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Azure vs. AWS: Comparing the Best of the Best

If you’re looking to migrate your ERP system to the Cloud, you’re in luck – you’ve got a ton of options. But between Google, Salesforce, AWS, Oracle, and Azure, this same amazing opportunity for choice can cause decision paralysis. With so many trusted industry players getting in on the Cloud game with fantastic products, it’s hard to know which option is truly the best for your enterprise.

While we’re not going to break down every Cloud option for you (seriously, the list is way too long!), we are going to walk you through a comparison of two of the biggest, most prominent options: Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

We’ve previously broken down the basics and features of AWS on our blog, so before we get into the comparison, let’s take a minute to go through Microsoft’s cloud star: Azure.

About Microsoft Azure

Since its release in 2010 as “Windows Azure’, Microsoft’s comprehensive Cloud offering has consistently been a leader in the IaaS space. Azure can easily integrate with almost any existing IT environment and supports several programming languages. Its 50 service offerings ensure a plethora of options and customization for businesses.

Like AWS, Azure runs on a network of data centers that span across 22 regions, each responsible for a specific location. Also like AWS, Azure offers extensive predictive analytics services, such as machine learning, Cortana analytics, and stream analytics. These allow data from the Cloud to be organized and synthesized into actionable intelligence for businesses.

Azure is an extremely popular Cloud choice for large, established businesses, with more than 66 percent of Fortune 500 companies relying on its services. The Azure cloud integrates seamlessly with a huge variety of infrastructure, operating systems, programming languages, frameworks, tools, databases and devices. While Azure is not a completely open-source platform, you do have the ability to: run Linux containers with Docker integration; build apps with JavaScript, Python, .NET, PHP, Java and Node.js; build back-ends for iOS, Android and Windows devices. As the result of a deal with Oracle, you can also deploy Oracle-based software on an Azure platform.

As part of their built-in support, Azure offers enterprise grade SLAs on services and 24*7 health monitoring and tech support. To ensure the highest level of security for their users, Azure built the largest network of secure private connections, data residency and encryption features.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “That sounds great! But also Amazon sounds great! This is extremely unhelpful. What was the point again?”

Trust us, we hear you. Both of these options are best in class products from companies that have defined and dominated the tech world from 20 years. It’s not an easy choice, but ultimately, you really can’t go wrong. When it comes down to it, AWS advantages are:

  • Ease of use, intuitive management dashboard and APIs
  • Massive scale and cutting-edge features
  • Resource availability

Azure, on the other hand, offers:

  • Better, bigger options for multi-cloud backup
  • Superior hybrid-cloud offering
  • Seamless integration with Microsoft and Oracle products

If you’re preparing your company for a Cloud implementation and migration, the most important thing you can do is your homework. Analyze your KPIs and determine what’s most important to you. Understand what your company requires from its cloud infrastructure now and in the future so you get a better ideal of your scalability needs. Know what your current systems look like and figure out how your Cloud needs to work with it.

Most importantly, select a vendor who can help your team throughout the entire process – from selection to implementation to adoption – to ensure minimal disruption to your day-to-day operations and maintain the highest integrity of your data. 

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The Everything Cloud

In some senses, Amazon has come a long way since its inception as an alternate to the brick-and-mortar bookstore in 1994. Even Jeff Bezos, who declared that he wanted to turn Amazon the biggest store in the world, did not predict the degree to which it would surpass his vision. The company has not only grown exponentially, but completely transformed the way people shop…for anything. So perhaps it makes sense that their biggest, most profitable service ever is another startling disruptor. And no, we’re not talking about 2-Day shipping (although we probably won’t argue with you either). We’re talking about Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides on-demand computing resources and services in the cloud for anyone, with pay-as-you-go pricing. AWS offers a broad set of services that help you move faster, lower your costs and scale your applications.  The combination of a wide customer base and agile, abundant features makes AWS one of the most popular cloud providers in the industry. In fact, Gartner placed it at the top of its Cloud Infrastructure Magic Quadrant in 2015, with customers deploying an estimated 10 times more infrastructure on AWS than the next fourteen providers combined.

At its most basic, AWS to make it easier to build and manage your websites and applications, allowing you to:

  • Host a static website, which use technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript to display content that doesn’t change frequently
  • Host a dynamic website, or web app
  • Process and store data
  • Handle peak loads (for high-traffic websites)

Security in the cloud is always one of the number one concerns for new users or companies. AWS provides a secure global infrastructure with 12 geographical regions for servers, and multiple service centers per region; it also has a specific “GovCloud” for US Government customers.  In addition to the containment benefits provided by these regions and centers, AWS offers a range of security features and options:

  • Access to AWS data centers and network is strictly controlled, monitored, and audited
  • Security credentials are tightly managed and monitored
  • ACL-type permissions can be applied on to your data, as well as encryptions for data at rest
  • Virtual private clouds (VPC) can be set up to be isolated from other virtual networks
  • Operating systems can be controlled and configured to your specifications
  • Security groups, which acts as a virtual firewall for all traffic, can be set up
  • Login information can be encrypted

Because AWS was intended for use by both individual consumers and companies with a need for more sophisticated infrastructure, its benefits are diverse and include:

  • Designed to allow application providers, ISVs, and vendors to quickly and securely host your applications
  • Reliable, secure, and global infrastructure
  • Scalable and high-performance applications can be adjusted based on your needs
  • Built-in flexibility enables you to select the operating system, programming language, web application platform, database and other services
  • Tiered pricing: only for the compute power, storage, and other resources you use, with no long-term contracts or up-front commitments – and the first option is FREE!
  • Huge variety of products and professional services

On top of all this, AWS committed in 2014 to 100% renewable energy usage, partnering with Iberdrola Renewables, LLC, EDP Renewables and Tesla Motors to achieve this goal. So whether you’re a company looking to become more agile or an individual searching for a place to host your personal blog, take a look at what AWS has to offer. If you’re still not sure about making the leap, Value Global has a full range of cloud services to help guide you towards the right solution.  And, after all, you rely on Amazon for everything else; why not the Cloud, too?

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Building Your Legacy in the Cloud

Because so many people are still unsure of what exactly “the Cloud” is, we tend to think of it as a buzzword, a brand new addition to the world of IT. In reality, cloud computing has been around for the last 45 years, with the first documented usage in the 1970s. In fact, you may not have realized it, but the first time you personally accessed the Cloud was through that Hotmail or Yahoo account you signed up for in 1996!

Of course, today’s age of cloud computing is much more sophisticated and has a significantly wider influence across all industry sectors. Especially in the last few years, the impact of the cloud has spread leaps and bounds from the IT systems of cutting edge companies to our almost mundane interactions from on our personal phones.

The current cloud landscapes can be broadly classified as:

  • IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service, which provides users with resources over the Internet;
  • PaaS – Platform as a Service, which provides a development environment for applications, and;
  • SaaS – Software as a Service, which allows users to gain access to applications and servers.

The cloud can be further broken down into categories such as: Private Cloud, Public Cloud and Hybrid Cloud.

This litany of options can make it difficult for corporations to determine which solutions best fits their goals and budgets. In determining a cloud strategy, it’s important to:

Know Your Might

  • As with any other implementation, it is crucial to focus on long-term ROI, not on the initial cost. In determining which cloud strategy is going to most enhance your organizational capabilities, consider the overall benefits and cost-savings that will empower your business most down the road.

Know Your Landscape

  • Spend some time analyzing and breaking down your current IT landscape from all angles. Whether you’re a company that has a large central infrastructure or one that is broken into several smaller environments, make sure you know how exactly how all of your environments intersect and interact.

Know Your Benefits

  • Consider all of the pros and cons for each cloud option, including: flexibility, cost effectiveness, data security, data integration, data mining and analytics options, and business intelligence capabilities.

Know Your Strategy

  • Once you’ve determined your needs for IaaS, PaaS and/or SaaS, as well as the right mix of Hybrid, Private or Public Clouds, make sure you’ve laid out a complete roadmap for transformation, including milestones, and stick to it. Consider engaging a trusted partner to manage the migration or perform some of the heavy technical work

ERP to Cloud Solutions

These guidelines address most of the general issues and questions that arise in implementing the Cloud, but there are specific challenges that for ERP-to-Cloud migrations, a situation that Mark Hurd of Oracle called, “a not-so-classic case of several irresistible forces meeting a movable object”. Established companies are often entrenched in their legacy systems, and it can be particularly challenging for them to choose a cloud solution that preserves the integrity of their existing applications while enhancing and bringing them up to date with the new infrastructure. For ERP-to-Cloud migrations, be sure to consider:

  • Flexibility vs Stability: Traditional ERP systems have often been modified to suit specific business needs and processes. A cloud-based ERP is much more stable, but much more rigid. Knowing your organizational needs and future initiatives is crucial in prioritizing these infrastructure qualities.
  • Business Process Reengineering (BPR): Rigorous BPR prior to your migration will ensure that any application, process or modification no longer serving your organization is eliminated, allowing you to start fresh with a more productive and less redundant IT environment.
  • Integration Needs: Migrating disparate systems into the Cloud can be tough, but investing in integration work during your migration can alleviate many of the issues that might arise and ensure a smooth, streamlined transition.
  • Data Security: Data security used to be a huge concern when migrating to the Cloud, but it is rapidly declining with maturing in public cloud ERP. Private cloud solutions might be the best option for smaller corporations with more urgent data security needs, while a Hybrid Cloud can allow large companies to choose what information they store in their cloud environment.

For one cloud engagement, we relied on heavy integration work with Oracle ERP, ADP and Banks for a Workday implementation. During this process, we also invested significant time for our team to conduct BPR. As a result, we were able to identify the additional development and maintenance necessary for a fully implemented solution, for which we utilized Oracle SOA Suite.

While it may seem that these migrations require considerable technical “heavy-lifting”, the long-term benefits are well worth the investment. If you have specific questions or concerns regarding your company’s migration, contact us!

Stay tuned for out next blog post, in which we will take a deep dive into the features and benefits of Amazon Web Services! 

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