As ‘digital transformation' continues to be the channel's buzz phrase - spilling unbidden from the lips of executives from almost every vendor and partner alike - which of the cloud giants are best placed to facilitate it?
At Microsoft's annual Decoded conference in London this month, the vendor was insistent in its claim that it has spearheaded a push from behind to challenge Amazon Web Services' (AWS) previous market dominance.
It may be the defining tech battle of our time, generating provocative headlines and public tit-for-tat exchanges, but partners are more interested in the bottom line: what's in it for us?
Better the devil you know
For many companies, overwhelmed by the seemingly endless plethora of features, and shifting value proposition of vendors, the familiar can be appealing.
Enterprise firms, which have already been committed to a variety of Microsoft products for years, are likely to see Azure as their natural primary cloud provider.
In fact, several resellers at Microsoft's expo started with this explanation for why they went with Azure.
It is perhaps unsurprising, considering that Microsoft has a foothold in terms of its ubiquitous desktop software and enterprise agreements with these larger firms, and is better placed to cross-sell Azure.
CEO of The Internet Group (TIG) Des Lekerman agrees that Microsoft is an attractive draw.
"Microsoft has always been partner-centric and I think there are definitely more partners out there in the Microsoft ecosystem than with AWS," he said.
Lekerman added that it's in the last year that Microsoft has made significant inroads against AWS.
"A lot of companies out there are using Microsoft software for their operating systems and things like Office and Office 365, so it's a more natural transition to Microsoft cloud for production systems."
Security and start-ups
Getting down to the nitty gritty of features, Microsoft's security solutions have been particularly impressing Lekerman:
"Azure information protection protects the digital assets of a company and allows you to secure Word and Excel documents and manage the access and restrictions around those documents - who's got the right to print and forward, for example - and that's certainly a unique thing for Microsoft. I think the Active Directory secure authentication, and multi-factor authentication are also unique for Microsoft.
"Then if you talk about SQL platform-as-a-service, so when you move from on-premise SQL to a SQL platform, that really lowers the cost of using a SQL database and provides for scalability and flexibility."
He added that Azure's real value is "around the applications rather than just the standard infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model".
However, Lekerman did highlight AWS' popularity for start-ups that look to develop and scale to market rapidly.
"On the other hand, AWS, historically, has been very successful for DevOps, or developers that are looking to spin environments up, and new start-ups tend to go towards AWS, more so than established businesses."
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