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IBM Cloud vs AWS: The Difference and How to Choose

In this post, we'll bring you a comparison between two of the main cloud providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM Cloud.
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Cloud computing can bring a lot of gains when it comes to infrastructure and applications. All cloud services offer benefits and trade-offs in terms of features, robustness, and cost. So faced with so many current options, how do you choose?

In this post, we'll bring you a comparison between two of the main cloud providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM Cloud.

What Is Amazon Web Services?

AWS (Amazon Web Services) is a cloud computing service developed by Amazon. It offers more than 200 complete data center services around the world. According to the company itself, it ends up bringing more resources than other cloud providers.

AWS core services include:

  • Amazon EC2, providing virtual servers in the cloud.
  • Amazon S3, providing scalable cloud storage.
  • Amazon Aurora, providing high-performance managed relational databases.
  • Amazon DynamoDB, providing NoSQL databases.
  • Amazon RDS, providing relational database services for MySQL, Oracle, and more.
  • Amazon Lambda, providing serverless functions.
  • Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), Managed K8s Service.
  • Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, providing isolated cloud resources.

What Is IBM Cloud?

IBM Cloud is IBM's cloud platform that brings together Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) in a catalog of over 170 services, from both IBM and third parties.

IBM Cloud core services include:

  • Bare metal servers, which are unshared server resources that are priced hourly or monthly.
  • Virtual private cloud, which provides isolated cloud resources.
  • Virtual servers, where you can deploy and scale virtual machines.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), which allows you to build, manage, and deliver multiple solutions in the cloud.
  • Containers, which provide​​ managed Red Hat OpenShift or IBM Cloud Kubernetes services.
  • IBM Cloud Functions, which executes code without having to worry about the infrastructure.

IBM's cloud solution prioritizes the customization of services for each customer, including bare metal or virtual options, and different processors. That's because IBM believes that each company is unique and demands differentiated resources to extract the best from cloud computing.

IBM Cloud vs AWS

Although AWS and IBM Cloud have similar features and services, let's take a look at some of their similarities and differences below.

Server Options

In IBM Cloud, you can customize virtual servers to the demands of your business. You can also customize memory and compute types. The manager can choose between public virtual servers, which provide scalability and flexibility, or dedicated virtual servers, suitable for those who want maximum control of their operations.

AWS EC2 makes it possible to create virtual machines within the cloud, which facilitates the installation of any type of software. The user can turn their instances on and off and pay only for the resources they used. Therefore, it's a very scalable solution, allowing you to expand or reduce the infrastructure at any time.

Which one is the best? Well, it’s really up to you to decide based on the best fit of your application. However, there are some considerations.

Which one is the best? Well, it's really up to you to decide based on the best fit for the necessities of your application. However, there's one more point to consider: EC2 provides support for backing up instances, and if you want to do the same using IBM Cloud Virtual Server, you would have to use another tool called IBM Cloud Backup. So it's up to the professional to decide, taking into consideration the needs of the application and the amount of effort put in.

Storage Options

IBM Cloud Object Storage is a service for companies that want flexibility and scalability in storing data safely and economically. Cloud Object Storage is generally used for backup solutions and application usage. The platform also has features such as file separation by storage classes, resiliency, and encryption key management.

Amazon S3 works for many different situations, from data backup to repositories for static files to websites or applications. It's quite beneficial for individuals who desire to gather, store, and perform analysis of their data, as it has the ability to store an infinite amount of information. Not to mention, the security of the environment is quite robust.

Fast data transfers aid managers and executives in making well-informed decisions for multinational businesses. And in this sense, IBM Cloud provides faster data transfer between data centers.

Database Options

IBM Database is a platform targeted at developers looking for scalability and application usage. The etcd database, for example, is suitable for those looking for cluster coordination and management. Elasticsearch, on the other hand, is aimed at those who need flexibility in searching for text with high indexing power within the database.

AWS has several options for database services. Amazon RDS is a very practical and versatile database management service for a company. AWS DynamoDB is a durable and high-performance database. Its infrastructure is securely managed, it has backup and restore services, and it's capable of supporting high workloads.

When it comes to some use cases like logistics, business intelligence, and real-time analytics, IBM Cloud may be the best fit.

CDN Options

Amazon CloudFront is a fast service for delivering content in different formats, such as data, videos, applications, and APIs. It does this with all the security of Amazon's infrastructure, as well as low latency and high speed for transfers.

The environment is simple and easy to use and can also be integrated with other AWS services. Among them are Amazon S3, Amazon Lambda, and Amazon EC2. The main benefits of the solution are high scalability, speed of delivery, requirements customization, and integration with different types of protection.

IBM Content Delivery Network is very similar to the AWS option, but there's a major difference: While Amazon CloudFront provides more than 400 points of presence (PoP), IBM Content Delivery Network provides more than 2200, because they partner with the CDN provider Akamai.

Serverless Options

IBM Cloud Functions is based on Apache OpenWhisk and makes application development more agile, as it has an open ecosystem that allows other people to help with code execution. It also works on a scalable platform.

With Amazon Lambda functions, you can run code without having to manage servers. Thus, you only pay for the computing time used. It makes it possible to run code in different applications or backend services in a very simple way: just load them, and the service organizes the essential items to execute. In addition, it allows you to configure code to be triggered by other AWS applications or services.

IBM Cloud Functions still lacks more detailed documentation, but when it comes to the free tier, it allows five million requests per month, while AWS Lambda allows one million. Most developers currently prefer AWS Lambda for its ease, amount of documentation, and wide market adoption.

Reliability

High service availability is offered by both AWS and IBM Cloud; basically, they provide the same reliability.

Usability

Both platforms offer similar services, and it all comes down to the usability factor and application integration with organizational needs. When you take into account the quality of services offered by both cloud computing platforms, you realize that it really depends on your needs.

The Big Blue Factor

You can go 2 routes with this one. Stay IBM because you already have a lot of IBM, or go AWS to diversify. There can be some advantages with minimizing the number of vendors you deal with. On the other hand, one of the good things about Cloud technology is that it’s made to be interconnected. Thus, integrating services outside of your Cloud provider is expected and catered for. A lot of IBM’s biggest (proprietary) services are available on AWS. Take for instance Watson. Since 2019, IBM has gone to great lengths to make sure its industry-leading AI platform is multi-cloud cloud-friendly.

Pricing

To better understand the prices between the two cloud services, we can use the calculators provided by them. IBM has the Cost Estimator, while AWS has the Pricing Calculator. Both services largely charge only for the compute time, storage, network, and other features that you actually use, making cloud computing costs easier to manage with the right tools.

How to Decide Between IBM Cloud vs AWS

Comparing Cloud providers isn't an easy task, as it depends on your business and application needs, but we can make some comparisons related to use cases.

For example, IBM doesn't support hybrid storage natively. If task orchestration is another crucial feature for you, IBM is probably not going to be able to match your needs because of how limited its batch-processing capabilities are in comparison to AWS Batch.

Comparing Cloud providers isn’t an easy task as it depends on your business and application needs, but we can make some comparisons related to use cases.

Scheduling is one area where IBM truly surpasses AWS. It provides simple-to-execute individual jobs via scheduled or rules-based execution using IBM's Workload Scheduler. A similar capability is provided by AWS Scheduler, but it lacks the granular control of IBM's solutions, and it only allows the starting and stopping of whole EC2 instances and RDS instances.

If you're searching for an operating system for microcontrollers, such as those found in machinery and appliances, only Amazon has that as part of Amazon IoT. They make it simple to connect such devices to the cloud and take advantage of the platform's other services.

Wrapping Up IBM Cloud vs AWS

Overall, between these two options, AWS stands out for providing a greater amount of tools, better usability, and more flexibility.

But you should always do research on the internet, listen to the opinions of customers who use a particular provider, and choose one that is referenced and recognized in the market.

In addition, it's important to choose a tool with centralized control mechanisms. They give an IT manager the ability to mitigate risks with the infrastructure and thus keep the solution reliable.

Food for Thought

Maybe the right question is not IBM Cloud vs AWS. Maybe the right question is which IBM Cloud services do you use in conjunction with which AWS services. Mixing Cloud providers in a multi-cloud scenario can offer many advantages. Some great reasons to mix-and-match:

  • Avoiding vendor lock in
  • Best of breed services instead of architecting around a particular service’s weakness
  • Lower price for a particular service

More and more companies are choosing to diversify their IT spend across Cloud providers as a way of reducing risk. Even though computers are binary, no move to Cloud should come down to a binary choice.

This post was authored by Hit Subscribe, with additional contributions from Rich Schwarz.

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