The impurity of cloud
I’ve already agreed that people would find it useful to see a Magic Quadrant that is focused solely on a particular segment of the market — “pure” cloud IaaS. That’s why we’re going to be doing one in the middle of this year, as I noted previously. It’s also why our upcoming Critical Capabilities note, which focuses solely on product features, is cloud-only. (A Magic Quadrant, on the other hand, is about overall markets, which means we factor in sales, marketing, etc. — it’s not about fitness for use, whereas the Critical Capabilities are.)
However, I still think it’s important to understand the inherent messiness of this market, which is why we currently have an MQ that covers not just cloud IaaS, but also the hosting market.
I’ve previously talked about how customers have different levels of desire for managed services with the cloud. In that blog post, I also touched on the difference between trying to source cloud for a single important application (or a tightly-related group of apps), and sourcing cloud for a bunch of multiple less-critical applications.
Customers who are trying to source cloud for a single important application are essentially looking at hosting; the cloud is offering them on-demand, elastic resources. That’s why cloud has impacted the hosting industry so strongly — people want the flexibility and agility, but it doesn’t change the fact that they have traditional hosting requirements. As always with hosting, customers run the gamut from those who just want infrastructure, to those who want it fully managed. Customers often don’t know what they want, either, as I described in a blog post a while back, called, “I’m thinking about using Amazon, IBM, or Rackspace…” — which is how you get a weird mix of vendors in an RFP, as a customer tries to explore the possibilities available to them.
Customers who are trying to source cloud for multiple, less-important applications — essentially, the first steps towards replacing a traditional data center with a cloud IaaS solution — have different needs. Their requirements are distinct, but many of the provider capabilities that are useful for hosting are also useful for delivering these solutions, which is why so many Web hosters have expanded into this market.
You can cross “single app or multiple app?” with “what level of managed services?” to derive a set of distinct market segments — in fact, I’m in the midst of writing a research note on market segmentation that does exactly that. I believe it’s still all one market, and that most providers will end up serving multiple segments of that market. I believe that all of those segments are important, not just the ones closest to the cloud pure-play model.
I think, as an analyst, that it can be tempting to follow only the most compelling, fast-growing, quickest-evolving pieces of a market — to get caught up in the excitement, so to speak. My IT buyer clients force me to be balanced, though, because they care about a lot more than just what’s hot. Clearly, right now, they need more help sourcing in specific segments, which is why we’re doing some narrower vendor ratings focused on a more “pure cloud” tilt — but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication that the other segments aren’t important.