the above may matter to you if you intend to run your CI/CD processes using other solutions rather than those provided by a cloud vendor. But if you want an uncomplicated CI/CD suite that is built into your cloud, Azure is probably a better fit.
2. Hybrid Cloud on AWS and Azure
AWS and Azure both have robust hybrid cloud offerings, but they are designed in different ways and have different strengths and weaknesses.
AWS' main hybrid cloud solution, Outposts, is tightly integrated with AWS. To use it, you have to obtain hardware directly from AWS, which you then simply set up to get your hybrid cloud up and running. This makes Outposts advantageous if you're already heavily invested in the AWS cloud and want to extend your cloud environment to include some hybrid on-premises infrastructure. Outposts makes the process of creating a hybrid cloud as seamless as possible for existing AWS customers.
Azure has a more flexible set of hybrid cloud offerings. It provides Azure Stack and Azure Arc, both of which you can use to build out a hybrid cloud environment. You don't have to purchase your hardware directly from Microsoft, although you may need to choose certified hardware from Microsoft-approved partners.
On the whole, Azure's hybrid solutions are better if you want flexibility, although they require more effort in some respects to set up and administer.
3. Cloud Networking Solutions
AWS and Azure both support cloud complex networking configurations. The main difference between the two clouds in this regard is that Azure has a more granular — and, arguably, more complicated — set of networking solutions than AWS. (This Azure documentation page does a nice job of comparing the various cloud networking services available from both clouds.)
In general, AWS networking is easier to work with because there are fewer services to learn. But Azure makes "power-user" network management features more accessible by breaking up its networking services into a wider array of tools, with certain services covering basic configuration needs while others address advanced setups.
4. Cloud Monitoring on AWS vs. Azure
Another important difference between AWS and Azure lies in the types of monitoring use cases that their built-in monitoring services support.
AWS' main monitoring service, CloudWatch, works only with AWS. In contrast, Azure Monitor, the primary monitoring solution for Azure, works across multiple clouds. This gives Azure a clear advantage for use cases involving multi-cloud architectures.
Of course, you could use a variety of third-party monitoring tools that also support multiple clouds. It's not as if Azure Monitor is the only multi-cloud monitoring tool out there. But you can't argue that AWS provides the same level of flexibility when it comes to cloud monitoring as Azure does.
5. Market Recognition and Support of AWS vs. Azure
Although AWS and Azure are both very popular and widely known public clouds, AWS still benefits from the fact that it has been around longer than Azure and commands higher overall market share.
For these reasons, AWS is still seen in some quarters as the "default" public cloud. Software vendors that want to integrate with public clouds tend to build integrations for AWS first and Azure second, if at all. You can also find more documentation and tutorials that are geared toward AWS than Azure.
These facts may change slowly as Azure continues to cut into AWS' market share. But for now, there remain important differences between AWS and Azure in terms of how much attention each cloud receives, broadly speaking, from technology companies and practitioners.
Again, AWS and Azure are both powerful public clouds that can support virtually any modern cloud use case. But in certain areas — like Ci/CD, hybrid cloud, networking, and cloud monitoring — AWS and Azure are different in important ways.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.