What does the cloud mean to you?

My Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service and Web Hosting is done. The last week has been spent in discussion with service providers over their positioning and the positioning of their competitors and the whys and wherefores and whatnots. That has proven to be remarkably interesting this year, because it’s been full of angry indignation by providers claiming diametrically opposed things about the market.

Gartner gathers its data about what people want in two ways — from primary research surveys, and, often more importantly, from client inquiry, the IT organizations who are actually planning to buy things or better yet are actually buying things. I currently see a very large number of data points — a dozen or more conversations of this sort a day, much of it focused on buying cloud IaaS.

And so when a provider tells me, “Nobody in the market wants to buy X!”, I generally have a good base from which to judge whether or not that’s true, particularly since I’ve got an entire team of colleagues here looking at cloud stuff. It’s never that those customers don’t exist; it’s that the provider’s positioning has essentially guaranteed that they don’t see the deals outside their tunnel vision service.

The top common fallacy, overwhelmingly, is that enterprises don’t want to buy from Amazon. I’ve blogged previously about how wrong this is, but at some point in the future, I’m going to have to devote a post (or even a research note) to why this is one of the single greatest, and most dangerous, delusions, that a cloud provider can have. If you offer cloud IaaS, or heck, you’re a data-center-related business, and you think you don’t compete with Amazon, you are almost certainly wrong. Yes, even if your customers are purely enterprise — especially if your customers are large enterprises.

The fact of the matter is that the people out there are looking at different slices of cloud IaaS, but they are still slices of the same market. This requires enough examination that I’m actually going to write a research note instead of just blogging about it, but in summary, my thinking goes like this (crudely segmented, saving the refined thinking for a research note):

There are customers who want self-managed IaaS. They are confident and comfortable managing their infrastructure on their own. They want someone to provide them with the closest thing they can get to bare metal, good tools to control things (or an API they can use to write their own tools), and then they’ll make decisions about what they’re comfortable trusting to this environment.

There are customers who want lightly-managed IaaS, which I often think of as “give me raw infrastructure, but don’t let me get hacked” — which is to say, OS management (specifically patch management) and managed security. They’re happy managing their own applications, but would like someone to do all the duties they typically entrust to their junior sysadmins.

There are customers who want complex management, who really want soup-to-nuts operations, possibly also including application management.

And then in each of these segments, you can divide customers into those with a single application (which may have multiple components and be highly complex, potentially), and those who have a whole range of stuff that encompass more general data center needs. That drives different customer behaviors and different service requirements.

Claiming that there’s no “real” enterprise market for self-managed is just as delusional as claiming there’s no market for complex management. They’re different use cases in the same market, and customers often start out confused about where they fall along this spectrum, and many customers will eventually need solutions all along this spectrum.

Now, there’s absolutely an argument to be made that the self-managed and lightly-managed segments together represent an especially important segment of the market, where a high degree of innovation is taking place. It means that I’m writing some targeted research — selection notes, a Critical Capabilities rating of individual services, probably a Magic Quadrant that focuses specifically on this next year. But the whole spectrum is part of the cloud IaaS adoption phenomenon, and any individual segment isn’t representative of the total market evolution.

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Posted on December 6, 2010, in Infrastructure and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

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