AWS vs Azure … round 1, fight!

So, for whatever reason, I need to move some virtual machines and things from AWS (EC2, RDS), to an Azure. I have a few years experience with AWS, but until recently I’ve not really used Azure ….

Here are some initial notes……

  • AWS tooling feels more mature (with the ‘stock’ ansible that ships with Ubuntu 20.10, I’m not able to create a virtual machine in Azure without having python module errors appear)
  • AWS EBS disks are more flexible – I can enlarge and/or change their performance profile at runtime (no downtime). With Azure, I have to shutdown the server before I can change them.
  • AWS SSL certificates are better (for Azure I had to install a LetsEncrypt application and integrate it with my DNS provider ( e.g. https://github.com/shibayan/keyvault-acmebot ). AWS has it’s certificate service that issues free certs built in, and if the domain is already in Route53 there’s hardly anything to do.
  • Azure gives you more control over availability (with its concept of availability sets, it allows you to have some control over VM placement and order of updates being applied). It also gives Placement Groups – allowing you to influence physical placement of resources to reduce latency etc.
  • Azure feels more ‘commercial’ (with the various different third party products appearing in the portal when you search etc).
  • Azure has worse support for IPv6 (e.g. if you have a VPN within your Virtual Network you can’t have IPv6).
  • Azure doesn’t seem to offer ARM based Virtual Machines and fewer AMD equivalents (see also: EC2 Graviton 2).
  • Azure’s pricing feels harder to understand – there’s often a ‘standard’ and ‘premium’ option for most products, but the description of differences is often buried in documentation away from the portal ….. I often see ‘Pricing unavailable’.
    • Do I want a premium IP address?
    • Do I need Ultra or Premium SSDs or will Standard SSD suffice? Will I be able to change/revert if I’ve chosen the wrong one without deleting and recreating something?
    • Why do I need to choose a VPN server SKU?
  • Azure networks all have outbound NAT based internet access by default – so even if you’ve not assigned a public IP address to the resource, it can reach out. At the same time, you can also buy a NAT Gateway. If you give a VM a public IP address then it will use that for it’s outbound traffic.
  • Azure has a lot of services in ‘preview’ (to me beta). At the time of writing (March 2021), it doesn’t yet offer a production ready ….
    • MySQL database service that has zone redundancy (i.e. no real high availability)
    • Storage equivalent of EFS (NFS is in preview)
  • Azure does provide a working serial console for VMs, which is quite handy when systemd decides to throw a fit on bootup (2021/04/02 – AWS apparently now provides this too!).
  • Azure doesn’t let you detach the root volume from a stopped server to mount it elsewhere (e.g. for maintenance to fix something that won’t boot up!).
  • When deleting a VM in Azure, it’s necessary to manually delete linked disks. In AWS they can be cleaned up at the same time.

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