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Gartner: Amazon's still the one to beat in IaaS

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan August 24, 2013
Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant on IaaS gives Amazon Web Services a clear lead over all the competition. But buyers should note some caveats.

Lydia Leong

It's August - the calm before the storm of the next three months worth of user conferences - and so attention falls a little more readily on some of the analyst group studies in the full knowledge that we'll be seeing them again in vendor presentations pretty soon.

So here comes the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant, looking at Infrasructure as a Service providers.

Gartner defines cloud compute IaaS as:

"a standardized, highly automated offering, where compute resources, complemented by storage and networking capabilities, are owned by a service provider and offered to the customer on demand.

"The resources are scalable and elastic in near-real-time, and metered by use. Self-service interfaces are exposed directly to the customer, including a Web-based UI and, optionally, an API. The resources may be single-tenant or multi-tenant, and hosted by the service provider or on-premises in the customer's data center."


Amazon Web Services predictably enough remains the top IaaS public cloud computing provider with the widest breath of services of any vendor in the market,

Gartner pitches AWS as five times in terms of compute capacity than the other 14 vendors profiled in the quadrant combined. It notes:

It is a thought leader; it is extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile and very responsive to the market. It has the richest IaaS product portfolio, and is constantly expanding its service offerings and reducing its prices. It has by far the largest pool of capacity, which makes its service one of the few suitable for batch computing, especially for workloads that require short- term provisioning of hundreds of servers at a time.

But there are cautionary notes struck as well, particularly around pricing and support:

AWS is a price leader, but it charges separately for optional items that are often bundled with competitive offerings. This increases the complexity of understanding and auditing bills.

Prospective customers should be careful to model the costs accurately, especially for network- related charges, and to compare the costs of reserved and unreserved capacity, as well as AWS's "spot pricing" market.

AWS's support offerings are tiered based on the level of support that a customer purchases, rather than on a "relationship" or size-of-spend basis; the quality of support differs materially between tiers. AWS does not include enterprise-grade support by default; customers will need to buy Business tier support for this.

Its Enterprise tier support offers a dedicated technical account manager and other "platinum" capabilities, providing a higher degree of support than most of its competitors offer without managed services, but it carries up to a 10% premium on the customer's overall AWS spend.

Lydia Leong, one of the authors of the IaaS Magic Quadrant, notes that AWS has ridden favourable wave among buyers with many organisations doing 'something' with the provider even it's not a mainstream, 'serious' project. This gives AWS the status of incumbent provider when attention does turn to a formal investment.

Leong notes:
Little by little, AWS has systematically addressed the barriers to “mainstream”, enterprise adoption. While it’s still far from everything that it could be, and it has some specific and significant weaknesses, that steady improvement over the last couple of years has brought it to the “good enough” point.

While we saw much stronger momentum for AWS than other providers in 2012, 2013 has really been a tipping point. We still hear plenty of interest in competitors, but AWS is overwhelmingly the dominant vendor.

Other vendors by comparison struggle to provide a differentiator, notes Leong:

Many vendors have developed relatively solid core offerings. That means that the number of differentiators in the market has decreased, as many features become common “table stakes” features that everyone has. It means that most offerings from major vendors are now fairly decent, but only a few are really stand out for their capabilities.

Reflecting the increasingly blurred lines between traditional IT outsourcing firms and cloud service provides, Gartner highlights CSC as a firm that has:

fully embraced the highly standardized, highly automated cloud model, successfully blending the benefits of a true cloud service into an enterprise-ready offering. It has a solid platform that is attractive to traditional IT operations organizations that still want to retain control, but need to offer greater agility to the business and are willing to embrace data center transformation.

But again there are things for buyers to be wary of:

Prospective CSC customers should be careful to understand the distinction between CSC's outsourcing business and its cloud offerings; in particular, they should be sure to understand what is and isn't within the scope of a particular tier of managed services. Existing CSC outsourcing customers report challenges in getting CSC to engage in cloud opportunities.

CSC's focus has been on enabling traditional IT operations organizations to make the transition to cloud infrastructure, resulting in a distinctive feature set. It is trying to increase its traction with developer audiences, but will find this challenging, given the positioning of the broader CSC brand.

Elsewhere Microsoft and Rackspace get mentions in the "visionaries" square, while Dimension Data, Verizon, Terremark and Savvis are in the "challengers" quadrant, along with Dimension Data.

Joyent, Tier 3, Virtustream, Fujitsu, SoftLayer (now owned by IBM), GoGrid, HP and IBM are branded "niche players" by Gartner.

All of this might change by the time of the next IaaS Magic Quadrant, not least because there are two new offerings in beta at the moment that might come into play significantly: Google Compute Engine and VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service. These, notes Gartner, may be of "considerable interest" to prospective IaaS customers

For those hoping to challenge AWS dominance, Gartner offers some advice: the cloud IaaS market is more similar to a software market than to traditional IT services markets. This means that :

to deliver greater value to customers, cloud IaaS providers must improve the quality and efficiency with which customers can manage their infrastructure. They must find ways to reduce the burden of operational chores such as patch management and backups.

In the long term, leadership in the cloud IaaS market will require the ability to provide a range of ITOM capabilities to customers. Some of these capabilities have historically been part of enterprise ITOM software from vendors like BMC Software, CA, HP and IBM.

Some will be new,"DevOps"-oriented capabilities. Some will be new forms of automation, analytics and insight, and "smart" infrastructure capabilities that take advantage of the unique perspective offered by the delivery of integrated compute, storage and networking resources.

Consequently, providers are in a race to deliver features, and the "winners" are likely to be those that are highly innovative and that have the most resources to invest in breadth and depth of capabilities development.


Magic Quadrant courtesy of Gartner

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