How does Microsoft Azure measure up to the other cloud services?
Thinking of making the move to cloud computing? Microsoft Azure is rapidly becoming a major player. Get the lowdown.
Microsoft initially launched their cloud computing platform back in 2010 as Windows Azure and was then re-named Microsoft Azure in March 2014, so it’s been on the market for a while and there are plenty of opinions about it – from both ends of the spectrum. Cloud services are fast becoming a real option for large-scale businesses, with IT advisory firm Gartner stating the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market was worth $16.5 billion in 2015, so we thought it was timely to summarise some of the arguments for and against the world’s biggest software company’s cloud offering.
First things first
Before we go into the pros and cons of Microsoft Azure. It’s worth explaining that Microsoft themselves are describing their Azure product as a collection of cloud services. Microsoft Azure covers computing, analytics, database, mobile, networking, storage and web. Another way to describe the Microsoft Azure product offering is:
- Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
- Cloud Storage Services and Application Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
The only other global cloud service provider on the same scale is Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is certainly the dominant player when it comes to computing capacity. So what is Microsoft offering with Azure that is seeing them gain ground?
- Scalability – and in this respect Microsoft Azure is doing exactly what all the other cloud providers are. Scalability is probably the number one reason businesses move over to cloud. Scalability means you only pay for what you use. There is no need to purchase the same amount of computing power for a whole month to make sure you can run those giant SQL reports for five days. With Microsoft Azure, you’re only paying for those five days and then scaling back down for the rest of the month. Scaling up and scaling down is as easy as a mouse click.
- Cost effectiveness – this is another general win for all cloud services. A scalable, pay-as-you-go option is always going to be attractive to firms that have a clear idea of their IT needs and budgets. Organisations of all shapes and sizes are happy to see the size of their IT infrastructure spend decrease.
- High availability – this is particularly relevant in the IaaS and PaaS realms. Due to the global scale of Microsoft’s data centres, Microsoft Azure has a record of achieving just 4.38 hours of downtime per year. That level of availability is virtually unbeatable. The question is whether your business depends on that level of availability.
- The hybrid solution – not all cloud providers are as relaxed about providing a combined cloud/on-premises hybrid solution and this is probably where Microsoft Azure has achieved some of its biggest wins. Microsoft understands the reticence by some of the larger organisations to make the full datacentre transition to the cloud, so they’ve made their IaaS and PaaS products work without needing companies to put all their eggs in the cloud basket.
- Microsoft admits that its Azure services are not ‘set and forget’. When using IaaS and PaaS in particular, there is a level of expertise required to manage the platform. Server monitoring and everything that goes with it, is still required.
- Understanding how the cloud works – this downside exists whichever cloud service you use. Understanding your organisation’s computing power takes time and a lot of expertise, then translating that in-house computing power to the services available in the cloud and working out exactly what you need also takes a level of expertise
- There have been reports about the level of Microsoft’s in-house support that is needed to make Azure work in precisely the way it’s supposed to. And of course, that on-demand support is another service you’ll be paying for. If you haven’t got excellent cloud computing expertise in-house, factor Microsoft Azure’s support package into your budgeting.
Cloud computing together with the subscription model of software and now hardware, is changing the way IT services are delivered. iFactory is an award-winning digital agency based in Brisbane that provides digital strategy, web design, web hosting and support solutions that will help your business adapt and thrive in today’s changing digital landscape. Contact us today.