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If you’re evaluating Amazon Web Services (AWS) against Microsoft Azure, a great place to start is the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure.

This article gives some great background on the marketplace and identifies the major players. But your research shouldn’t end there because Gartner doesn’t really take into consideration the integration capabilities of Azure, which most believe are what clearly set it apart from market competitors.

Another issue with this article is that it was written last spring and therefore doesn’t account for the newly available networking and security capabilities of Azure.

Azure continues to rapidly adopt new features, and it currently offers advanced networking and security functions, including resource level Role Based Access Control, network intrusion detection/prevention system (IDS IPS), and both subnet and interface level network security settings, as well as multiple NICs per virtual machine.

But the key difference between Microsoft’s offering and Amazon’s is that Azure is built to allow customers to implement a seamless hybrid approach to the cloud in a way that AWS is not.

Below are some specific details on what this difference entails:

  • Azure’s Virtual Machine strategy uses native Hyper-V images for real-time dynamic portability from on-premises to the cloud and from the cloud back to on-premises, while AWS uses a proprietary hypervisor that does not allow images to be moved back to on-premises hardware in this way.
  • Azure’s development and management tools are the native Windows, SQL and Developer Tools such as Visual Studio, SQL Manager and System Center, allowing native integration of Azure resources with your existing on-premises environments in a single pane of glass.
  • Azure offers hybrid storage solutions that allow you to extend your current storage solutions with cloud storage to increase capacity, provide offsite storage of live data as well as backups and archive data. With the Azure solution, this data is available both on-premises as well as in the Microsoft data centers, thus offering a host of recovery options.
  • Azure’s platform services are the same offerings that companies have been using on-premises, services such as BizTalk, SQL Server and IIS are all available on-premises, in the cloud as virtual machines and in the cloud as Platform Services
  • Azure’s Active Directory Service provides easy extension of existing Active Directory environments into the cloud to provide federated login to corporate applications as well as thousands of third-party SaaS offerings. Azure also offers companies turn-key password self-service reset capability for on-premises and cloud-based Active Directory through Azure Active Directory
  • Microsoft has a very simple and clear policy for privacy and security and is working to limit government’s ability to blind subpoena corporate data.

Amazon got a bit of head-start in the cloud market, and that’s why they enjoyed an early lead for a while. But Microsoft is committed to investing in their cloud services so they can take the top spot. And now Azure is the best bet for most enterprise cloud solutions.

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