Amazon Web Services is an amazing constellation of products, but it’s far from the only game in the cloud world. Microsoft realized long ago that the future of enterprise computing lies in the cloud and it has been investing heavily in owning a piece of this market. The number of products sitting under the Azure brand umbrella continues to grow and it has become hard to find something that Azure can’t do. In many cases, Azure is running right alongside the other cloud providers and in a few of the corners it’s inching into the lead.
At the core of the business, Azure offers much of the same commodity products as everyone else. If you need a machine running a current version of Linux (yes, Linux!) or Windows, you can spin one up in a few clicks. If you have some data to store, Microsoft will squirrel away the bits just like everyone else.
But once you move away from the basics, Microsoft’s corporate DNA starts to emerge. This is the company that built the operating systems that dominated home and corporate use for decades. Then it turned around and conquered the game console market. This polish and crowd-pleasing glitz is apparent as soon as you log in. The other cloud providers tend to have a bare-bones commodity shell wrapped around their commodity offerings. Azure seems a bit prettier and presentable. The other cloud providers love TLAs (three letter acronyms). Microsoft chose a lush color for its name.
It only makes sense that Azure is leveraging Microsoft’s strengths. The users with a deep investment in Microsoft’s languages (C#), tools (Visual Studio), and frameworks (.Net) will be the ones who feel most at home in Azure. You don’t need to stick with Azure to keep using these tools but it’s almost always a bit easier to stay within the Microsoft family.
Another draw is the company’s deep investment in corporate research. Microsoft began building a full, academic-grade research department back in the 1990s and that has led to a steady stream of products in areas like artificial intelligence and machine vision. The company has been deploying this research and integrating it with its generic cloud services.