Is Azure finally overtaking AWS in the race for cloud supremacy?

Server room interior in datacenter
Experts currently predict the cloud computing market will grow to $74.7 billion this year, an increase of almost 36 percent from last year. And it looks like the competition for cloud supremacy is heating up between Microsoft and Amazon.

In case you missed this news, Microsoft just announced it’s going to be letting local governments use its cloud technology, Azure, on their own servers. This is big news, as currently Amazon Web Services (AWS) manages all infrastructure for their cloud storage solutions from banks in their server farms. Many local governments have logistical or compliance-based reasons for needing to keep data stored locally. An on-premise version of cloud computing could be what tips the scale in the race for supremacy between the cloud giants.

Microsoft came a little later to the game than Amazon, and for this reason, AWS has been leading the race, with a revenue of $3.66 billion per quarter. But Azure has made a lot of gains since entering the market and has been catching up quickly. In 2016, Microsoft saw its cloud services business grow by 11 percent, to $6.8 billion, with an annualized run rate of $15.2 billion. It is important to note, however, Microsoft’s reported earnings on it’s commercial cloud business includes it’s Office 365 platform as well as Azure.

Generally, cloud environments like Azure and AWS are scalable, which has contributed to their adoption across a broad range of markets and industries, including corporate bodies, small businesses, and start-ups. Both Amazon and Microsoft have strived to make the process of migrating to their product as painless as possible. But even if the business doesn’t currently have any expertise, because of its popularity there are plenty of places you can learn azure or AWS and the ins and outs of migration online.

Traditionally, AWS has enjoyed the advantage in revenue and market share over Microsoft. It’s become a preferred solution for smaller organisations with little cloud expertise, as well as mid-level and larger enterprises who are looking to run applications that can support a high level of users.

Azure on the other hand, seems to be the preference of IT professionals and developers. A report from data analytics provider, Sumo Logic, showed that Azure beats AWS as a preferred primary cloud provider with a lead of 10 percent. Of the 230 IT professionals surveyed for the study, 66 percent indicated they preferred Azure for their purposes.

The flexibility of Azure contributes significantly to this preference. The platform has a large range of deployment options, and an intuitive interface with easy to use tools that can help a team deploy and scale almost any app they can imagine. Microsoft’s offering also has an advantage for Windows administrators in very small organisations who don’t need to host scalable apps, but are looking for secure, fast, storage solutions.

The research also showed 50 percent of participants worked at large enterprises with 10,000 or more. Microsoft has a long and lucrative relationship with government clients, with data suggesting they’re the preferred provider for large enterprises, the move to on-premise may be a calculated decision to try and catch this segment of the market.

In Europe too, Azure comes out as the more popular choice. IT focused research company, 451, surveyed 700 IT professionals across Europe and found 43.7 percent ranked Azure as their preferred provider.

At a conference in late February, Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft corporate vice-president and head of Cloud and Enterprise Marketing claimed that some of Microsoft’s biggest customers moving on to their Azure services. Microsoft definitely has the global government and corporate connections and could leverage these relationships to further close the gap between them and Amazon. Although there has been speculation recently that Apple is planning to move their operations elsewhere.

If we look at the various features that Azure and AWS have, and what they’re developing, the race becomes a case of who’s responding quickest to the demands of the market.

Last year, Azure attempted to address some demands through the development of its hybrid cloud system, Azure Stack. Now it’s addressing another demand, by integrating Stack with Azure Government. Currently, the service is expected to go online in mid-2018. Once it launches it will allow public sector users of Azure’s Government cloud to use Stack to quickly and securely move a variety of data, from applications and workloads, to compliance records and logistical procedures between on-premise datacentres and Microsoft’s cloud.

But the applications of the new technology won’t only be beneficial to government clients. Within the business world there are numerous industries who would likely be eager to embrace on-premise cloud services over off-site options. Examples include pharmaceuticals and aerospace, where data is highly sensitive and closely guarded.

The race for cloud supremacy hasn’t finished yet, and it’s entirely possible for Azure to finally catch up with AWS and emerge as the cloud leader. This new on-premise initiative may just be the ticket Microsoft needs to take first place.

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