Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Gartner Magic Quadrant isn’t an entirely accurate, or even objective, measure of who’s who in any given IT field. If you haven’t heard, the analyst firm’s ranking system has been called out as being everything from merely subjective (as opposed, I guess, to being only partially subjective like every other list of industry leaders) to rewarding vendors that have paid Gartner the most money for its services. I can’t comment on these allegations, nor do I care to. What I can say is that with its latest Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service and Web Hosting, Gartner just flat got it wrong.
Initially, it seems inconceivable that anybody could rank IaaS providers and not list Amazon Web Services among the leaders. Until, that is, one looks at Gartner’s ranking criteria, which is skewed against ever placing a pure cloud provider in that quadrant. Large web hosts and telcos certainly have a wider range of offerings and more enterprise-friendly service levels, but those aren’t necessarily what cloud computing is all about. Cloud IaaS is about letting users get what they need, when they need it — ideally, with a credit card. It doesn’t require requisitioning servers from the IT department, signing a contract for any predefined time period or paying for services beyond the computing resources. AWS is the epitome of IaaS and Amazon EC2 is what most other providers strive for in their IaaS offerings. (But, if customers really do want a more classic IT experience, they can engage with any number of AWS partners selling value-added services – such as the Datapipe Managed Cloud for Amazon Web Services offering.)
Furthermore, AWS has by far the broadest breadth of features and services of any other IaaS provider. Nobody else can boast multiple database and storage offerings, a CDN, Hadoop as a service, its own monitoring/management tool and two flavors of full-on HPC-grade images. As far as I know, AWS has the only PCI-compliant self-service, multitenant cloud infrastructure. It’s true that AWS doesn’t have non-cloud-type offerings like colocation or dedicated hosting, but its sheer number of cloud services all but ensures that traditional service providers will never catch it in terms of IaaS capabilities. It has its limitations, but in terms of pure cloud-based IaaS, AWS has no equals.
What it comes down to is that comparing providers like Verizon, AT&T and Terremark with providers like AWS and Joyent is akin to comparing apple with oranges. All of them are technically cloud providers, but the latter two – intentionally – have very few ties to traditional IT delivery models; they are absolutely not MSPs or colocation providers. If we’re ranking service providers based on the breadth of their delivery models, then AWS can’t be considered a leader. But if we’re ranking cloud IaaS providers, AWS has to be near the top – probably at the top. To pit pure IaaS providers against service providers that they went out of their way to avoid mimicking is a disservice to what cloud computing is all about.
Images courtesy of Flickr user JP Puerta.
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