Monthly Archives: July 2012

Foundational Gartner research notes on cloud IaaS

In light of the upcoming Magic Quadrant work, I thought it would be useful to highlight research that myself and others have published that is important in the context of this MQ. These notes lay out how we see the market, and consequently, the lens that we’re going to be evaluating the service providers through.

I want to stress that service providers do not need to agree with our perspective in order to rate well. We admire those who march to their own particular beat, as long as it results in true differentiation and more importantly, customer wins and happy customers — a different perspective can allow a service provider to serve their particular segments of the market more effectively. However, such providers need to be able to clearly articulate that vision and to back it up with data that supports their world-view.

That said, if you are a service provider, these are the research notes that it might be helpful to be familiar with (sorry, clients only):

Pricing and Buyer’s Guide for Web Hosting and Cloud Infrastructure, 2012. Our market definitions are described here, in case you’re confused about what we consider to be cloud IaaS.

Competitive Landscape: New Entrants to the Cloud IaaS Market Face Tough Competitive Challenges. This describes the competitive landscape and the challenges of differentiating in this market. It also profiles two sucessful providers, Amazon and CSC, in detail. This is critical reading to understand what we believe does and does not differentiate providers.

Market Insight: Structuring the Cloud Compute IaaS Market. This presents our market segmentation; each segment is associated with a buyer profile. While our thinking has refined since this was published in early 2011, it is still an extremely important view into our thinking about customer needs.

Evaluating Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. This seven-part set of research notes describes the range of IaaS capabilities offered across the market, from the technology itself to how service is done. This provides important terminology, and is also useful for determining how competitive your offering really is. (Note that this is an early-2011 note set, so the state of the art has advanced since then.)

Evaluation Criteria for Public Cloud IaaS Providers. Our Technical Professionals research provides extremely detailed criteria for large enterprises that are evaluating providers. While the customer requirements are somewhat different in other segments, like the mid-market, these criteria should give you an extremely strong idea of the kinds of things that we think are important to customers. The Magic Quadrant evaluation criteria will not be identical (because it is broader than just large-enterprise), but this is the kind of thing you should be thinking about.

Market Trends: Public and Private Cloud Infrastructure Converge into On-Demand Infrastructure Fabrics. This describes our view of how the service provider cloud infrastructure platforms will evolve, including providing a perspective on public vs. private cloud, and developer-class vs. enterprise-class cloud.

Best Practice: Evaluate Isolation Mechanisms in Public and Private Cloud IaaS. Many service providers are using “private cloud” in ways we consider actively deceptive. This note provides a warning to IT buyers, and discusses the kinds of isolation options that are available. This emphasizes our insistence that providers be transparent about their isolation mechanisms and security controls.

Less-critical notes that cover narrower topics, that you may nevertheless want to read:

Market Insight: Customers Need Hybrid Cloud Compute Infrastructure as a Service. This describes customer requirements for “hybrid” scenarios — the need for cloud bridging into the enterprise data center, physical-virtual hybrid environments, hybrid hosting, and multi-cloud environments.

Infrastructure as a Service in the Cloud Services Value Chain. This describes the overall place of IaaS in the value chain. It explains market evolution and how this impacts upstream and downstream technology vendors; it provides our viewpoint on the channel.

Toolkit: Mitigating Risks in Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. This provides a fairly comprehensive checklist for risk assessment. You may want to think about how well your solution addresses this list of risks.

Delivery Models for Application Infrastructure in the Cloud: Beware the Lure of False PaaS. This provides software and middleware licensing models, and contrasts IaaS vs. PaaS. Pay particular attention to the importance of software marketplaces.

If you are not a Gartner client, please note that many of these topics have been covered in my blog in the past, if at a higher level (and generally in a mode where I am still working out my thinking, as opposed to a polished research position).

What would make the Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant better?

At the risk of opening up a can of worms:

As a user of the Public Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant — either as a technology buyer looking to make a vendor decision, or as a vendor looking to understand the market, what would make the document better?

Understand that I cannot change the process itself (which Gartner explicates to its analysts in a lengthy, excrutiatingly detailed document with oodles of accompanying paperwork, and while internally we may discuss what improvements could be made, from my perspective from a practical standpoint of an MQ being done right now, the process might as well be handed down on tablets of stone).

However, there are plenty of things that are not covered by the process, from the way communications are done to the information contained in the document. I am genuinely interested in what I can do to make the document more useful, as we embark on the 2012 update.

(Yes, we’re on a faster-than-annual update cycle due to the speed at which the market is moving.)

Free free to comment on my blog, or email me privately.

UP and to the RIGHT

Richard Stiennon, a former colleague of mine (he was a security analyst at Gartner from 2000-2004), has just written a book, UP and to the RIGHT: Strategy and Tactics of Analyst Influence: A complete guide to analyst influence. It’s a good guide to analyst relations in general, but it’s focused on Gartner, and especially the Magic Quadrant. If you’re someone who deals with analysts, I highly recommend it.

Chunks of the book were laugh-out-loud funny to me (and I read parts of it aloud to my husband, who works for a vendor and whose commentary on the MQ process once led to me posting on How Not to Use a Magic Quadrant with a three-frowny-quadrant graphic). Although almost a decade has passed since Richard worked here (a lot has changed since then, not the least of which is the MQ process), he’s done an excellent job in doing the research to reflect how things have evolved here — it’s still the best bit of writing I’ve seen that reflects the way that Gartner analysts work. I don’t agree with him 100%, but I think that as a broad reflection of the company, its analysts, the Magic Quadrant, and what we’re influenced by, it’s pretty much right on the money, right down to the desperation for a break in the 1-on-1 room at conferences.

(Side note: Unlike Richard and many of my current colleagues, I actually love doing 1-on-1s at Gartner conferences. You talk to a different sort of buyer at conferences — lots of mid-market CIOs, especially. They’re great conversations. However, the sheer volume is exhausting. I can end up taking 16 to 18 meetings a day at a conference — starting at 7 am and ending around 11 pm, only to go back to my hotel room and still need to answer emails. If I’m really unlucky, I will be up before 7 am to take a phone inquiry or briefing. And at Symposium especially, with the bathrooms 10 minutes away from the 1-on-1 tent, any break time vanishes quickly, and good luck getting lunch. Much like Richard writes, though, I assure you that anyone who didn’t take every last minute, or didn’t mind me getting in a few bites of food while they were talking, I remember fondly. I also clearly remember the folks who complained when I had to take an emergency bathroom break, shortchanging them five minutes of their 1-on-1 slot.)

Richard does an excellent job of emphasizing that the process of analyst influence is a long-term, year-round thing. If you’re starting it only when the MQ cycle is formally initiated, it is too late. (I’ve noted this before in my blog post about effective Magic Quadrant briefings.)

One important thing that Richard has missed, I think, is the importance of Gartner’s acquisition of the Burton Group back at the end of 2009. Gartner now calls that product “IT Professionals” (ITP), and its analysts are still a separate cadre but part of the larger research community on any given topic. ITP focuses on practitioners, and their analysts tend to be very hands-on. Many of Gartner’s recent hires into the general analyst cadre are also practitioners (i.e., folks who were in architect roles, rather than IT directors). That means that you can increasingly expect that at least one analyst involved in an MQ will work with the products hands-on to some extent, although that’s not likely the case with anything that really requires a complex implementation (like ERP, for instance).

The guerilla tactics that Richard describes are clever. I don’t know how well they work, but I suspect they exert a subtle mental tug. I can tell you that the more deeply I am acquainted with a vendor and the more frequently we interact — which does not, by the way, even require being a client — the more meaningful their Magic Quadrant write-up (although that doesn’t necessarily reflect dot placement).

Magic Quadrants are always going to be a subjective process, because in the end, rating and reviewing products, services, and companies is a subjective process. What’s important to one person is not necessarily important to another; the market viewpoint represented will reflect the consensus opinions of the analyst team involved but may also heavily tilt towards the lead analyst’s perspective on the market. In the end, even the most pedantic approach to quantitative scoring still requires judgment to award points — if five vendors all implement the same feature in slightly different ways, someone has to make a judgment call that stack-ranks them. Having experimented previously with Magic Quadrant spreadsheets that had ninety rating aspects per vendor, I can say that it was mostly a waste of time to get super-granular, as well. The Magic Quadrant is ultimately a graphical representation of a thought process; it is not a function-point analysis.

Call for vendors – 2012 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant

We’re about to kick off Gartner’s 2012 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant.

A pre-qualification survey, intended to gather quantitative metrics and basic information about each provider’s service, will be going out very soon.

If you are a cloud compute IaaS provider — that means you offer, as a service, fully-automated, self-service compute, storage, and network infrastructure that is available on-demand (think “by the hour” and not “by the month”) — you did not receive a survey last year, and you would like to receive a survey this year, please contact me via email at Lydia dot Leong at Gartner dot com.

Note: This is not hosting and this is not data center outsourcing. You should have a fully-standardized offering — one that is identical for every customer, not a reference architecture that you customize — and customers should be self-servicing (i.e., they go to your portal and push buttons to immediately, with zero human intervention, obtain/destroy/configure/manage their infrastructure), although you can optionally provide managed services.

Also note: This is not for software or hardware vendors. This is for service providers.

Bottom line: If you don’t consider yourself to be in competition with Amazon EC2 or the Terremark Enterprise Cloud, to take two well-known examples, this is not your Magic Quadrant.

Please note that receiving a survey does not in any way indicate that we believe that your company is likely to qualify; we simply allow surveys to go to all interested parties (assuming that they’re not obviously wrong fits, like software companies without an IaaS offering).

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