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Higher Education Azure or AWS

Klam5618

Junior Member
Sep 11, 2020
2
0
11
Hi Guys

I would like to know what are the main advantages and disadvantages in migrating our on-prem infrastructure into a cloud solution.
We are having a debat on which provider, Azure or AWS and is more benefitial for us as a High Education Institute.

We are using O365, Azure AD and MS Teams Phone. Next year I will be implementing Intune as well and our applications (some cloud based (through provider) and some on-prem) are set up with SSO (ADFS).

I am in favour of Azure, as Microsoft if very Education focus. Whilst AWS does not offer as much as Microsoft does, as far as I understand AWS will just be hosting our servers with no other added benefits like Microsoft (correct me if I am wrong).

Please let me know your thoughts on both, advantages and disadvantages and what features we could use to optimise our cloud enviroment.

Looking forward in hearing your thoughts.

Many thanks
 

PowerEngineer

Diamond Member
Oct 22, 2001
3,365
411
126
A few years ago we considered both Azure/Teams and AWS as secure platforms for meeting cybersecurity and confidentiality requirements of a client. We ended up using Azure/Teams primarily because it allowed us to use our own hardware to run a some large number-crunching applications. Our understanding was that AWS would have required us to use (and pay for) a powerful server in their environment and we weren't sure exactly how installation and licensing would go on a AWS server. I'm reasonably happy with Azure/Teams; have used very few of its enhanced features (beyond Office). I do feel better about using my hardware than I would over operating a terminal to an AWS server - but I am old fashioned that way.
 

Exterous

Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2006
19,522
2,361
126
There are a couple of things to keep in mind. You mention Intune and O365 so first is that you will most likely end up with an Azure presence regardless of what happens so decide if you want to support two cloud providers. (I'm also assuming you'll want AAD although it still feels 'not quite there yet compared to AD) While not Azure dependent integrations with OneDrive and SharePoint Online are just easier if you're in Azure compared to AWS.

The next is licensing. Its been a bit since I've been involved in a deal with either so I don't recall the exact specifics but if you have a MS Volume license you may see a larger discount on server cloud licensing in Azure vs AWS even with Bring Your Own License. Standard servers are not as noticeable but SQL servers can have a significant cost difference between Azure and AWS. Your license agreements with both vendors matters heavily though so YMMV

After that: Security appliance options and licensing. Your boarder firewall, IPS or whatever may or may not have licenses for one vs the other, feature options or integration differences between them. Sure you can get a new option but the single pane of glass offerings of a continuous solution between on prem and cloud has a lot of benefits. Not all of those are easily noticeable though so it can be a tough sell but really you are going to be much better able to track down issues (technical and security) between environments if everything is using the same vendor. Your vendor can't cop out and play the 'well if must be the other vendors product that is the issue' card that way either.

AWS does have much better research grant programs if you're big enough to have a formal rep with them. (They may also be available if you don't have a rep but I'm not familiar with that process). These are great for researchers who may not have a lot of funding or who just want to try things out and see if A Thing will work or not. No costly hardware to buy or HPC time to reserve, just some building in AWS for a certain amount of free resources or time.

It also seems like AWS has more adoption in the academic research space so professors and grad students just seem to have a bit more familiarity with them or, if they are collaborating with another institution, might 'need' to have an AWS presence to contribute. Code repos and walkthroughs also appear more likely to exist on How to do A Research Thing in AWS (I have never verified this but it is what I hear from researchers).

tl;dr: Microsoft for IT Infrastructure tasks and service delivery. AWS for heavily researcher focused. Many institutions end up in both camps which can put a strain on IT shops but until MS gets better at research or AWS gets better at Windows things that will probably continue to be the case (and neither vendor seems all that interested in fixing those higher ed gaps)

Whatever you do - for the love of god - setup some really good security controls, audits and reporting. People are less familiar with both environments compared to on-prem and the controls are trickier to secure resources (can't just not plug in the ethernet cord to airgap it) so even your IT people Will. Make. Mistakes. let alone your researchers.
 
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