Blog Archives

Introducing the new Hyperscale Cloud MSP Magic Quadrant

As has been noted in Doug Toombs’s blog post (“Important Updates for Gartner’s Hosting Magic Quadrants in 2016“), I will be leading the introduction of a new Gartner Magic Quadrant this year for managed service providers (MSPs) that deliver services on hyperscale cloud providers (specifically, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform).

This new global Magic Quadrant will be titled the “Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers”, and it is slated for early Q4 2016 publication (watch the editorial calendar for an official date). It will have accompanying Critical Capabilities that will be specific to each hyperscale cloud provider. In 2016, this will be a “Critical Capabilities for Managed Service Providers for Amazon Web Services”; in the future, as their ecosystems mature, we expect there will be a CC each for MSPs for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform as well.

Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, I’ve begun building a body of related research (sorry, links are behind client-only paywall):

How to Choose a Managed Service Provider for a Hyperscale Cloud Provider. Hyperscale integrated IaaS and PaaS providers are not mere purveyors of rented virtualization. MSPs need to have a very specific skillset to manage them well. This is the fundamental “what makes a good hyperscale cloud MSP” note.

Best Practices for Planning a Cloud IaaS Strategy: Bimodal IT, Not Hybrid Infrastructure. We advise customers to think differently about cloud IaaS based on their priorities — safety and efficiency-driven IT, vs. speed and agility-driven IT. This tends to lead to different styles of operations, which in turn drive different managed and professional services needs.

Three Journeys Define Migrating a Data Center to Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. An increasing number of customers are migrating existing applications and even entire data centers into cloud IaaS. This sets out those journeys, and explores the managed and professional services that are useful for those journeys.

Use Managed and Professional Services to Improve Cloud Operations for Digital Business. Mode 2 and digital business applications are often architected and operated in ways that are not broadly familiar to many IT organizations. We explore different styles of adopting managed and professional services for these needs.

Market Guide for Managed Service Providers on Amazon Web Services. Our introduction to the AWS MSP market explores use cases, classifies MSPs into categories, and profiles a handful of representative MSPs.

Market Trends: Channel Sales Strategies for Cloud IaaS Should Focus on Developer Ecosystems. We provide advice to cloud IaaS providers who are trying to build ecosystems and channel sales strategies — but MSPs will find this note valuable when trying to understand what their value is to their partner cluod provider.

I’ll soon be publishing a set of notes directed at MSPs who are currently in this market, or intended to enter this market, as well. And I’ll be doing a series of blog posts about what’s ahead.

Recommended reading for 2016 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant

I am beginning the process of refreshing Gartner’s global Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS. Research will be conducted during Q1 and is currently targeted for publication in May, continuing our annual refresh cycle. See the status page for the current timeline.

Every year, I highlight Gartner research that myself and others have published that’s important in the context of these MQs. These notes lay out how we see the market, and consequently, the lens that we’re going to be evaluating the service providers through.

Service providers do not need to agree with our perspective in order to rate well, but they do need to be able to clearly articulate their vision of an alternative future, back it up with data that supports their world-view, and demonstrate how their unique perspective results in true differentiation, customer wins, and happy customers.

This updates the 2015 MQ list of foundational research. Please note that those older notes still remain relevant, and you are encouraged to read them.

If you are a service provider, these are the 2015 Gartner research notes that it might be helpful to be familiar with (sorry, links are behind client-only paywall):

Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, Worldwide, 2015. Last year’s Magic Quadrant is full of deep-dive information about the market and the providers. Also check out the Critical Capabilities for Public Cloud IaaS, Worldwide, 2015 for a deeper dive into specific public cloud IaaS offerings (Critical Capabilities is almost solely focused on feature set for particular use cases, whereas a Magic Quadrant positions a vendor in a market as a whole). Free reprints are available for both the MQ and the CC.

Technology Overview for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. This foundational note provides Gartner’s market definitions and fundamental research positions for cloud IaaS.

Evaluation Criteria for Cloud IaaS Providers. Our Technical Professionals research provides extremely detailed criteria for large enterprises that are evaluating providers. While the relative importance of these 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 technical criteria in this evaluation closely parallel the technical criteria used in the Magic Quadrant and Critical Capabilities.

Best Practices for Planning a Cloud IaaS Strategy: Bimodal IT, Not Hybrid Infrastructure. We advise customers to think differently about cloud IaaS based on their priorities — safety and efficiency-driven IT, vs. agile IT. We evaluate cloud IaaS providers on their ability to serve each of these modes.

Three Journeys Define Migrating a Data Center to Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. An increasing number of customers are migrating existing data centers into cloud IaaS. This note is useful for understanding how we structure our thinking about those journeys in a Mode 1 bimodal context.

Use Managed and Professional Services to Improve Cloud Operations for Digital Business. Although this note is managed services-centric, it is useful for expanding your understanding of how we see Mode 2 needs in the cloud.

A Comprehensive List of Management Requirements for Organizations Using Public Cloud Services. We provide deep-dive advice to architects. Service providers should consider how they enable the functions detailed here.

Take a Risk-Based Approach to Public Cloud IaaS. The customer view of security, risk, and compliance and the cloud is evolving. Use this note to understand how we advise customers on these aspects and our view on how the market has changed.

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).

Recommended reading for 2015 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrants

We are beginning the process of refreshing Gartner’s global Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, along with the regional Magic Quadrants for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting. We are also introducing a new Japanese-language Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, Japan. The global cloud IaaS MQ will publish first, with research conducted during Q1 and published at the beginning of Q2; see the status page for the current timeline.

As I do every year, I am highlighting researching that myself and others have published that’s important in the context of these MQs. These notes lay out how we see the market, and consequently, the lens that we’re going to be evaluating the service providers through.

As always, 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.

This updates last year’s list of foundational research. Please note that those older notes still remain relevant, and you are encouraged to read them.

If you are a service provider, these are the 2014 Gartner research notes that it might be helpful to be familiar with (sorry, links are behind client-only paywall):

Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, 2014. Last year’s Magic Quadrant is full of deep-dive information about the market and the providers. Also check out the Critical Capabilities for Public Cloud IaaS, 2014 for a deeper dive into specific public cloud IaaS offerings (Critical Capabilities is almost solely focused on feature set for particular use cases, whereas a Magic Quadrant positions a vendor in a market as a whole). Free reprints are available for both the MQ and the CC.

Technology Overview for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. This foundational note provides Gartner’s market definitions and fundamental research positions for cloud IaaS.

Evaluation Criteria for Cloud IaaS Providers. Our Technical Professionals research provides extremely detailed criteria for large enterprises that are evaluating providers. While the relative importance of these 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 technical criteria in this evaluation closely parallel the technical criteria used in the Magic Quadrant and Critical Capabilities.

Market Trends: How Customers Purchase Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, 2014. This note lays out Gartner’s perspective on customer desires and how this translates into marketing and sales cycle for cloud IaaS. This also explores the impact of bimodal IT on the market.

Market Trends: Cloud IaaS Providers Expand Into PaaS, 2014. The convergence between the IaaS and high-control PaaS markets is a crucial market trend that significantly impacts the way that Gartner views what is necessary to be a leading cloud IaaS provider.

Predicts 2015: Cloud Computing Goes Beyond IT Into Digital Business. This set of predictions for the future covers the blurring between public and private cloud IaaS, the delivery of managed services on top of third-party cloud IaaS platforms, and the growth in Docker and other container-related technologies.

Research Roundup: Cloud Computing Services in the Digital Industrial Economy. This is a relatively comprehensive round-up of recent Gartner cloud services research.

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).

Yet more reasons to work at Gartner with me

The TL;DR: My team at Gartner has an open position for someone who has a strong understanding of cloud IaaS — someone who has experience architecting for the cloud, or who has worked on the vendor side of the market (product management, solutions architecture, engineering, consulting, etc.), or is an analyst at another firm covering a related topic. If you’re interested, please email me or contact me on LinkedIn.

The details:

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post on “Five reasons you should work at Gartner with me“, detailing the benefits of the analyst role. I followed it up last year with “Five more reasons to work at Gartner with me“, targeted at women. Both times we were hiring. And we’re continuing to hire right now.

We’re steadily expanding our coverage of cloud computing, which means that we have multiple openings. On my team, we’re looking for an analyst who can cover IaaS, and if you have a good understanding of cloud security, PaaS, and/or DevOps, that would be a plus. (The official posting is for a cloud security analyst, but we’re flexible on the skill set and the job itself, so don’t read too much into the job description.) This role can be entirely work-from-home, and you must work a US time zone schedule, which means candidates should be based in North America or South America.

Previously, I noted great reasons to work at Gartner:

  1. It is an unbeatably interesting job for people who thrive on input.
  2. You get to help people in bite-sized chunks.
  3. You get to work with great colleagues.
  4. Your work is self-directed.
  5. We don’t do any pay-for-play.

In my follow-up post for women, I added the following reasons (which benefit men, too):

  1. We have a lot of women in very senior, very visible roles, including in management.
  2. The traits that might make a woman termed “too aggressive” are valued in analysts.
  3. You are shielded from most misgyny in the tech world.
  4. You will use both technical and non-technical skills, and have a real impact.
  5. This is a flexible-hours, work-from-anywhere job.

I encourage you to go read those posts. Here, I’ll add a few more things about our culture. (If you’re working at another analyst firm or have considered another analyst firm in the past, you might find the below points to be of particular interest.)

1. People love their jobs. While some analysts decide after a year or two that this isn’t the life for them, the ones that stay, pretty much stay forever. Almost everyone is very engaged in their job, works hard, and tries to do the right thing. Although we’re a work-from-home culture, we nevertheless do a good job in establishing a strong corporate culture in which people collaborate remotely.

2. We have no hierarchy. We are an exceptionally flat organization. Every analyst has a team manager, but teams are largely HR reporting structures — a support system, by and large. To get work done, we form ad-hoc and informal groups of collaborators. We have internal research communities of interest, an open peer review process for all research, and freewheeling discussions without organization boundaries. That means more junior analysts are free to take on as much as they want to, and their voices are no less important than anyone else’s.

3. We have no hard-and-fast coverage boundaries. As long as you are meeting the needs of our clients, your coverage can shift as you see fit. Indeed, to be successful, your coverage should naturally evolve over time, as clients change their technology wants and needs. We have no “book of business” or “programs” or the like, which at other analyst firms sometimes encourage analysts to fiercely defend their turf; we actively discourage territoriality. Collaboration across topic boundaries is encouraged. We do have some formal vehicles for coverage — agendas and special reports among them — but these are open to anyone, regardless of the specific team they work on. (We do have product boundaries, but analysts can collaborate across these boundaries.)

4. We have good support systems. There are teams that manage calendaring and client contact, so analysts don’t have to deal with scheduling headaches (we just indicate when we’re available). Events run smoothly and attention is paid to making sure that analysts don’t have to worry about coordination issues. There’s admin and project manager support for things that generate a lot of administrative overhead or require coordination. Management, in the last few years, has paid active attention to things that help make analysts more productive.

5. Analysts do not have any sales responsibility. Analysts do not carry a “book of business” or any other form of direct tie to revenue. We don’t do any pay-for-play. Importantly, that means that you are never beholden to a vendor, nor do you have an incentive to tell a client anything less than the best advice you have to give. The sales team understands the rules (there are always a few bad apples, but Gartner tries very hard to ensure that analysts are not influenced by sales). Performance evaluations are based on metrics such as the popularity of our documents, and customer satisfaction scores across the different dimensions of things we do (inquiries, conference presentations, documents, and so on).

If this sounds like something that’s of interest to you, please get in touch!

The 2014 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, 2014, has just been released (see the client-only interactive version, or the free reprint). If you’re a Gartner client, you can also view the related charts, which summarize the offerings, features, and data center locations in a convenient table format. (The charts are unfortunately less readable than they could be, as our publication system doesn’t allow comments in Excel spreadsheets. Sorry.)

We’re continuing to update this Magic Quadrant every nine months, since the market is moving so quickly. There have been significant changes in vendor positions since the August 2013 Magic Quadrant (the free reprint has expired, but the graphic is floating around, and Gartner clients can use the “History” tab in the online Magic Quadrant tool, which allows you to compare 2012, 2013, and 2014 interactively).

We’ve observed, over the last nine months, a major shift in Gartner’s client base — the desire to make strategic bets on cloud IaaS providers. In general, this reduces the number of significant suppliers to an organization to just one or two (whereas many organizations had as many as four), with the overwhelming bulk of the workloads going to one provider. It also means that clients are interested in knowing not just who is winning right now, but who is going to be the winner in five or even ten years. That’s really the lens that this Magic Quadrant should be viewed through: Who has what it takes to convince the customer that they can serve both current needs and will sustain market leadership over the long term?

Our clients have, since September of 2013 (which seemed to mark a change in Microsoft’s go-to-market approach for Azure), consistently viewed this as an AWS vs. Microsoft battle, with AWS continuing to win the vast majority of business but Microsoft winning significant inroads, especially with later-adopter customers. In recent weeks since the big price drops, lots of clients have been asking about the future of Google, as well, and there are a lot of curiosity questions about IBM (SoftLayer) also, although the IBM questions tend to be more outsourcing and broader-strategy in orientation. Of course, prospects consider other vendors, especially their existing incumbent vendors, as well, but AWS and Microsoft are overwhelmingly the top contenders.

What’s interesting about this year’s Visionaries is that they all have new platforms — CenturyLink with the Tier 3 acquisition, CSC with the ServiceMesh acquisition coupled with the AWS partnership, Google with Google Compute Engine, IBM with the SoftLayer acquisition, and Verizon Terremark with the still-beta Verizon Cloud. (Arguably VMware falls into this bucket as well, despite being a Niche Player this year.) These providers are in the middle of reinventing themselves, most with the idea of battling it out for the #3 spot in the market.

This is not a market for the faint of heart. (I recently asked a large vendor if they intended to compete seriously in the IaaS space, and was told, “Only an idiot takes on Amazon, Microsoft, and Google simultaneously.”) For that matter, this is not a market for the shallow of pocket. You can’t spend your way to success here, but you need engineers, intellectual property, and to be a real #3, substantial capital investment in infrastructure.

There’s also a clear convergence with the PaaS market that’s taking place here. AWS has long offered an array of services that are PaaS elements, as well as many things that sit on the spectrum between pure IaaS and pure PaaS. Microsoft and Google started as PaaS providers and then launched IaaS offerings. The distintions will blur and increasingly become less relevant, as providers fight it out on features and capabilities.

Gartner continues to separate our evaluation of related managed and professional services from the core cloud IaaS platform, because we believe that clients are increasingly choosing a platform, and then choosing consultants and managed services providers (or alternatively, turning to a trusted integrator who helps them choose the right platforms for their needs). I’ll be writing on this more in the future, but keep an eye out for the upcoming regional Magic Quadrants for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting for a managed services-oriented view.

Recommended reading for 2014 Cloud IaaS and Managed Hosting Magic Quadrants

If you’re a service provider interested in participating in the research process for Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS (see the call for vendors), or the regional Magic Quadrants for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting (see that call for vendors), you will probably want to read some of my previous blog posts.

The Magic Quadrant Process Itself

AR contacts for a Magic Quadrant should read everything. An explanation of why it’s critical to read every word of every communication received during the MQ process.

The process of a Magic Quadrant. Understanding a little bit about how MQs get put together.

Vendors, Magic Quadrants, and client status. Appropriate use of communications channels during the MQ process.

General tips for Magic Quadrant briefings and Specific tips for Magic Quadrant briefings. Information on how to conduct an effective and concise Magic Quadrant briefing.

The art of the customer reference. Tips on how to choose reference customers.

Gartner’s Understanding of the Market

Foundational Gartner research notes on cloud IaaS and managed hosting, 2014. Recommended reading to understand our thinking on the markets.

Having cloud-enabled technology != Having a cloud. Critical for understanding what we do and don’t consider cloud IaaS to be.

Infrastructure resilience, fast VM restart, and Google Compute Engine. An explanation of why infrastructure resilience still matters in the cloud, and what we mean by the term.

No World of Two Clouds. Why we do not believe that there will be a separation of the cloud IaaS offerings that target the enterprise, from those that target cloud-native organizations.

Cloud IaaS market share and the developer-centric world. How developers, rather than IT operations admins, drive spend in the cloud IaaS market.

Foundational Gartner research notes for cloud IaaS and managed hosting, 2014

With the refresh of the Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, and the evolution of the regional Magic Quadrants for Managed Hosting into Magic Quadrants for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting, I am following my annual tradition of highlighting researching that myself and others have published that’s important in the context of these MQs. These notes lay out how we see the market, and consequently, the lens that we’re going to be evaluating the service providers through.

As always, 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.

This updates a previous list of foundational research. Please note that those older notes still remain relevant, and you are encouraged to read them. You might also be interested in a previous research round-up (clients only).

If you are a service provider, these are the research notes that it might be helpful to be familiar with (sorry, links are behind client-only paywall):

Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, 2013. Last year’s Magic Quadrant is full of deep-dive information about the market and the providers. Also check out the Critical Capabilities for Public Cloud IaaS, 2013 for a deeper dive into specific public cloud IaaS offerings (Critical Capabilities is almost solely focused on feature set for particular use cases, whereas a Magic Quadrant positions a vendor in a market as a whole).

Magic Quadrant for Managed Hosting, North America and Magic Quadrant for European Managed Hosting. Last year’s managed hosting Magic Quadrants are likely the last MQs we’ll publish for traditional managed hosting. They still make interesting reading even though these MQs are evolving this year.

Pricing and Buyer’s Guide for Web Hosting and Cloud Infrastructure, 2013. Our market definitions are described here.

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 cloud IaaS MQ evaluation criteria are not identical (because it is broader than just large-enterprise), but they are very similar — we do coordinate our research.

Technology Overview for Cloud-Enabled System Infrastructure. If you’re wondering what cloud-enabled system infrastructure (CESI) is, this will explain it to you. Cloud-enabled managed hosting is the combination of a CESI with managed services, so it’s important to understand.

Don’t Be Fooled By Offerings Falsely Masquerading as Cloud IaaS. This note was written for our end-user clients, to help them sort out an increasingly “cloudwashed” service provider landscape. It’s very important for understanding what constitutes a cloud service and why the technical and business benefits of “cloud” matter.

Service Providers Must Understand the Real Needs of Prospective Customers of Cloud IaaS. Customers are often confused about what they want to buy when they claim to want “cloud”. This provides structured guidance for figuring this out, and it’s important for understanding service provider value propositions.

How Customers Purchase Cloud IaaS, 2012. A lifecycle exploration of how customers adopt and expand their use of cloud IaaS. Important for understanding our perspective on sales and marketing. (It’s dated 2012, but it’s actually a 2013 note, and still fully current.)

Market Trends: Managed Cloud Infrastructure, 2013. Our view of the evolution of data center outsourcing, managed hosting, and cloud IaaS, and broadly, the “managed cloud”. Critical for understanding the future of cloud-enabled managed hosting.

Managed Services Providers Must Adapt to the Needs of DevOps-Oriented Customers. As DevOps increases in popularity, managed services increasingly want their infrastructure to be managed with a DevOps philosophy. This represents a radical change for service providers. This note explores the customer requirements and market implications.

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).

Last call for vendors for 2014 Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant

We began the call-for-vendors process for Gartner’s 2014 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, as well as the regional Magic Quadrants for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting, in December. (See Doug Toombs’s call for vendors for the latter.)

The pre-qualification survey, which is intended to gather quantitative metrics and information about each provider’s service, is going out imminently. We sent out contact confirmations on December 26th to all service providers who are currently on our list to receive the survey. If you haven’t received a contact confirmation and you want to receive the survey, please contact Michele Severance (Michele dot Severance at Gartner dot com), who is providing administrative support for this Magic Quadrant. You must be authorized to speak for your company. Please note we cannot work with PR firms for the Magic Quadrant; if you are a PR agency and you think that your client should be participating, you should get in touch with your client and have your client contact Michele.

This year, we are doing an integrated survey process for multiple Magic Quadrants. The cloud IaaS MQ is, in many ways, foundational. Cloud-enabled managed hosting is the delivery of managed services on top of cloud IaaS and, more broadly, cloud-enabled system infrastructure. Consequently, this year’s survey asks about your platforms, your managed services levels, and how those things combine into service offerings. Because the survey is longer, we’re starting the survey process earlier than usual.

The survey is an important part of our data collection efforts on the markets, not just for the Magic Quadrants. We use the survey data to recommend providers throughout the year, particularly since we try to find providers that can exactly fit a client’s needs — including small niche providers. Far from everything fits into the one-size-fits-all mold of the largest providers.

The Cloud IaaS MQ continues to be updated on a 9-month cycle, reflecting the continued fast pace of the market. It will have similar scope to last year, with a very strong emphasis on self-service capabilities.

The best guide to this year’s Magic Quadrant is last year’s Magic Quadrant. Read the interactive MQ if you’re a client, or the free reprint if you’re not.

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 theyâre not obviously wrong fits, like software companies without an IaaS offering).

The status for this Magic Quadrant will be periodically updated on its status page.

Shooting squirrels from the roof

I’ve been spending the last week revising the combined service-provider survey for our Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS, and the new regional Magic Quadrants for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting.

With every year of revision, the way I ask questions becomes lengthier and more specific, along with the boldfaced “THESE THINGS DO NOT COUNT” caveats. These caveats almost inevitably come from things vendors have tried to claim count as X, with varying degrees of creativity and determination.

I consider my behavior part of a category I’ll call “shooting squirrels from the roof”. It comes from a story that a friend once told me about a rental agreement on a house. This rental agreement had all the usual stipulations about what tenants aren’t allowed to do, but then it had a list of increasingly specific and weird directives about what the tenant was not allowed to do, culminating in, “Tenant shall not shoot squirrels from the roof.” You just know that each of these clauses came from some previous bad experience that the landlord had with some tenant, which caused them to add these “thou shalt not” behaviors in great specificity to each subsequent lease.

So, I use the phrase “shooting squirrels from the roof” to denote situations in which someone, having been burned by previous bad experiences, tries to be very specific (often in a contract) to avoid being burned in that way again.

When I look at customer contracts for managed hosting and indeed, for services in general, I sometimes see they’ve got “shooting squirrels from the roof” contract clauses, specifying a list of often-bizarre, horrible things that the provider is not allowed to do. Those customers aren’t crazy (well, at least not entirely); they’ve just been burned before. No doubt if you’re in the services business (whether IT or not), you’ve probably had this experience, too.

Where are the challengers to AWS?

This is part of 2 of my response to Bernard Golden’s recent CIO.com blog post in response to my announcement of Gartner’s 2013 Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS. (Part 1 was posted yesterday.)

Bernard: “What skill or insight has allowed AWS to create an offering so superior to others in the market?”

AWS takes a comprehensive view of “what does the customer need”, looks at what customers (whether current customers or future target customers) are struggling with, and tries to address those things. AWS not only takes customer feedback seriously, but it also iterates at shocking speed. And it has been willing to invest massively in engineering. AWS’s engineering organization and the structure of the services themselves allows multiple, parallel teams to work on different aspects of AWS with minimal dependencies on the other teams. AWS had a head start, and with every passing year their engineering lead has grown larger. (Even though they have a significant burden of technical debt from having been first, they’ve also solved problems that competitors haven’t had to yet, due to their sheer scale.)

Many competitors haven’t had the willingness to invest the resources to compete, especially if they think of this business as one that’s primarily about getting a VM fast and that’s all. They’ve failed to understand that this is a software business, where feature velocity matters. You can sometimes manage to put together brilliant, hyper-productive small teams, but this is usually going to get you something that’s wonderful in the scope of what they’ve been able to build, but simply missing the additional capabilities that better-resourced competitors can manage (especially if a competitor can muster both resources and hyper-productivity). There are some awesome smaller companies in this space, though.

Bernard: “Plainly stated, why hasn’t a credible competitor emerged to challenge AWS?”

I think there’s a critical shift happening in the market right now. Three very dangerous competitors are just now entering the market — Microsoft, Google, and VMware. I think the real war for market share is just beginning.

For instance, consider the following, off the cuff, thoughts on those vendors. These are by no means anything more than quick thoughts and not a complete or balanced analysis. I have a forthcoming research note called “Rise of the Cloud IaaS Mega-Vendors” that focuses on this shift in the competitive landscape, and which will profile these four vendors in particular, so stay tuned for more. So, that said:

Microsoft has brand, deep customer relationships, deep technology entrenchment, and a useful story about how all of those pieces are going to fit together, along with a huge army of engineers, and a ton of money and the willingness to spend wherever it gains them a competitive advantage; its weakness is Microsoft’s broader issues as well as the Microsoft-centricity of its story (which is also its strength, of course). Microsoft is likely to expand the market, attracting new customers and use cases to IaaS — including blended PaaS models.

Google has brand, an outstanding engineering team, and unrivaled expertise at operating at scale; its weakness is Google’s usual challenges with traditional businesses (whatever you can say about AWS’s historical struggle with the enterprise, you can say about Google many times over, and it will probably take them at least as long as AWS did to work through that). Google’s share gain will mostly come at the expense of AWS’s base of HPC customers and young start-ups, but it will worm its way into the enterprise via interactive agencies that use its cloud platform; it should have a strong blended PaaS model.

VMware has brand, a strong relationship with IT operations folks, technology it can build on, and a hybrid cloud story to tell; whether or not its enterprise-class technology can scale to global-class clouds remains to be seen, though, along with whether or not it can get its traditional customer base to drive sufficient volume of cloud IaaS. It might expand the market, but it’s likely that much of its share gain will come at the expense of VMware-based “enterprise-class” service providers.

Obviously, it will take these providers some time to build share, and there are other market players who will be involved, including the other providers that are in the market today (and for all of you wondering “what about OpenStack”, I would classify that under the fates of the individual providers who use it). However, if I were to place my bets, it would be on those four at the top of market share, five years from now. They know that this is a software business. They know that innovative capabilities are vitally necessary. And they know that this has turned into a market fixated on developer productivity and business benefits. At least for now, that view is dominating the actual spending in this market.

You can certainly argue that another market outcome should have happened, that users should have chosen differently, or even that users are making poor decisions now that they’ll regret later. That’s an interesting intellectual debate, but at this point, Sisyphus’s rock is rolling rapidly downhill, so anyone who wants to push it back up is going to have an awfully difficult time not getting crushed.

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