Public cloud adoption has continued to gather pace in recent years, as more and more businesses move applications out of their data centres in a bid to cut costs and increase agility. 

This has fuelled a crowded infrastructure as a service (Iaas) market worth a total of $16.5 billion in 2015, according to Gartner stats.

And it is a market that has, thus far, largely been dominated by AWS. It has been estimated that, until recently, AWS has more than 10 times the compute capacity of its all of its 14 closest rivals combined – and that includes Microsoft Azure. Read next AWS: 10 defining moments for the cloud giant

But despite AWS’s dominance, Microsoft has continued to gain ground and it has built a huge global cloud network too. While not as big as AWS, it is around twice the scale of its nearest rival, says Gartner.

So what separates the two cloud providers? And how can you start to decide which Iaas platform is best-suited to your organisation?

Read next: Five key legal considerations when negotiating cloud contracts

Microsoft Azure vs Amazon AWS: Feature and services

Selecting one cloud over the other will come down to the wants and needs of each individual customer, and the workloads they are running. In fact it is often the case that organisations will use both providers within different parts of their operations, for different use cases.

However there are a number of differentiating factors that separate the approaches of the two firms, which can help end-users consider which is right for them.

It is worth starting by looking at the services offered by the two firms. Both AWS and Microsoft Azure offer similar capabilities to some degree, along the lines of compute, storage and networking.

They share the common elements of a public cloud: self-service and instant provisioning, autoscaling, plus security, compliance and identify management features.

Both companies also continually invest in meeting demand for new cloud services. This has resulted in more mature analytics offerings. For example, support for Hadoop clusters are provided by both AWS (Elastic Map Reduce) and Azure (HDInsight).

AWS and Microsoft have added machine learning tools and a number of features targeted at the Internet of Things, while customers can tap either cloud to variously build a mobile app or even create high performance computing environment depending on their needs.

Meanwhile the recent buzz around containers is catered for too, with both providers supporting Docker services. Microsoft has also been also been creating its own Hyper-V container technology that it will run in on-premise data centres as part of its forthcoming Windows Server 2016 release. Read next: What to expect from Windows Server 2016

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