Sample Pricing Comparison (2): Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about Amazon and Microsoft Azure pricing (here) because I was curious about this topic. However, pricing being such a volatile and complex topic, this blog is a refresher on current 2015 pricing, using the same assumptions, in an attempt to measure the evolution of the pricing models in both Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Scenario and Assumptions

In this blog, I will use similar requirements as stated two years ago, with two exceptions: the outbound Internet traffic (from 1TB to 1/2TB of egress data tx), and the database level (from Enterprise to Standard edition). The change of the Internet traffic is due to the fact that the pricing calculator for Microsoft Azure limits the outbound traffic to 1/2TB. And the change of the database level is to keep the monthly expenditure from two years ago roughly similar in Amazon; note that in 2015, the Amazon pricing for SQL Server Enterprise Edition appears to be significantly greater than it was in 2013 according to my analysis. If we were to keep the Enterprise Edition of SQL Server as a requirement, Amazon would become significantly more expensive than Microsoft Azure (by multiple factors).

The updated requirements are:

  • SQL Server database, Standard Edition, 10GB of storage, 1CPU, 1 million requests, 10GB per month of data tx
  • 10 websites running ASP.NET, 1CPU, 1/2 TB of data tx out to the Internet per month
  • 2 Middle-tier Servers running .NET, 2CPUs
  • Reporting Services - 10 reports run daily, 1GB of data out to Internet per month

The general guidelines for pricing comparison remain the same as well:

  • Use License-free model as much as possible
  • Use equivalent service configuration as much as possible
  • Ignore temporary/promotional offers
  • Using North America pricing
  • SQL Server database can run in Microsoft Azure SQL Database (SQL Database in short) for comparison purposes

The above assumptions and guidelines ensure that the comparison is as close as possible between Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Amazon AWS Pricing

Amazon’s pricing has reduced considerably (48%) from two years ago, although the level of the database service has been reduced to the Standard Edition.  Downgrading the database to the Standard Edition however is not too significant for this analysis since most of the features of the Standard Edition are similar to the Azure SQL Database offering; nevertheless, it is an important change in requirements and the database level downgrade could impact some customers. I am also keeping the EC2 offering for the web hosting component and the middle tier servers. The operating cost of the selected configuration is $954 per month, down from $1,832 in 2013.



Microsoft Azure Pricing

Generally speaking, the total hosting cost for this solution using Microsoft Azure has also been reduced significantly (by 38%), which is great news. Competition between the vendors is driving costs down, and is helping refine their offerings. A significant driver for the Microsoft pricing was, and remains, the Azure SQL Database. The database offering has changed significantly from 2013 since there are now performance guarantees. Microsoft expresses its performance levels in terms of DTUs (Database Throughput Units), which is an overall performance level provided based on I/O, Memory and CPU consumption. As a result, it is not possible to establish a clear link between the expected performance level of Amazon’s versus Microsoft’s, since the database performance requirements of an application can vary greatly, and Microsoft’s performance levels are based on a mix of resource consumption. As a result, I selected a P1 level for Azure SQL Database, which should be close to the equivalent Amazon offering; this offering provides up to 500GB of database storage (there is no way to request a P1 database with 10GB of storage). Database availability is also important, and it seems that thanks to its automatic failover capabilities, the Azure SQL Database service offers greater built-in recoverability than with Amazon RDS’s standard offering. Note that the VMs used in Azure are slightly underpowered compared to Amazon since they offer less RAM, but are the closest configurations I could find at this time.




As we can see from the above results, the offerings of both vendors, while similar, are continuing to diverge. In some cases, Amazon seems to offer more granular offerings by allowing customers to choose specific IOPS levels on SQL Server for example, while Microsoft focuses on more built-in capabilities, such as automated failover of the database server. In some cases, the Amazon offering provides better configuration (such as more RAM on the web servers) and in other cases Microsoft provides superior service (such as no additional cost for load balancing and enterprise features for the database layer). This means that the feature, performance, and availability surface offered by both cloud vendors for a comparable offering can vary greatly. However, given the differences outlined, and given the requirements stated above, both vendors provide a roughly similar level of service at a similar price point.

Compared to the 2013 pricing levels, it seems that both vendors were able to cut costs and reduce their price; in this specific configuration, Amazon reduced its pricing by 48% and Microsoft by 38%.

As a final note, it is important to realize that this analysis is purely theoretical, and that it is only meant to provide general guidance on Amazon and Microsoft pricing; it is not meant to make any general pricing statements on any vendor in particular and is limited to the requirements as set previously. It should also be noted that if application needs require a high database or server service level, the monthly cost could vary greatly than what is outlined in this blog.

About Herve Roggero

Herve Roggero, Microsoft Azure MVP, @hroggero, is the founder of Blue Syntax Consulting ( Herve's experience includes software development, architecture, database administration and senior management with both global corporations and startup companies. Herve holds multiple certifications, including an MCDBA, MCSE, MCSD. He also holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Indiana University. Herve is the co-author of "PRO SQL Azure" and “PRO SQL Server 2012 Practices” from Apress, a PluralSight author, and runs the Azure Florida Association.

Print | posted @ Wednesday, August 12, 2015 10:49 AM

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