Head to head: Microsoft Azure vs. Amazon AWS

If your company is considering public cloud computing to meet your IT needs, then you are likely going to compare the two biggest players: Microsoft Azure vs. Amazon AWS. As far as overall usage goes, Amazon AWS has the largest market share at 32% while Microsoft Azure holds 16%. The entire market has grown tremendously with Gartner predicting it will grow by 17.3% in 2019.

With more companies turning to the public cloud, it’s vital to look at the differences between the two most popular public cloud solutions to make the best decisions for your IT. Let’s explore the key differences.

Compute power

AWS: Users have the ability to configure their own VMs or choose from preconfigured machine images or custom MIs. You have many variables to select from, including size, power, memory capacity, and number of VMs. You also have the capability to choose from different regions and availability zones for launch.

Azure: On this platform, you will use a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD), which is similar to a Machine Instance for creating a VM. Microsoft can preconfigure the VHD, or you or a third-party can do so. You will need to specify the number of cores and memory.


AWS: You’ll have access to temporary storage, which is provided once an instance has begun and eliminated after the termination of the instance. They also offer block storage (hard disks) that can separate or attach to an instance. Object storage is available with S3 along with data archiving from Glacier. This system works with relational and NoSQL databases as well as big data.

Azure: You’ll have temporary storage via D drive and block storage with Page Blobs for VMs. Block Blobs and files operate as object storage. Through Azure Table and HDInsight, you’ll have the ability to work with relational databases, NoSQL databases, and big data. With Azure, you also get site recovery, import/export, and backup for archiving and recovery services.


AWS: Amazon offers a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to isolate networks within the cloud. A VPC enables users to create network gateways, subnets, route tables, and private IP address ranges.

Azure: Microsoft’s network capability is the Virtual Network (VNET). It can be used for the creation of isolated networks, network gateways, private IP address ranges, subnets, and route tables.

Both AWS and Azure provide an option for users to extend on-site data centers into the cloud.


AWS: Amazon offers a pay-as-you-go model, charging per hour. You can purchase instances through this pricing model:

  • On-demand: pay for what you use; no upfront costs
  • Reserved: reserve an instance for a period of one to three years with upfront costs based on usage
  • Spot: you’ll bid for extra capacity that’s available

Azure: Microsoft also uses a pay-as-you-go model; however, they charge per minute. You can sign up for short term commitments, choosing between prepaid or monthly charges.


AWS: Amazon wins here for more features and configurations, but you’ll have to learn the system. IT experts have touted AWS for its power, flexibility, customization, and support, but you should be advised that there is a learning curve.

Azure: If you are a Windows admin user, then Azure will be a much easier start for you since it’s built on the Windows platform. It’s fairly easy to integrate on-site Windows servers with cloud instances, creating a hybrid environment. You’ll find that SQL databases and Active Directory work well with Azure.

In a head to head comparison, both AWS and Azure are very similar. AWS may have a larger market share, but Azure may be somewhat easier to implement and use for your IT staff.