At first sight, the Amazon-Microsoft rivalry – fought on the plain of cloud computing – appears to be not much of a rivalry at all.  The latest annual figures indicate that Amazon’s share of the cloud market is more than triple the size of Microsoft’s.  

Certainly Amazon has a far larger compute capacity than Microsoft, or any of its competitors.  However, that does not explain why both were sufficiently spooked to cut their prices at the beginning of 2016.  In a period where public cloud adoption is booming, cutting prices is hardly the ideal course of action.  Clearly, then, neither cloud provider is prepared to ignore or write off the other.  Both naturally continue to regularly invest in new cloud services, in addition to their conventional repertoire.  Amazon vs Microsoft is well and truly on – but where is this rivalry headed?

The Seeds of Enmity

With the IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) market now worth around $16.5bn, Amazon vs Microsoft is fought in a ring of huge stakes.

Amazon first built their Web Services platform back in the mid-2000s.  This was at a time when cloud computing still attracted a certain degree of commercial scepticism.  Defying contemporary expectations, it has now come to dominate the enterprise cloud landscape.  Now supporting household names such as Netflix, Toshiba, Pfizer and Coca-Cola, Amazon’s Web Services is currently the corporation’s greatest source of revenue.

Microsoft, by contrast, jumped on the cloud bandwagon a number of years later with their Azure set-up.  Being Microsoft, however, they were never likely to blindly accept second place in the market.  Though that is the spot they currently occupy, with a 9% market share, they evidently have the respect of their Amazon-based counterparts.

Where Are The Differences?

As parallel cloud providers, there are obviously going to be similarities between Amazon and Microsoft.  Many of their capabilities for the likes of storage and networking are similar, as well as their cybersecurity standards.  In addition, they share common public cloud features such as automatic scalable capacity and self-service application provisioning.

There are however, as you would also expect, significant differences.  These come in a number of forms, such as functionality, flexibility, pricing model and appreciation of clients’ technical requirements.  Users will find, for example, that Amazon’s billing is charged by the hour, rather than Microsoft’s per-minute model.  This corresponds with a usually, though not exclusively, cheaper price for Amazon.  Generally speaking, users will find a more flexible and open model with Amazon, with the freedom to tailor the system.  The company has been called reticent on the issue of hybrid cloud, though working with a third-party vendor can allay that concern.

Microsoft has a reputation for being more understanding on the issue.  However, historical outages and restricted functionality puncture its standing in the cloud market.  While it is compatible with the ubiquitous Windows Server, it is not as open to other platforms.  Neither does it offer the same range of functions as Amazon – although some have cited this to Amazon’s detriment, claiming that the platform is difficult to navigate.

Amazon vs Microsoft: Completely Down To You

Ultimately, the choice of cloud that a business makes will be entirely self-directed – according to their requirements and workloads.

One common misconception that businesses often have is that their choice of cloud is confined.  This is usually due to the desktop they already use; they assume that any cloud must match that desktop.  For example, if you use a server-based Windows desktop – as so many do – then some assume that that means you are restricted to a Microsoft cloud model.  Only Microsoft Azure for Windows, in short.  This is technically incorrect.  Yes, it may be slightly easier to house Windows Server within an Azure cloud.  However, the standard Windows desktop can be housed within an Amazon Web Services environment – or indeed any other provider.

The truth of the matter is that Amazon currently rules the roost for a good reason.  It offers the widest functionality and the most experienced, tried and tested model.  Moreover, its long-established partnerships with third-party vendors have generated stringent management and a more attentive, bespoke customer service.  Microsoft’s considerable expertise in IT gives it a firm grounding in cloud computing, and Amazon respect that.  The Bill Gates behemoth is undoubtedly taking steps to bridge the substantial gap.  Yet Amazon are hitting back with an impressive internal infrastructure, which enables clients to scale and cut their costs effectively.  Though Microsoft remains a strong proposition, Amazon are still the original and the…well, you know how this ends.



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Topics: Cloud, Workplace Technologists

Oliver Kiddell

Written by Oliver Kiddell

Oliver Kiddell, Author at Viastak Technologists.