Amazon and Microsoft are two giants of the cloud. As such, their cloud compute offerings often go head to head. But it can be difficult to decide which is best between Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2 and Microsoft Azure VM for cloud computing services and virtualization.
What Is AWS EC2?
AWS contains a great many elements, components, and supporting systems within its overall ecosystem. Of its solutions, AWS Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a web-based service that provides scalable computing power.
It can be seen as a good way for organizations to get around a lack of skilled engineers and IT veterans who know what it takes to configure complex AWS environments. The scalable, pay-as-you-go compute capacity of Amazon EC2 is resizable, making web-scale computing easier for developers.
What Is Azure VM?
Microsoft Azure offers integrated cloud services and infrastructure to support compute, database, analytics, mobile, and web-based use cases.
It helps IT teams to quickly build, deploy, and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. Moreover, applications can be built using any language, tool, or framework and integrated with the existing IT environment.
Like AWS, Azure offers a wide variety of tools and services. Memory-optimized and compute-optimized VMs (virtual machines) are two of the most common choices. But there are many different options available for each.
Read more: What Is Azure VM? Windows Virtual Machine
AWS EC2 vs Azure VM
Amazon EC2 offers more than 500 instances (servers) to choose from based on processors, storage, memory, networking, OS, and pricing models. It supports Intel, AMD, and Arm processors, and offers 400 Gbps Ethernet networking.
AWS EC2 can also run both cloud-native and enterprise applications supported by secure, reliable, high-performance compute infrastructure, offering scalability for high performance computing (HPC) applications to help them run faster and more cost-effectively.
And AWS EC2 is a good way to build and test Apple macOS workloads and dynamically scale their capacity. Users and developers can create customized environments with tailored EC2 instances that have specific storage, networking, compute, OS, and memory needs, as well as automatically scaling capacity.
Since EC2 comes with a lot of automation and features, it’s much easier to consume cloud resources without getting bogged down on technical and back-end details.
By comparison, Microsoft Azure provides features such as the ability to use your own OS, language, database, or tool of choice. And the company has a vast global network of data centers and offers an SLA (service-level agreement) with up to a 99.95% monthly availability.
Developers can customize VM sizes to have a high CPU-to-memory ratio when developing tools for web servers, network appliances, batch processes, and application servers, for example.
The company also offers a wide range of processing and service options across a variety of price points. They span the spectrum from IaaS (infrastructure as a service) to PaaS (platform as a service).
Azure VMs can autoscale by using virtual machine scale sets. IaaS gives the most control, flexibility, and portability, but developers and users have to provision, configure, and manage the VMs and network components created. FaaS (function as a service) services automatically manage nearly all aspects of running an application, while PaaS services fall somewhere in between.
Amazon has been ahead in services for some time, but Azure has been catching up rapidly. Although at the moment, AWS EC2 offers more features due to its overall breadth of automation, load balancing, preconfigured templates, and monitoring tools.
Both Azure and AWS are similar in what they offer in terms of PaaS capabilities for virtual networking, storage, and machines. Which is to say, both are strong in PaaS.
However, Azure gets the nod on this feature due to possessing a slightly stronger PaaS that provides application developers with the environment, tools, and building blocks to establish new cloud services quickly.
In addition, its DevOps features help in managing, monitoring, and fine-tuning apps under development. This helps establish a more integrated environment than EC2 for testing, developing, and deploying in the cloud.
Both platforms have their pros and cons when it comes to usability, but AWS EC2 possibly has the edge. It provides plenty of machine images to assist in setup; users can create these on their own disk in order to stop the EC2 instance without losing work as a way to keep costs lower.
Instances can also be obtained on-demand, spot, and reserved to help users determine the best cost/performance/availability mix. And while the interface takes some getting used to, AWS offers good beginner guides. That said, they do contain a lot of confusing acronyms.
In comparison, Azure has good documentation, though it also suffers from overuse of acronyms. Some areas in need of improvement are the usability of its Kubernetes services and Azure REST API. But compared to AWS EC2, the interface is a little more intuitive.
There is little difference between AWS EC2 and Azure when it comes to security, but Azure leads by a small margin. Microsoft has taken huge security strides since its issues with Windows.
And that is shown by the wealth of security features baked into Azure. It uses the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) as a way to keep services protected on Azure Cloud.
While Amazon has also been strengthening its security features, it lacks the depth of security know-how that exists within the Microsoft ecosystem.
Within the broad arena of support, there is little to choose between AWS EC2 and Azure. Both offer a similar SLA. AWS support staff are knowledgeable and responsive, and while the process to initiate a request is a little clunky, it is fairly smooth.
Azure Support includes an excellent knowledge base of free articles, as well as paid concierge support to get a rapid response. Because of the size, scope, and distributed nature of Microsoft, it can take a while to get in touch with the right support person; however, once you have, they are generally very helpful.
Azure comes out either as the same price as EC2 or up to 10% or so cheaper, depending on the services consumed. It is hard to compete with an organization that is already dominant in the PC and server OS space, as well as in office productivity, video meetings, and other arenas.
Azure is also able to leverage its user base by offering enterprise agreement pricing, meaning those already using Windows or other Microsoft tools can benefit from discounts.
However, pricing will always be dependent on the services you need.
Choosing Between AWS EC2 and Azure VM
Both AWS and Azure are highly rated and strong cloud compute offerings.
For AWS EC2, users find the services quick, reliable, scalable, and easy to manage, whereas Azure users comment that the platform scales easily and well, is user friendly, and is not dependent on .Net. Moreover, Azure allows open-source and other tools to be used in development.
Regardless, in terms of reviews, Amazon remains slightly ahead overall. For those already committed to AWS services in general, EC2 is a no-brainer. Similarly, those invested in Azure already, or who are Microsoft shops, should be more than satisfied with Azure VM and should have no need to look elsewhere.
Read next: Proxmox vs VMware Comparison
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