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AWS vs Azure: A Technical Perspective

2024-02-01 | 5 MINUTE READ

In the dynamic world of cloud computing, Generic Network Systems, GNS, is often tasked with helping clients to make pivotal decisions about public cloud platform adoption. Among the top contenders, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure stand out, each with its unique offerings and capabilities. This blog entry aims to provide a technical comparison of AWS and Azure, with a special focus on hybrid cloud solutions using a private cloud and the possibility of using both platforms simultaneously.

GNS has had great success helping clients implement comprehensive solutions in both environments.

Compute Power

AWS: EC2 InstancesAzure: Virtual Machines
AWS offers Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), with a wide range of instance types for different needs, including specialized instances for tasks like machine learning. Azure's Virtual Machines (VMs) are comparable to AWS's EC2, offering various sizes and types, including VMs for compute-intensive tasks.

Comparison: Both platforms are on par in terms of compute power and scalability. AWS has a broader range of instance types, which may be crucial for specific applications.

Storage Options

AWS: S3 and EBSAzure: Blob Storage and Managed Disks
AWS provides Simple Storage Service (S3) for object storage and Elastic Block Store (EBS) for block storage, known for high durability and scalability. Azure offers Blob Storage for object storage and Managed Disks for block storage, comparable to AWS's offerings.

Comparison: AWS's S3 edges out slightly in features and maturity, but Azure's storage solutions are well-integrated with other Microsoft services.


AWS: RDS and DynamoDBAzure: SQL Database and Cosmos DB
AWS's Relational Database Service (RDS) supports various database engines, and DynamoDB offers a NoSQL solution. Azure's SQL Database is optimized for Microsoft SQL Server, and Cosmos DB provides a globally distributed, multi-model database service.

Comparison: AWS provides more database engine choices, but Azure's offerings are highly optimized for Microsoft environments.


AWS: VPCAzure: Virtual Network
AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) allows the creation of isolated networks within the AWS cloud. Azure Virtual Network (VNet) offers similar functionalities to AWS VPC, with strong integration with other Azure services.

Comparison: Both VPC and VNet are comparable, but Azure's VNet is more seamlessly integrated with Azure services, especially for hybrid cloud configurations.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions

AWS: AWS OutpostsAzure: Azure Stack
AWS Outposts extends AWS infrastructure and services to on-premises facilities, allowing a truly consistent hybrid experience. Azure Stack enables running Azure services from the public cloud to on-premises datacenters, providing flexibility in hybrid cloud deployments.

Comparison: AWS Outposts is ideal for those who want a seamless extension of AWS services on-premises. Azure Stack, on the other hand, is particularly beneficial for organizations looking to leverage Azure's capabilities in a hybrid environment, especially those already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem. The GNS private cloud can support both solutions.

Using AWS and Azure together

While each platform has its strengths, some organizations opt to use both AWS and Azure. This multi-cloud strategy can be driven by several factors:

  1. Best-of-Breed Services: Some services may be more advanced or suitable on one platform over the other. For instance, a company might prefer Azure's AI and machine learning capabilities while leveraging AWS for its robust Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings.
  2. Risk Mitigation: Using multiple clouds can prevent vendor lock-in and reduce dependency on a single provider.
  3. Compliance and Geographical Reach: Different platforms may have data centers in locations that align better with a company's compliance needs and latency requirements.
  4. Existing Infrastructure: Companies often have investments in both Microsoft and AWS technologies, making a multi-cloud approach practical.

Security Best Practices

Whether you use AWS, Azure or both, ensuring the security of your cloud infrastructure is critical. There are robust security features on both platforms, but it is your organization's responsibility to take the appropriate measures to protect your data and applications effectively. Here are some practical security best practices to consider:

  1. Data Encryption: Encrypt data at rest and in transit. Use AWS Key Management Services (KMS) or Azure Key Vault to manage encryption keys securely.
  2. Network Security: The use of virtual private clouds (VPCs) in AWS or virtual networks (VNets) in Azure allows your organization to isolate resources and control network traffic. Set up network security groups (NSGs) or access control lists (ACLs) to define firewall rules and restrict incoming and outgoing traffic.
  3. Security Monitoring and Logging: Enable comprehensive logging and monitoring services provided by AWS CloudWatch or Azure Monitor. Set up alerts for suspicious activities and regularly review logs to detect potential security threats.
  4. Security Groups and Firewalls: Configure security groups (AWS) or network security groups (Azure) to restrict traffic based on specific rules. Use web application firewalls (WAFs) to protect web applications from common threats such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
  5. Data Backups and Recovery: Implement automated data backups and disaster recovery plans. Store backups in separate regions or availability zones for redundancy. Ensure that backups are encrypted. Engage in regular testing of disaster recovery procedures to ensure they work as expected.
  6. Compliance and Auditing: Understand the compliance requirements relevant to your industry and region. Both AWS and Azure offer compliance certifications. Regularly audit your cloud environment to ensure it complies with industry standards.
  7. Employee Training and Awareness: Employees remain the weakest link in any organization's security posture. Regular security training for your employees to educate them about potential threats and best practices is necessary. Cultivate a security-first culture in your organization through periodic testing of employees.

Further Considerations

When a company is deciding between AWS and Azure, there are several additional considerations to take into account beyond the basic technical comparisons. Here are some other key factors to consider:

  1. Company Infrastructure and Ecosystem: If a company is already heavily invested in Microsoft products (like Windows Server, Active Directory, SQL Server, and Microsoft 365), Azure is usually a more natural fit due to its seamless integration with these services. Conversely, if the company's infrastructure is more varied or they need some of the power of AWS services then AWS might be the better choice.
  2. Cost Structure and Budgeting: Both AWS and Azure offer pay-as-you-go pricing models, but their cost structures can be complex and vary based on the services used. It's important to conduct a thorough cost analysis that considers not only direct costs but also indirect costs such as management overhead, training, and operational adjustments. GNS has extensive experience helping customers manage cloud computing costs. Before GNS clients decide on an implementation GNS is able to provide an accurate estimate of cloud computing costs.
  3. Specific Service Offerings: Depending on the specific needs of a project or workload (like advanced machine learning capabilities, Internet of Things (IoT) integration, or specific database technologies), one platform might have a more mature or suitable offering than the other.
  4. Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: Companies in industries like healthcare, finance, or government often have strict compliance and regulatory requirements. Both AWS and Azure have robust compliance programs, but the specifics can vary, and one might offer better compliance options for a particular industry or geographical region.
  5. Scalability and Global Reach: Both AWS and Azure have a global presence, but their data center locations and network infrastructure might impact performance and latency for end-users. Companies should consider where their users are located and how this aligns with the data center locations and network capabilities of each provider.
  6. Vendor Lock-in Risks: Diversifying cloud providers can mitigate risks associated with vendor lock-in, but it also introduces complexity. Companies need to assess the trade-off between the benefits of a single provider (like streamlined operations and potentially lower costs) and the risks of being dependent on that provider.
  7. Disaster Recovery and Data Redundancy: The capabilities and options for disaster recovery and data redundancy offered by each platform should align with the company's risk management and business continuity plans.


Choosing between AWS and Azure or deciding to adopt a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy, depends on specific business needs, existing infrastructure, and long-term IT goals. AWS offers a broad range of services and a mature platform, suitable for various applications. Azure provides strong integration with Microsoft products, making it ideal for businesses entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem.

The key is a thorough analysis of technical requirements, budget considerations, and strategic objectives, keeping in mind that the cloud landscape is continually evolving. Staying informed and adaptable is crucial in leveraging cloud technologies to their fullest potential. GNS has deep experience with both platforms and can provide clients with a more nuanced understanding of how each can serve the company's specific needs. Talk to GNS today.