Gartner shows two-horse race in IaaS cloud: AWS and Microsoft Azure

A "year of reckoning" leaves all other vendors behind

A horse race, with one horse pulling away from the rest.
flickr/John Athayde

Research firm Gartner's annual report card on the public IaaS cloud computing market shows there is one clear leader -- Amazon Web Services -- and another clear challenger, Microsoft Azure. And then there is everyone else.

"The market is dominated by only a few global providers -- most notably Amazon Web Services, but increasingly also Microsoft Azure," Gartner researchers say, giving Google Cloud Platform an honorable mention. "Between them, these three providers comprise the majority of workloads running in public cloud IaaS in 2015."

AWS and Azure are the only two vendors in the "leaders" quadrant of the report, with AWS clearly taking the top spot. A series of other providers, including Google, CenturyLink, Rackspace, VMware, Virtustream, and to a lesser extent IBM's SoftLayer received fairly high marks, but none have clouds that rival those from the big two.

Among AWS, Azure, and all the other vendors, there are significant differences, though, so Gartner says it's important to pick the one that most closely aligns to your needs.

AWS: The "safe choice" in the cloud

AWS was the first to market with an IaaS offering, based on Xen-virtualized servers and hasn't looked back. It is the "overwhelming market share leader," is "extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile, and very responsive to the market," and holds a multi-year competitive advantage over Microsoft and Google, Gartner says.

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AWS can be complex though. Pricing structures can be confusing and opaque -- it charges individually for some services that other vendors bundle. This leads many AWS users to employ a third-party management vendor to help manage costs and deployments.

Azure: The clear second choice

Microsoft's significant market share in the enterprise IT market combined with its continual investments in Azure make it the chief competitor to AWS. The company has a compelling bundled offering: Its public cloud integrates closely with its on-premises management tools, such as Windows Server and Systems Center. While it's not at the scale of AWS, Gartner estimates that Azure has more than twice as much cloud IaaS capacity all the other vendors in the MQ, other than AWS.

If there are any cautions against Azure, it is that some features are not fully production ready. For example, Azure has been plagued with significant outages -- something AWS battled a few years ago -- so Gartner recommends that customers using Azure for mission-critical workloads employ a secondary, non-Azure disaster recovery backup plan.

And everyone else

The vendor perhaps most likely to take on the leaders in public IaaS cloud is Google. It has a massive data center footprint that it uses to run its own operations, which it now makes available for customers to use. This approach has allowed Google to quickly offer a compelling IaaS without significant investment. But the company is not an "enterprise vendor" in terms of its sales, support and partner offerings. "Google needs to earn the trust of businesses," Gartner says.

A company like IBM has somewhat of an opposite problem from Google, Gartner says. It has a broad set of initiatives in the cloud (through SoftLayer), including managed hosting, application development (through BlueMix), SaaS and bare-metal provisioning. But Gartner says they are not bundled well.

Rackspace is another company that has a strong set of offerings -- from public IaaS cloud, to managed cloud, hosted private cloud and even bare-metal services as well.

But the company no longer specializes in self-service public cloud and instead is targeting customers who are looking to take advantage of its support expertise in deploying applications, limiting the company's reach.

VMware is having trouble with adoption as well, Gartner says. VCloud Air is its public IaaS cloud, but Gartner says the most likely advocates of that platform are VMware administrators, not business managers and development leaders who may be in better positions to drive cloud strategies. Those VMware administrators may be more comfortable building out a private-cloud than using VMware's public cloud.

CSC offers its own public cloud offering but it also provides consulting to help customers choose the best IaaS platform. A lack of investments in value-add services have led CSC advisers to recommend competitors clouds more than its own, Gartner says.

HP was dropped from the Gartner report this year because it's focusing on a hybrid cloud strategy and its public Helion cloud division doesn't have enough market share to qualify.

This story, "Gartner shows two-horse race in IaaS cloud: AWS and Microsoft Azure" was originally published by Network World.

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