Introducing the new Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud IaaS

I’m happy to announce that the new Gartner Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure as a Service has been published. (Client-only link. Non-clients can read a reprint.)

This is a brand-new Magic Quadrant; our previous Magic Quadrant has essentially been split into two MQs, this new Public Cloud IaaS MQ that focuses on self-service, and an updated and more focused iteration of the previous MQ, focused on managed services, called the Managed Hosting and Cloud IaaS MQ.

It’s been a long and interesting and sometimes controversial journey. Threaded throughout this whole Magic Quadrant are the fundamental dichotomies of the market, like IT Operations vs. developer buyers, new applications vs. existing workloads, “virtualization plus” vs. the fundamental move towards programmatic infrastructure, and so forth. We’ve tried hard to focus on a pragmatic view of the immediate wants and needs of Gartner clients, which also reflect these dichotomies.

This is a Magic Quadrant unlike the ones we have historically done in our services research; it is focused upon capabilities and features, in a manner that is much more comparable to the way that we compare software companies, than it is to things like network services or managed hosting or data center outsourcing. This reflects that public cloud IaaS goes far beyond just self-service VMs, creating significant disparities in provider capabilities.

In fact, for this Magic Quadrant, we tried just about every provider hands-on, which is highly unusual for Gartner’s evaluation approach. However, because Gartner’s general philosophy isn’t to do the kind of lab evaluations that we consider to be the domain of journalists, the hands-on stuff was primarily to confirm that providers had particular features and the specifics of what they had, without having to constantly pepper them with questions. Consequently this also involved in reading a lot of documentation, community forums, etc. This wasn’t full-fledged serious trialing. (The expense of the trials was paid on my personal credit card. Fortunately, since this was the cloud, it amounted to less than $150 all told.)

However, like all Magic Quadrants, there’s a heavy emphasis on business factors and not just technology — we are evaluating the positions of companies in the market, which are a composite of many things not directly related to comparable functionality of the services.

Like other Magic Quadrants, this one is targeted at the typical Gartner client — a mid-market company or an enterprise, but also our many tech company clients who range from tiny start-ups to huge monoliths. We believe that cloud IaaS, including the public cloud, is being used to run not only new applications, but also existing workloads. We don’t believe that public cloud IaaS is only for apps written specifically for the cloud, and we certainly don’t believe that it’s only for start-ups or leading-edge companies. It’s a nascent market, yes, but companies can use it productively today as long as they’re thoughtful about their use cases and deployment approach. We also don’t believe that cloud IaaS is solely the province of mass-scale providers; multi-tenancy can be cost-effectively delivered on a relatively small scale, as long as most of the workloads are steady-state (which legacy workloads often are).

Service features, sales, and marketing are all impacted by the need to serve two different buying constituencies, IT Operations and developers. Because we believe that developers are the face of business buyers, though, we believe that addressing this audience is just as important as it is addressing the traditional IT Operations audience. We do, however, emphasize a fundamentally corporate audience — this is definitely not an MQ aimed at, say, an individual building an iPhone app, or even non-technology small businesses.

Nowhere are those dichotomies better illustrated than two of the Leaders in this MQ — Amazon Web Services and CSC. Amazon excels at addressing a developer audience and new applications; CSC excels at addressing a mid-market IT Operations audience on the path towards data center transformation and automation of IT operations management, by migrating to cloud IaaS. Both companies address audiences and use cases beyond that expertise, of course, but they have enormously different visions of their fundamental value proposition, that are both valid. (For those of you who are going, “CSC? Really?” — yes, really. And they’ve been quietly growing far faster than any other VMware-based provider, so for all you vendors out there, if they’re not on your competitive radar screen, they should be.)

Of course, this means that no single provider in the Magic Quadrant is a fantastic fit for all needs. Furthermore, the right provider is always dependent upon not just the actual technical needs, but also the business needs and corporate culture, like the way that the company likes to engage with its vendors, its appetite for risk, and its viewpoint on strategic vs. tactical vendors.

Gartner has asked its analysts not to debate published research in public (per our updated Public Web Participation policy), especially Magic Quadrants. Consequently, I’m willing to engage in a certain amount of conversation about this MQ in public, but I’m not going to get into the kinds of public debates that I got into last year.

If you have questions about the MQ or are looking for more detail than is in the text itself, I’m happy to discuss. If you’re a Gartner client, please schedule an inquiry. If you’re a journalist, please arrange a call through Gartner’s press office. Depending on the circumstances, I may also consider a discussion in email.

This was a fascinating Magic Quadrant to research and write, and within the limits of that “no public debates” restriction, I may end up blogging more about it in the future. Also, as this is a fast-moving market, we’re highly likely to target an update for the middle of next year.

Posted on December 13, 2011, in Infrastructure and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. A very nice brief. The part of the post I found most telling (as it mimics my personal understanding at this time):

    “Of course, this means that no single provider in the Magic Quadrant is a fantastic fit for all needs. Furthermore, the right provider is always dependent upon not just the actual technical needs, but also the business needs and corporate culture, like the way that the company likes to engage with its vendors, its appetite for risk, and its viewpoint on strategic vs. tactical vendors.”

    So, just because they are in the top-right, does not mean that the provider is right for you. A truth that should not be overlooked.

  2. IaaS is absolutely not just for self-servicing VMs. The ability to deploy VMs as a service offers an unprecedented opporutnity for IT to shorten go-to-market. With automatic and orchestrated installations and configurations of the target OS and components of a LOB applicaiton, IaaS can then delivers SaaS. In other words, by deploying IaaS (an applicaiton architecture) with a running instance of a target LOB applicaiton, IT is now available as a serivce. Depite from IaaS to SaaS is more a private cloud concept, as detailed in http://aka.ms/vp2, it is very much applicable to public cloud as well.

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