Microsoft Azure – first impression is a better impression

I have been working on AWS for these past years and now started looking at Microsoft Azure as it has become the number two and growing fast. This is my initial post and I’m going to concentrate on the basics, some comparison. I don’t want to bore you with too much details. if you want details, you can reach me.

Microsoft has done few things good and I see and understand why this service is growing so fast. To start with, their interface to manage or the management console (AWS lingo) is good but they could do it better with the placement of the network security groups (my pet peeve). I started off and immediately there is a phone number and a person to chat with if you need help. I reached out as the terminologies are different. I found it surprising to find a contact # and a person to talk to but then I was thrilled that the person knew what he was talking which is getting rare these days! (Try finding a number on AWS or Amazon website). Microsoft got their act together and their Customer Service & Tech support is coherent and good. Everyone knows / heard about cloud but it is still a mystery and having a person to talk to really helps.Score one to MS on this front.

I was able to setup a server, install a sql database and host a webapp in an hour and I felt that was impressive for the first time. Next up pricing. Microsoft pricing is slightly higher than AWS and the documentation on pricing is also scattered.You can’t easily go from seeing the pricing on VMs to storage to Azure SQL. It’s kind of hopping from one place to the other. However, if you already have your setup in a data center and you want to figure out how much will it cost, Microsoft says it has a tool ( i didn’t try it yet) called Site Recovery. Using this, you can even create an image of your server and move it to Azure. Thus you can move your virtualized server between your cloud and on-premise easily, you can’t do that with AWS. If MS scored on this tool, AWS scores it on the ability to create an image of your servers in AWS. The process which I will address it in a later post is cumbersome at best.

One other thing, Azure does it better is the way you want to pay for the service. If you have different cost centers / Business Units, you can create a subscription for each one of them, associate a different credit card. You can name the subscription with the appropriate names, associate a MS partner if you are working some one. This is a big win for the big corporations or for accounting folks.You can do this in AWS  as well but not this straight-forward.

I want to wrap this initial post by mentioning one very important information. Once you create your server and you are no longer using it, please make sure you go to the management console ( azure portal) and “STOP” it from there. If you don’t do this step and just shut-down your instance from inside the RDP or SSH, you will continue to get charged for that instance! Though Microsoft offers feature to put a cap on your spending limit, they don’t offer that on the most popular “pay-as-you-go” subscription.

Overall, I had only one rough experience. Once you have one azure account,  it is not easy to sign-up for another one. Let us say, you created one account (your personal) to develop + test. Now. you are happy but you want to create a new account for production or under your corporate email, you can’t do it. The two ways to do it are to use a different browser or goto Google Chrome,   open an incognito session and sign-up. Why? Go figure!. All-in-all, Azure is comparable service with AWS with better customer service, better tools, better SQL on cloud, but slightly higher price.  If you want SQL server on the pay-as-you-go model, Azure is cheaper than AWS and feature wise, Azure SQL is better than Amazon RDS for SQL Server.



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