David Chappell


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Gartner's 2013 MQ for Public Cloud IaaS: Catching Up With Reality  
# Thursday, September 05, 2013
I love Gartner's Magic Quadrants. They do a great job of summarizing lots of useful information in a clear, simple way. (I also love the Gartner Hype Cycle for the same reason.) And for anybody interested in the cloud, the latest MQ for Public Cloud IaaS is essential reading.

But Gartner analysts are people, just like you and me. They have feelings and histories that influence their perspective. Looking at the 2013 IaaS MQ reminded me of this.

To get some perspective, here's the 2012 Magic Quadrant for public cloud IaaS:

Figure 1.Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service

Amazon Web Services is out in front, as it should be, but there are four other vendors in the Leaders quadrant.

Here's the 2013 MQ for public cloud IaaS, published just ten months later:

Figure 1.Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service

AWS is now way ahead, almost alone in the leaders quadrant. What's happened here?

One possibility is that AWS really has made that much progress in ten months, leaving its competitors in the dust. Another is that its competitors, including the former leaders, have stood still, letting Amazon widen its lead. But is it likely that either (or both) of these things were large enough to warrant such a big change in only ten months? No.

What's more likely is that Gartner's perception has caught up with reality. The 2012 MQ always bothered me--it just didn't reflect my experience. I spend much of my time in the cloud world, whether speaking at conferences or talking with enterprise IT leaders or working with cloud vendors. Everybody in this world knows that Amazon is the IaaS leader--there's no question. Yet even at the end of 2012, asking people who was second in IaaS usually produced a blank stare. Nobody else was even close.

While companies like Terremark, Savvis, CSC, and Dimension Data are fine organizations, they're primarily offering VMware-based enterprise cloud solutions. If you believe that the future likely belongs to what Gartner calls "best-effort" clouds (as I do), these companies (which mainly offer what Gartner calls "reliable" clouds) are barely in the same market as Amazon. And their public cloud market share in late 2012 was massively smaller than Amazon's, as it is today.

So why did Gartner put all of them in the 2012 Leaders quadrant? First, it was less clear then that enterprises would take to best-effort clouds. The reliable clouds provided by these other vendors looked like they might be a better choice. Just as important, for a group of Gartner analysts coming to the cloud from the virtualization market, VMware-based solutions were bound to look attractive. It's what everybody already had, and it was what the analysts knew.

Given all of this, I'd suggest that the Gartner 2013 MQ doesn't reflect change in AWS as much as it does change in Gartner's understanding of the market. It's the 2012 MQ that was off the mark; the 2013 version comes closer to reality.

A few more thoughts:
  • Microsoft finally released its public cloud IaaS support in mid-2013, so it appears in the 2013 MQ for the first time. And Gartner got the positioning right: Windows Azure IaaS belongs in the Visionary quadrant today. The Ability to Execute axis is usually Microsoft's strength in an MQ, however, and since Gartner seems to think that the company's IaaS vision is strong, I'd be surprised if Microsoft doesn't move into the Leaders quadrant in the next iteration. With best-effort clouds for the enterprise, I expect to see a two-horse race between AWS and Windows Azure.
  • The positioning of HP and IBM in the 2013 quadrant is nothing short of shocking. Anybody who believes that Gartner MQs reflect some kind of pay-to-play arrangement, that big vendors effectively buy their way into the Leaders quadrant, should pay close attention. I admire the analysts' courage in showing their honest opinions about a couple of very large Gartner clients.
  • Google isn't included in this MQ because its public cloud IaaS offering, Google Compute Engine, is still in beta. If GCE one day leaves beta, my guess is that Gartner will fit it into the Niche Players quadrant. The reason for this is simple: GCE supports only Linux, and for Gartner's enterprise clients, not having Windows is a non-starter for many mainstream scenarios.

3 comments :: Post a Comment



(This is Lydia Leong, the lead author on this MQ.)

Actually, the analysts that cover this space aren't coming from virtualization backgrounds. (Our bios are all available from Gartner.com, or on LinkedIn.)

But the evaluation in the MQ reflects what's relevant to our clients and their priorities. We divide our client needs into three groups for the purposes of this particular MQ -- enterprises, mid-market businesses, and technology companies (of whatever size).

AWS has always been strong in technology companies, but it has really only been over the last 12-18 months or so that it's gone from more than "scattered projects" to "strategic vendor" for enterprises, and its gradual entry into the mid-market has only been in the last year. This year has been a tipping point, even though AWS had essentially laid the groundwork with enterprises over a five-year period.

By the way, the 2012 spread is also huge for an MQ -- the delta between AWS and the other four leaders is already enormous.

The 2013 MQ reflects not just the growing dominance of AWS in Gartner's traditional customer base, but it reflects the lack of differentiation in the rest of the market. Most providers have reached some reasonably decent feature set but haven't pushed beyond that, and aren't articulating a truly differentiated vision of the future. This means that a lot of scores are clustered closely together, which ends up producing the kind of chart that you see.

Thanks for commenting, Lydia--I really appreciate you taking the time to do this--and I admire your willingness to publish such a provocative MQ.

I'm still puzzled, though, as I always have been, about why Savvis, Terremark, etc. were ever in the Leaders quadrant. Even in late 2012, those vendors had so little market share (and mind share) in the cloud world compared to Amazon, even among non-technology companies.

Nice article.

FYI ... I've got a survey currently open to glean understanding of some of the technical challenges behind the slow adoption of Public IaaS in enterprises. Please click on https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Public_IaaS_in_Enterprises to complete the survey.

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