Category Archives: Infrastructure

Oracle’s next-gen cloud IaaS offering

Oracle has made multiple previous attempts to enter the cloud IaaS market — most recently (early this year), with the Oracle Compute Cloud. At Oracle OpenWorld this week, however, Oracle announced a brand-new cloud IaaS offering. Oracle hasn’t officially given this a real brand yet, so for the purposes of this blog post, I’ll call it their next-gen cloud.

News of this project leaked last year. Oracle has paid richly to hire an “A” team, so to speak — former long-time senior AWS engineers lead the project, and they’ve recruited heavily from all three hyperscale clud providers in Seattle (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform). These are credible product and engineering people who, in my opinion, understand what they need to build and the enormous challenges ahead of them.

The next-gen cloud currently consists of an SDN (capable of both Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking, which is a differentiator), block storage, object storage, and bare-metal servers (thus the initial moniker, “Oracle Bare Metal Cloud”). Virtual machines (VMs) are coming later this year, with containers to follow early next year. Based on a detailed engineering briefing that Oracle provided to myself and my colleagues, I would say that smart and scalable choices seem to have been made throughout. However, I would characterize this early offering as minimum viable product; it is the foundation of a future competitive offering, rather than a competitive offering today.

In the near term, Oracle’s next-gen cloud will be interesting primarily to a general audience in a bare-metal context. Here, Oracle will compete with Packet, and to some lesser degree, the bare-metal cloud offerings from CenturyLink and Rackspace (OnMetal). It is a true software-defined cloud IaaS offering, provisioned in minutes and billed by the hour. This sets it apart from more hosting-like bare-metal offerings such as IBM SoftLayer, Internap, and Cogeco Peer 1.

It is unlikely that Oracle’s announced price-point — 20% below AWS list prices — will be sufficient to move the needle in a market where AWS’s “real” prices are lowered up to 70% by reserved instances (plus AWS negotiates custom discounts), and where Google is already competing intensively on price (especially on negotiated deals) and has an offering substantially more featureful than what Oracle will have in the market in the next year. Good price-performance is table stakes here. This is not a commodity market; providers compete on their capabilities. This is also not about capital investment to build data centers; Oracle can use colocation until they reach a scale where building makes sense, though since such projects can take years, they’ll need to time that properly.

Bare metal, of course, significantly outperforms VMs in some cases — especially high I/O use cases. But bare metal should be thought of as part of a complete offering — a compute option for some of a customer’s workloads. Price-performance should always be considered in the context of the customer’s specific architecture. In the case of Oracle, bare metal and the layer 2 SDN features are important because they are needed for Oracle RAC and for better performance of Oracle application software. Oracle has built the core of their offering around off-box virtualization of networking and storage, which is important for allowing their cloud IaaS offering to smoothly interoperate with other Oracle hardware placed into the same environment, like Exadata appliances.

Overall, this should be seen as a positive move for Oracle, but one with many open questions about its future. As always, if anyone has more detailed questions, I am happy to answer them in the context of client inquiry, and I’ve set aside some time to speak with reporters during this OpenWorld week.

Gartner’s cloud IaaS assessments, 2016 edition

We’re pleased to announce that the 2016 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure, Worldwide has been published. (Link requires a Gartner subscription. If you’re not a Gartner client, there are free reprints available through vendors, and various press articles, such as the Tech Republic analysis. Note that press articles do not always accurately reflect our opinions, though.)

Producing the Magic Quadrant is a huge team effort that involves many people across Gartner, including many analysts who aren’t credited as co-authors, administrative support staff, and people in our primary-research and benchmarking groups. The team effort also reflects the way that we produce an entire body of IaaS research as an integrated effort across Gartner’s research divisions. (The approach described below is specific to our IaaS research and may not apply to Gartner’s assessments in other markets.)

Whether you already have a cloud IaaS provider and are just looking for a competitive check-up, you’re thinking of adding one or more additional providers, or you’re just getting started with cloud IaaS, our work can help you find the providers that are right for you.

The TL;DR list of assessments:

(Note that not all of these might be available as part of your current Gartner client subscription.)

Gartner has produced a Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS since 2011. The MQ is our overall perspective on the market, looking at the provider solutions from both a technical and business angle. Gartner clients can use the interactive MQ tool to change the weightings of the criteria to suit their own evaluation priorities (if you read the detailed criteria descriptions, there’s an explanation of how each criterion maps to buyer priorities). The interactive MQ can also be used to get a multi-year historical perspective.

The MQ covers public, hosted private, and industrialized outsourced private cloud IaaS; it’s not just a public cloud MQ. We look at multi-tenant and single-tenant, located in either provider or customer premises, cloud IaaS offerings. We also look at the full range of compute options (VMs, bare-metal servers, containers) that are delivered in a cloud model (API-provisionable via automation, and metered by the hour or less), not just VMs. In addition, we consider some integrated PaaS-layer services (we call these cloud software infrastructure services, which include things like database as a service), but we have a separate enterprise application PaaS MQ for pure aPaaS. While we consider the provider’s overall value proposition in the context of cloud IaaS (including their ability to deliver managed services, network services, etc.), this isn’t a general cloud computing or outsourcing MQ.

2016 marks our sixth iteration of a pure cloud IaaS MQ. Previously, in 2009 and 2010, we included cloud IaaS in our hosting MQ, but by 2010, it was already clear that the hosting and cloud IaaS buyer wants and needs were distinctly different. Since 2011, we’ve produced a global cloud IaaS MQ, along with three regional hosting MQs (suitable for customers looking for dedicated servers or managed hosting on a monthly or annual basis), and three regional data center outsourcing MQs (which include customized private cloud services as part of a broader portfolio of infrastructure outsourcing capabiities). Not every infrastructure need can or should be met with cloud IaaS.

The core foundation of our assessment is our Evaluation Criteria for Cloud IaaS. Over the years, we’ve converged the technical-detail questionnaire that we ask providers to fill out during the Magic Quadrant research process, with the Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) document that we produce to guide buyers on evaluating providers. This has resulted in nearly 250 service traits that the Evaluation Criteria document categorizes as Required (almost all Gartner clients are likely to want these things and these have the potential to be showstoppers if missing), Preferred (many will want these things), and Optional (use-case-specific needs). This gives us a consistent set of formal definitions for service features — things you can put a clear yes/no to. As a buyer, you can use the Evaluation Criteria to score any cloud IaaS provider — and even score your own IT department’s private cloud.

In the course of doing this particular Magic Quadrant, providers fill out very detailed questionnaires that list these service features and capabilities (broken down even more granularly than in the Evaluation Criteria), indicating whether their service has those traits, and they’re also asked to provide evidence, like documentation. We also ask them to provide other information like the location of their data centers, languages supported across various aspects of service delivery (like portal localization and tech-support languages spoken), a copy of their standard contract and SLAs, and so forth. We score those questionnaires (and check service features against documentation, and with hands-on testing if need be). We also score things like the buyer-friendliness of contracts, based on the presence/absence of particular clauses. Those component scores are used in many different individual scoring categories within the Magic Quadrant.

We also produce a set of In-Depth Assessments for the providers that our clients are most interested in evaluating. The In-Depth Assessments are detailed documents that score an individual provider against the Evaluation Criteria; for every criteria, we explain how the provider does and doesn’t meet it, and we provide links to the corresponding documentation or other evidence. The results of our hands-on testing are noted, as well. For many buyers, this minimizes the need to conduct an RFP that dives into the technical solution; here we’ve done a very detailed fact-based analysis for you, and the provider has verified the accuracy of the information. (Buyer beware, though: Providers sometimes produce something that looks like one of these assessments, even quoting the Gartner definitions, but with their own more generous self-assessment rather than the stringent Gartner-produced assessment!)

Then, we produce Critical Capabilities for Public Cloud IaaS (2016 update still in progress). This technical assessment looks at a single public cloud IaaS offering from each of the providers included in the Magic Quadrant. The same technical traits used in the other assessments are used here, but they are divided into categories of capabilities, and those capabilities are weighted in a set of common use cases. You can also customize your own set of weightings. In addition to providing quantitative scores, we summarize, in a fair amount of detail, the technical capabilities of each evaluated provider. This allows you to get a sense of what providers are likely to be right for your needs, without having to go through the full deep-dive of reading the In-Depth Assessments. (Critical Capabilities are also available to all Gartner clients and reprints may be offered by providers on their websites, whereas the In-Depth Assessments are only available to GTP clients.)

Performance, and price-performance, is important to many buyers. Gartner provides hardware benchmarking via a SaaS offering called Tech Planner. We offer a Cloud Module within Tech Planner that uses technology that we derived from our acquisition of CloudHarmony. We conduct continuous automated testing on many cloud IaaS providers, including all providers in the Magic Quadrant. We benchmark compute performance for the full range of VMs and bare-metal cloud servers offered by the provider, along with storage performance and network performance; we use this to calculate price-performance metrics. We monitor the availability of their services across the globe. We track provisioning times. All this data is used as objective components to the scores within the Magic Quadrant. Much of this data is directly available to Tech Planner customers, who can use these tools to calculate performance-equivalencies as well as determine where workloads will be most cost-effective.

Finally, we collect end-user reviews of cloud IaaS providers, called Peer Insights. IT leaders (who do not need to be Gartner clients) can submit reviews of their providers; we verify that reviews are legitimate, and it’s one of the very few places where you’ll see enter senior IT executives and architects writing detailed reviews of their providers. We use this data, along with vendor-provided customer references, and the many thousands of clients conversations we have each year with cloud IaaS buyers, as part of the fact base for our Magic Quadrant scoring.

More than a dozen analysts are directly involved in all of these assessments, and many more analysts provide peer-review input into those assessments. It’s an enormous effort, involving a great deal of teamwork, to produce this body of interlinked research. We’re always trying to improve its quality, so we welcome your feedback!

You can DM me on Twitter at @cloudpundit or send email to lydia dot leong at gartner.com.

Open invitation to MSP partners of hyperscale cloud providers

Back in January, I announced the creation of a new Gartner Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers. This MQ will evaluate MSPs that deliver managed services on top of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.

We are currently putting together a contact list of providers to survey. We expect to begin this process in late July. We encourage MSPs who are interested in participation to add their names to the contact list.

MSPs should fill out THIS FORM.

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).

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.

Reflections on the OpenStack Atlanta summit

When I wrote a research note called Don’t Let OpenStack Hype Distort Your Selection of a Cloud Management Platform in 2012, in September 2012, I took quite a bit of flak in public for my statements about OpenStack’s maturity. At the time, I felt that the industry was about 18 to 24 months from the point where real commercial adoption of OpenStack would begin. It now looks like I made the right call — 20 months have passed since I wrote that note, and indeed, OpenStack seems to be on the cusp of that tipping point. OpenStack is truly becoming a business. Last year’s Portland summit was a developer summit. This year’s summit has the feel of a trade show, although of course it’s still a set of working meetings as well as a user conference.

There’s much work to be done still, but things are grinding onwards in an encouraging fashion. The will to solve the common problems of installs, upgrades, and networking seems to have permeated the community sufficiently that these basic elements of usability and stability are getting into the core. The involvement of larger vendors has created a collective determination to do what it takes to make enterprise adoption of OpenStack possible, in due time.

In March of this year, I wrote a new document called An Overview of OpenStack, 2014. It contains the updated Gartner positions on OpenStack — along with practical information for users, like use cases, vendors, and how to select a distro. (No vendor has done a free reprint of the note, so it’s behind the paywall, sorry.) I have no updates to that position after this summit; it has been largely what I expected it to be. However, I did want to comment on what I see as one of the key questions now facing the OpenStack Foundation and contributing vendors.

One of the positions taken in my recent note is a re-iteration of a 2012 position — we believe that OpenStack “will eventually mature into a solid open-source core at the heart of multiple commercial products and services.” One of the key questions that seems to be at hand now is how large that core should be — a fundamental controversy for OpenStack Foundation members, each of whom has a position based on where their company adds value.

At one pole of the spectrum are the vendors who want to maximize the capabilities in OpenStack that are fully open-source — I’ll call them the “more open” camp. (End-users, of course, also all want this.) These vendors typically differentiate in some way that is not the software itself. They do consulting, they are managed services providers, they are cloud IaaS providers, or they are selling some kind of product or service that uses OpenStack under the covers but delivers some other kind of value (NFV, SaaS, and so on). They want the maximum capabilities delivered in the software, and they’re willing to contribute their own work towards this end.

At the other pole of the spectrum are the vendors who intend to sell a cloud management platform (CMP) and need to be able to differentiate — I’ll call them the “more proprietary” camp. That means that there’s the question of “how does a distro differentiate”. It has already been previously argued that installation and upgrades should be left to commercial distributions. At long last it seems to be agreed that for the good of the community at least some of these capabilities need to be decent in the core. The next controversial one seems to be an HA control plane. But it also gets into the broader question of how deep the functionality of OpenStack as a whole should go. Vendors that sell OpenStack software really fall into two broad categories — those that intend to supportively wrap what is essentially vanilla OpenStack (like the Linux vendors), and those who are building a full-fledged CMP (or CMP suite) into which OpenStack may essentially disappear near-invisibly (except for maybe an exposed API), surrounded by a rich fudgy layer of proprietary software (like HP and IBM). Most of these vendors want just enough in the OpenStack open-source to make OpenStack overall successful.

There are nuances here, of course, and many vendors fall somewhere between these two poles, but I think that summarizes the two camps pretty well. Each camp has its own beliefs about what is best for their own companies and what is best for OpenStack. These are legitimate debates about what is “just enough” functionality in OpenStack (and how that “just enough” changes over time), even amongst vendors who occupy the “more proprietary” camp — and whether that “just enough” is sufficient to satisfy the “more open” camp. Indeed, the “more open” camp may find that they cannot get their contributions accepted because the “more proprietary” camp is gatekeeping.

It is critical to note that no vendor I’ve ever spoken to thinks that OpenStack interoperability means that you should be able to easily switch between distributions or OpenStack-based service providers. Rather, the desire is to ensure that there’s enough of an interoperability construct that there can be a viable OpenStack ecosystem — it’s about the ability of ecosystem vendors to interoperate with a variety of OpenStack-based vendors, far more than it is about the user’s ability to interoperate between OpenStack-based solutions. To reiterate another point from my previous research notes: Customers should expect to be no less locked into an OpenStack-based vendor/provider than they would into any other CMP or cloud IaaS provider.

The end of the beginning of cloud computing

As my colleague Daryl Plummer has put it: We’re at the end of the beginning phase of cloud computing.

As 2014 dawns, we’re moving into an era of truly mainstream adoption of cloud IaaS. While many organizations have already been using cloud IaaS for several years, gradually moving from development to production, with an ever-expanding range of use cases and applications, the shift to truly strategic adoption is just getting underway. Increasingly, organizations are asking what can’t go to the cloud, rather than what can.

Organizations that haven’t done at least a cloud IaaS pilot by now, however informal (“informal” includes that one crazy developer who decided to give his credit card to Amazon) are at the trailing edge of adoption. The larger the business, the more likely it is to be doing things in cloud IaaS; this is a trend that starts from enterprises and works its way down. (Technology companies of all sizes, of course, are comfortably ensconced in the cloud.)

Gartner’s clients with multiple years of cloud IaaS under their belts are now comfortably going towards more strategic adoption. What’s interesting, though, is that later adopters are also going towards strategic adoption — they’re skipping the years of early getting-their-feet-wet, and immediately jumping in with more significant projects, with more ambitious goals. That makes a great deal of sense, though — by this point, the market is more mature, and there are immediate and clear answers to practical issues like, “How do I connect my enterprise network?” (That one question, by the way, continues to benefit Amazon, which has a precise answer, versus the often-fuzzy or complex answers of other competitors who have less industrialized processes for doing so.)

I’ve said before that developers are the key to cloud IaaS adoption in most organizations. It’s also becoming clear that the most successful strategic efforts will be developer-led, usually with an enterprise architect as the lead for the organization-wide effort. It is the developers that have the strategic vision for the future of application development and operations, and that care about things like faster delivery (i.e., business agility), continuous integration, continuous deployment, application lifecycle management, and infrastructure as code. IT operations seems to almost inevitably be mired in thinking about solely their own domain, which tends to be focused on a data center view that effectively reduces to “how do we keep the lights on, at a lower cost?” This has a high probability of leading to solutions that might be right for IT operations, but wrong for the business.

At the moment, I’m writing research focused on best practices — the lessons learned from the trenches, from organizations who have adopted cloud IaaS over the last seven years of the market. I’m always interested in hearing your stories.

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.

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