Microsoft Workloads on AWS

Why you should modernize with AWS (and leave your old guard vendor or technology behind)

Thousands of customers are modernizing their infrastructure, evident in the booming use of Linux versus Microsoft Windows and the shrinking use of Oracle database since 2013 even as open source engines rise, as Gartner data (e.g., State of the Open-Source DBMS Market 2018) shows. Most of this modernization is happening in the cloud as customers want to embrace its unprecedented agility, costs and scale advantages. With AWS, customers find not only agility and cost saving, but more rapid innovation, higher performance, and greater reliability. AWS offers a broad array of options to help organizations modernize, whether they’re looking to move off mainframes, shift from Windows to Linux, embrace non-relational databases, or any number of options.

In this new Modernization blog series we want to share the stories of customers benefiting from modernization, including the advantages that come from leaving behind legacy technologies and old-guard licensing practices.

Escaping a world of high lock-in and punitive licensing terms

Cost is often the conversation starter for cloud, and cost is really a function of how vendors charge and for what. AWS allows customers to trade capital expense for variable expense, and only pay for IT as they consume it while delivering better performance and reliability. At the same time, periodic price reductions (76 since our inception) are standard for us, and our economies of scale enable us to operate cloud services much more efficiently than customers can. For example, Dow Jones has estimated that migrating its data centers to AWS will contribute to a global savings of $100 million in infrastructure costs.

Contrast this with old guard vendors like Oracle that use complicated licensing strategies to lock customers in, particularly with their databases. We have seen thousands of customers fed up with expensive, punitive licensing terms of older database vendors like Oracle and Microsoft. Such vendors may offer cloud services, but the fact that they use lock-in strategies to force customers to use their clouds is a big red flag that they don’t feel they can compete in the cloud on a level playing field.

For example, Oracle recently implemented a new policy that essentially doubled the number of licenses required for customers to stay with AWS or another preferred cloud. Want off Oracle? Good luck: one customer lamented to us that when they wanted to stop using one of the products on their Oracle support contract, Oracle told them they could stop using the product but their support bill would not decrease. This isn’t real cloud.

Meanwhile, Microsoft recently changed Windows Server licensing to try to lock customers into their cloud by restricting customer choice and/or increasing their prices in other clouds. While MSFT limits how customers can bring their licenses to the cloud of their choice, AWS continues to innovate to simplify the customer experience. Just last week, we released the AWS Launch Wizard to simplify deployment for SQL Server with high availability and this week we improved the experience for Dedicated Hosts. AWS License Manager makes it easier to manage licenses in AWS and on-premises servers from software vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle.

Unlocking Choice, By Modernizing with AWS

With AWS, we fundamentally believe cloud computing can and must be different, yet many customers aren’t ready to move off familiar technologies. For those who want to bring Microsoft and Oracle workloads to the cloud, we’ve spent 11 years working hard to make AWS the best cloud for running those workloads, considerably longer than other cloud providers. At AWS we like to say that there is no compression algorithm for experience and, over more than a decade we’ve established a track record of constant innovation and performance enhancements, such that customers trust us with their most important workloads. For example, AWS was the first major cloud provider to offer Windows Server instances in 2008 and, today, hundreds of thousands of customers across all industries including Adobe, Autodesk, Capital One, General Electric, Hess, Kaplan, Pitney Bowes, Riot Games, and Siemens trust AWS to run business-critical Windows workloads such as Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server, Active Directory, and Dynamics. According to an IDC analysis, customers that move their Windows workloads to AWS will see a 56% reduction in the cost of operations over five years, and a 442% increase in ROI over the same period.

However, modernization involves more than merely moving workloads to the cloud. We also believe the nature of those workloads often needs to change. For example, one reason we have long supported open source software, like Linux or MySQL, is because we see that open source communities enable customers to get features and capabilities much more quickly, without becoming locked into an old guard vendor. Over the past decade, in particular, open source has taken a clear leadership role in innovation, with modern big data technologies almost entirely open source (e.g., Apache Hadoop, Apache Spark, etc.), and Linux containers launching years before Windows containers, among other examples. Being dependent on Windows, by contrast, means a customer becomes subject to the whims of pricing and licensing changes Microsoft may impose, while getting much less innovation. With AWS, we go the opposite direction, reducing lock-in by actively supporting open source software and thereby giving you unfettered freedom to run your workloads according to your needs, whether fully managed, self-managed, or serverless.

Let’s look at two customer examples that help to illustrate this.

Better performance, lower cost

Axinom, a leading provider of digital solutions to the media and entertainment industry, chose to migrate its Windows-based Content Management System (CMS) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) solution from an on-premises data center to the AWS cloud. For years, the company ran its Windows-based applications in an on-premises environment that made it hard to scale to meet increasing user traffic. By moving its products to the AWS cloud, Axinom has uncovered increased flexibility and scalability.

In addition, using services like Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon EC2 Spot instances, Axinom was able to grow its Windows-based applications globally, reduce its time-to-market, and even cut costs for its digital media supply chain services. “We have cut costs for supporting our digital media supply chain services by 70 percent using AWS products such as Amazon EC2 Spot Instances,” says Axinom’s Chief Technology Officer, Johannes Jauch. “As a result, we can provide more competitive pricing for our global customers.” It’s not just a matter of cost, however, as Jauch notes. It’s also a way to improve customer value: “Moving to AWS, from the previous solution based on Azure, benefited Axinom tremendously. By going fully cloud-native we not only lowered the video processing costs and reduced idle hardware, but our customers also benefit from our service scaling up and down much faster and providing increased performance and availability.”

Moving forward, Axinom is moving toward a more operating system-agnostic approach. While they are currently running products that were originally developed on Microsoft .NET and SQL Server on AWS, Axinom is interested in exploring open source solutions like Linux and managed database solutions like Amazon RDS, as well as open source databases, such as Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL and MySQL.

Improved flexibility through open source

Decisiv is another company incorporating open source solutions running on AWS to lower costs and boost productivity. Decisiv is the recognized industry leader providing service relationship management (SRM) software for commercial assets. They initially migrated their Microsoft SQL Server–based SRM environment to Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for SQL Server to ensure scalability availability for their customers. Soon after, Decisiv moved onto Amazon Aurora. “We wanted to move away from SQL Server to find better performance and scalability and lower costs, and Amazon Aurora was the perfect fit,” says Satish Joshi, chief technology officer for Decisiv.

After modernizing on AWS, Decisiv is able to use Amazon Aurora’s capabilities to solve business problems. For example, Decisiv consolidated multiple databases into a single Aurora instance on Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL to better accommodate a growing volume and number of new customers. “We can move much faster using Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL. Our development productivity has doubled, so our developers can … roll out new features more often,” says Joshi. Amazon Aurora gives Decisiv the familiarity of open source PostgreSQL, with all the durability and availability of its SQL Server starting place, but at one-fourth the cost.

Looking Forward
Next week, we will highlight another company in its modernization journey onto AWS. I hope you’ll join me as we release these regular blog posts of customers who have chosen to modernize on AWS. As you do, I hope you’ll also ask the question, “What’s your plan for moving off Windows Server?” Or off Oracle? Or whatever old-guard technology keeps you from modernizing to better care for your customers?

Let AWS help you assess how your company can get the most out of cloud. Join all the AWS customers that trust us to run their most important applications in the best cloud. To have us create an assessment for your Windows applications or all your applications, email us at, and please consider joining the conversation using the #WhatsYourModernizationPlan hashtag.

To learn more on modernizing Windows Server or SQL Server, visit Windows on AWS.

Matt Asay

Matt Asay

Matt Asay (pronounced "Ay-see") has been involved in open source and all that it enables (cloud, machine learning, data infrastructure, mobile, etc.) for nearly two decades, working for a variety of open source companies and writing regularly for InfoWorld and TechRepublic. You can follow him on Twitter (@mjasay).