Recent inquiry trends

It’s been mentioned to me that my “what are you hearing about from clients” posts are particularly interesting, so I’ll try to do a regular update of this sort. I have some limits on how much detail I can blog and stay within Gartner’s policies for analysts, so I can’t get too specific; if you want to drill into detail, you’ll need to make a client inquiry.

It’s shaping up into an extremely busy fall season, with people — IT users and vendors like — sounding relatively optimistic about the future. If you attended Gartner’s High-Tech Forum (a free event we recently did for tech vendors in Silicon Valley), you saw that we showed a graph of inquiry trends, indicating that “cost” is a declining search term, and “cloud” has rapidly increased in popularity. We’re forecasting a slow recovery, but at least it’s a recovery.

This is budget and strategic planning time, so I’m spending a lot of time with people discussing their 2010 cloud deployment plans, as well as their two- and five-year cloud strategies. There’s some planning stuff going around data centers, hosting, and CDN services, too, but the longer-term the planning, the more likely it is that it’s going to involve cloud. (I posted on cloud inquiry trends previously.)

There’s certainly purchasing going on right now, though, and I’m talking to clients across the whole of the planning cycle (planning, shortlisting, RFP review, evaluating RFP responses, contract review, re-evaluating existing vendors, etc.). Because pretty much everything that I cover is a recurring service, I don’t see the end-of-year rush to finish spending 2009’s budget, but this is the time of year when people start to work on the contracts they want to go for as soon as 2010’s budget hits.

My colo inquiries this year have undergone an interesting shift towards local (and regional) data centers, rather than national players, reflecting a shift in colocation from being primarily an Internet-centric model, to being one where it’s simply another method by which businesses can get data center space. Based on the planning discussions I’m hearing, I expect this is going to be the prevailing trend going forward, as well.

People are still talking about hosting, and there are still plenty of managed hosting deals out there, but very rarely do I see a hosting deal now that doesn’t have a cloud discussion attached. If you’re a hoster and you can’t offer capacity on demand, most of my clients will now simply take you off the table. It’s an extra kick in the teeth if you’ve got an on-demand offering but it’s not yet integrated with your managed services and/or dedicated offerings; now you’re competing as if you were two providers instead of one.

The CDN wars continue unabated, and competitive bidding is increasingly the norm, even in small deals. Limelight Networks fired a salvo into the fray yesterday, with an update to their delivery platform that they’ve termed “XD”. The bottom line on that is improved performance at a baseline for all Limelight customers, plus a higher-performance tier and enhanced control and reporting for customers who are willing to pay for it. I’ll form an opinion on its impact once I see some real-world performance data.

There’s a real need in the market for a company who can monitor actual end-user performance and that can do consulting assessments of multiple CDNs and origin configurations. (It’d be useful in the equipment world, too, for ADCs and WOCs.) Not everyone can or wants to deploy Keynote or Gomez or Webmetrics for this kind of thing, those companies aren’t necessarily eager to do a consultative engagement of this sort, and practically every CDN on the planet has figured out how to game their measurements to one extent or another. It doesn’t make them without value in such assessments, but real-world data from actual users (via JavaScript agents, video player instrumentation, download client instrumentation, etc.) is still vastly preferable. Practically every client I speak to wants to do performance trials, but the means available for doing so are still overly limited and very expensive.

All in all, things are really crazy busy. So busy, in fact, that I ended up letting a whole month go by without a blog post. I’ll try to get back into the habit of more frequent updates. There’s certainly no lack of interesting stuff to write about.

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Posted on October 6, 2009, in Industry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Lydia,

    Your assessment of an end user monitoring system is timely. In several LinkedIn groups and discussions with those of us in the industry point to a lack of reporting/measuring solutions for an entire ‘system’ that will only be exascerbated by Cloud deployments. How do companies figure out cost models? How is billing done? What is billing based on?

    There is monitoring for electricity, server utilization, app performance, etc. but I have yet to see a System level tool that is able to roll up data to something meaningful. While there seems to be a bias towards ‘There are so many things that impact performance out of our control’, people are wanting to have access to the pieces so they can develop their own meaningful data sets to measure and get better at planning, delivering, and charging for it…

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