While Amazon Web Services (AWS) is still the market leader in public cloud services, one survey by researcher UBM suggests that Microsoft Azure is winning in enterprises with more than 500 employees.

UBM conducted the online survey in 2016. The survey queried 235 IT ops, app dev, and information security professionals at companies with 500 or more employees.

Among the survey’s many interesting insights:

  • Just 20% of companies don’t use some form of cloud services.
  • 67% use software as a service (SaaS).
  • About 40% use infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and/or platform as a service (PaaS).
  • 55% say public cloud services are more secure than they used to be, but say there is room for improvement.
  • Many companies use multiple cloud-based apps and even multiple cloud vendors.

For the purposes of this post, the most significant finding is this: 66% of companies surveyed use Azure as their IaaS/PaaS vendor, compared to 55% that use AWS. (The total is more than 100% because some organizations use more than one vendor.) Others cloud providers are distant followers, such as Google Cloud, which is used by 20%. Significantly, more than half of the companies using Azure have more than 10,000 employees, suggesting that Azure has a particular draw for large enterprises. Is there a similar ratio for AWS? UBM doesn’t say.

Surprise, No Surprise

These numbers might be surprising to those who have focused on AWS’s lead in overall market share—31% compared to Azure’s 11% according to one source. But they will not surprise those who have been watching the cloud race more closely, where the story is that Microsoft Azure market share is growing faster than Amazon’s. The same source reports Microsoft year-over-year (YoY) growth of cloud revenue at 100%—twice that of AWS’s growth of 50% during the same period.

Furthermore, quarterly Amazon and Microsoft earnings reports show astonishing Azure growth with a 93% surge in sales in Q1 2017. Based on those reports, Microsoft’s total cloud business has an annualized run rate of $15.2 billion compared to Amazon’s $14.6 billion. Note that these figures include Microsoft Office 365 revenues, and are not strictly Iaas/PaaS.

Azure Is the One to Watch

Of course, one UBM data point does not a trend make, but the idea that Azure wins among large enterprises is an intriguing one. A 2016 Morgan Stanley survey predicted that Azure would be the largest IaaS/PaaS vendor by 2019—a lofty prediction considering AWS’s lead.

So what’s the draw? Why are enterprises apparently favoring Azure? It could be that Azure has greater general availability with 34 regions around the world compared to AWS’s 16. It could also be that Microsoft has broad and deep enterprise relationships, and Azure is a natural extension of many organizations’ infrastructures.

Cloudify speculates on additional factors:

  • Azure Security Center (ASC), which provides a centralized view of security policies and configurations from multiple Azure subscriptions
  • Customer time and effort savings through unified operations tools such as SQL Manager, Visual Studio, and other such services
  • Seamless VM migration to migrate servers between disparate environments

Whatever the reasons for its enterprise appeal, Azure is the one to watch in the cloud race going forward.

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