At a High Level: Microsoft Azure vs. Google Cloud Platform

eWEEK PRODUCT COMPARISON RESOURCE PAGE: We take a close look at two of the three largest cloud services providers in the world: Microsoft Azure (16 percent of the world market) and Google Cloud Platform (8 percent).

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Azure.Vs.GCP

The latest information in the cloud markets here in mid-2019 is that 94 percent of all business organizations have at least one cloud-based application handling secure business data, and that about 84 percent have a multi-cloud strategy in place (Flexera “State of the Cloud” report, 2019).

While it took a good long time for enterprises to trust the cloud after AWS’s Simple Storage Service launched in late 2006, the cloud is now a standard business tool. For most enterprises, selecting both a primary and secondary cloud service is an important strategy, so IT managers need to do their homework when it comes to investing in a cloud partner.

Cloud-service providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google, IBM, Dell EMC, Salesforce, Oracle and others are making it easier all the time for customers to come and go or add or subtract capacity or apps as needed. These and other providers also keep coming up with new and more efficient services for companies to use, many of which now feature artificial intelligence options to make them faster and more valuable.

In this article, we take a close look at two of the three largest cloud services providers in the world: Microsoft Azure (16 percent of the world market) and Google Cloud Platform (8 percent). AWS is No. 1 at 33 percent.

Go here to see eWEEK’s listing of the Top Cloud Computing Companies.

Go here to read eWEEK's Top Cloud Storage Companies list.

What we’ll do here is compare at a high level and in a few different ways these two global cloud storage and computing services, so as to help you decide on the one that suits your company as the most cost- and feature-efficient one available.

Azure vs. GCP: Key Similarities, Differences

Generally speaking, Azure is designed to run applications and handle storage for enterprises and can connect optimally with on-premises Windows-based systems. Google Cloud, which prides itself on versatility, can host a number of different systems and is proficient at handling both applications and enterprise development.

While Google (and AWS) concentrate on public cloud computing, Azure's public cloud focuses on those who want to interoperate with their own data centers, where a lot of Windows-based servers already are running. In short, this means Azure is keen on its hybrid cloud option; Microsoft is betting on that to compete with the cloud-market leader, AWS, as well as Google, which is also well-designed for multiple-cloud deployments.

To use a Microsoft Azure service, users must sign up for a Microsoft account, and it’s safe to say most business people already have Microsoft accounts. After they have completed this process, they can launch any service under their account within Azure's stated limits, and these services are billed to their specific account. If needed, users can create billing accounts and then create sub-accounts that roll up to them. In this way, organizations can emulate a standard organizational billing structure.

Similarly, GCP requires users to set up a Google account to use its services. However, GCP organizes service usage by project rather than by account. In this model, users can create multiple, wholly separate projects under the same account. In an organizational setting, this model can be advantageous, allowing users to create project spaces for separate divisions or groups within a company. This model can also be useful for testing purposes: once a user is done with a project, he or she can delete the project, and all of the resources created by that project also will be deleted.

Resource Management Interfaces

Azure and GCP each provide a command-line interface (CLI) for interacting with the services and resources. Azure provides the Windows CLI, and GCP provides the Cloud SDK. Each is a unified CLI for all services, and each is cross-platform, with binaries available for Windows, Linux, and macOS. In addition, in GCP, you can use the Cloud SDK in your web browser by using Google Cloud Shell.

Azure and GCP also provide web-based consoles. Each console allows users to create, manage, and monitor their resources. The console for GCP is located here; Azure's is here.

Pricing Processes

When considering Azure pricing, users need to keep in mind that the costs will depend on the types of products the development team needs. The hourly server cost can range from $0.099 per hour to $0.149 per hour. Of course, if you measure the costs by per instance, they might not seem consistent. However, the prices are pretty comparable to AWS and GCP when you factor in the price per GB of RAM. As the main enterprise cloud service providers compete for your business, the prices remain competitive across the board.

Google Cloud follows a to-the-minute pricing process. While GCP may fall behind in additional features, it compensates in cost efficiency. The platform also has pay-as-you go pricing, billing to the per second of usage. Setting GCP apart, it offers discounts for long-term usage that starts after the first month.

Many experts recommend that enterprises evaluate their public cloud needs on a case-by-case basis and match specific applications and workloads with the vendor that offers the best fit for their needs. Each of the leading vendors has particular strengths and weaknesses that make them a good choice for specific projects.

Let’s get more specific.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Azure is a cloud service platform designed and built by Microsoft and launched in 2010. It competes directly with AWS by providing services in domains such as compute, storage, database, networking, developer tools and other functionality which enables organizations to scale and grow their businesses. Azure services are categorized as platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). They all can be used by developers and software employees to create, deploy and manage services and applications through the cloud. Services can include financial, human resources, scientific, retail, media and numerous other use cases.

Azure, thanks largely to Microsoft’s deep and wide installed base of business applications throughout the world, has emerged fairly quickly as one of the largest and most successful commercial cloud service providers. It offers a wide range of integrated cloud services and functionalities, such as analytics, computing, networking, database, storage, mobile and web applications that seamlessly integrate with enterprise environments in order to achieve efficiency and scalability.

Azure: Pros and Cons, Based on User Feedback

PROS: Microsoft came late to the cloud market (in fact, four years after AWS) but gave itself a jump start by taking its popular on-premises business software–Windows Server, Office, SQL Server, Sharepoint, Dynamics Active Directory, .Net and others–and repurposing it for the cloud.

A big reason for Azure’s success is obvious: So many enterprises deploy Windows and other Microsoft software. Because Azure is tightly integrated with these other applications, enterprises that use a lot of Microsoft software often find that it also makes sense for them to use Azure. This builds loyalty for existing Microsoft customers. Also, if you are already an existing Microsoft enterprise customer, you can expect significant discounts off service contracts. Those are often non-trivial savings; just ask any CFO!

CONS: Gartner has had some reservations about the makeup and design of the platform. "While Microsoft Azure is an enterprise-ready platform, Gartner clients report that the service experience feels less enterprise-ready than they expected, given Microsoft's long history as an enterprise vendor," the researcher said. "Customers cite issues with technical support, documentation, training and breadth of the ISV partner ecosystem."

This doesn’t happen with all customers, but there are enough unsatisfied users that their objections must be taken into account.

Read user reviews of Microsoft Azure

What is Google Cloud?

Google Cloud is a cloud computing platform developed by Google and launched in 2008. It was written in Java, C++, Python including Ruby. It also provides the different services that are IaaS, PaaS and Serverless platform. Google cloud is categorized into different platforms, such as Google App Engine, Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud Datastore, Google Cloud Storage, Google Big Query (for analytics) and Google Cloud SQL.

GCP offers high-level computing, storage, networking and databases. It also offers different options for networking, such as virtual private cloud, cloud CDN, cloud DNS, load balancing and other optional features. It also offers management of big data and Internet of things (IoT) workloads. Cloud machine learning engine, cloud video intelligence, cloud speech API, cloud Vision API and others also utilize machine learning in Google cloud. Suffice to say there are numerous options inside Google Cloud, which is most often used by developers, as opposed to line-of-business company employees.

Google Cloud Platform: Pros and Cons Based on User Feedback

PROS: Users count on Google’s engineering expertise. Google has an exemplary offering in application container deployments, since Google itself developed the Kubernetes app management standard that AWS and Azure now offer. GCP specializes in high-end computing offerings such as big data, analytics and machine learning. It also provides considerable scale-out options and data load balancing; Google knows what fast data centers require and offer fast response times in all of its solutions.

CONS: Google is a faraway third-place in market share, perhaps because it doesn't offer as many different services and features as AWS and Azure. It also doesn't have as many global data centers as AWS or Azure, although it is quickly expanding. Gartner said that its "clients typically choose GCP as a secondary provider rather than a strategic provider, though GCP is increasingly chosen as a strategic alternative to AWS by customers whose businesses compete with Amazon, and that are more open-source-centric or DevOps-centric, and thus are less well-aligned to Microsoft Azure."

This is a high-level comparison of the three major cloud service leaders here in mid-2019. We will be updating this article with new information as it becomes available, and eWEEK will also be examining in closer detail the various services—computing, storage, networking and tools—that each vendor offers.

Read user reviews of Google Cloud

eWEEK is creating this series of articles to examine all sectors of IT and present up-to-date research and analysis on the leading companies in each space. It's all designed for enterprise buyers of hardware, software, services and cloud products to have more and better information in hand when the time comes to make an investment.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...