The cloud market can be a big, daunting place. Seemingly every tech vendor has a cloud strategy, with new products and services dubbed "cloud" coming out every week. But who are the real market leaders? Research firm Gartner's answer lies in its Magic Quadrant report for the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon Web Services is listed in the top, far-right corner, in the "leaders and visionaries" corner of the MQ.
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Perhaps most surprising are companies NOT on Gartner's MQ. Missing from this list are big-name companies that have invested a lot in the cloud, including Microsoft, HP, IBM and Google. That may change in future years, though, as this MQ report only includes providers that had IaaS clouds in general availability as of June 2012. Microsoft, HP and Google had clouds in beta at the time.
Gartner only measured the top 15 cloud providers by estimated global market share, which left out others such as CloudSigma, FireHost, NaviSite and Peer 1, which Gartner mentions as having competitive and compelling offerings, but not top-15 global market share. Other providers appearing on the list in past years dropped because of the market share requirement included AT&T, Datapipe, Hosting.com, Tata Communications and Virtacore Systems.
To be included in this year's MQ, the provider must offer a stand-alone IaaS offering run across at least two data centers, complete with 24/7 customer support. Because of the focus on market share, the MQ report takes a more company- and market-dynamic approach to evaluating firms, rather than a pure look at the technical offerings of each company. It's a solid guide, though, and provides a basic who's who in the cloud.
Amazon Web Services - The market share and thought-leader
Gartner reinforces what many in the cloud industry believe: Amazon Web Services is the 800-pound gorilla. The company is "extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile and has one of the richest IaaS portfolio of services." Its large pool of capacity in the cloud optimizes it for batch computing, high-performance computing and big data analytics. It has a large technology ecosystem, which makes running licensed and packaged software easy to do in its cloud. While seen as a strong player in startup communities, AWS has been pushing its enterprise services as well recently. It releases security audits to customers under non-disclosure agreements, but it does not allow customers to do independent audits, Gartner points out.
There are some concerns, though, Gartner says. Namely, AWS has a "weak, narrowly defined" service-level agreement (SLA), which requires customers to spread workloads across multiple availability zones and only counts a violation of the SLA when both AZs are inaccessible. The SLAs also do not include the company's popular Elastic Block Storage, which recently suffered an outage. AWS is a price leader, but its services come with hidden extra costs, specifically around networking services and add-ons for highly available and fault-tolerant systems, Gartner says.
More information: Amazon Web Services
Bluelock - The VMware public cloud
Bluelock is about the closest thing you'll get to a VMware public cloud. The company is part of VMware's vCloud Data Center Service, meaning it leverages VMware tools to power its offering. It is one of the first to roll out new VMware features and its product roadmap is aligned with that of VMware's, Gartner says. As a member of the VMware public cloud ecosystem, it allows customers to federate workloads with other vCloud Data Center service providers as well. It has a "Portfolio" service, which provides monitoring of IaaS resources and advises customers on how to optimize workloads.
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Despite its small size, it targets mid-market and enterprise clients, but its size makes it a candidate for potential acquisition, Gartner suggests. And the location of its data centers in Indiana and Utah can create some Internet performance latency issues compared to providers that have data center hubs in major metropolitan areas, Gartner says.
More information: Bluelock
CSC - The IT integrator goes to the cloud
CSC's cloud division operates as a separate business unit within the larger traditional IT outsourcing company. It runs its two cloud services, CloudCompute, a public cloud offering, and BizCloud, a private cloud, on vCloud Data Center tools from VMware, and uses VCE blocks across an international set of data centers. A strength, Gartner says, is the company's common architecture across public and private clouds with similar pricing models at each. Its placement inside the larger CSC organization gives the division agility, but can also create conflicts with other aspects of the parent company's offerings, Gartner says.
More information: CSC
Dell - Traditional IT goes to the cloud
Dell's VMware vCloud Data Center cloud is one of the prime examples of a traditional IT company attempting to transition to a cloud world. Gartner says Dell has a "realistic and logical" strategy for integrating between the company's popular server hardware already installed across many enterprises and the company's budding cloud offerings. The problem is that Dell has yet to establish a track record as a cloud company, and Gartner says it has a weak roadmap for future products. Dell's cloud includes a public, pay-by-the-VM IaaS cloud, and a private Dedicated Cloud, which is a single-tenant model. The company's strong salesforce and good channel ecosystem give the company the potential to be a notable player in the industry, though, for some time to come.
More information: Dell cloud
Dimension Data - Buying into cloud
Dimension Data, a system integrator and value-add reseller owned by the NTT Group, bought into the cloud market with its purchase of OpSource, which had specializes in software as a service (SaaS) hosting. Since then Dimension Data has integrated a VMware-based public and private cloud architecture that includes a 100% uptime SLA and AWS compatibility into the OpSource IP it acquired. Dimension Data offers aggressive pricing and a common architectural platform across public and private clouds. Gartner warns that Dimension Data is still integrating OpSource into its technology, though, and its efforts in the cloud represent somewhat of a new venture for the company, which Gartner says could be a risk. It has traditionally focused on reselling IT from other providers rather than creating its own products.
More information: Dimension Data
Fujitsu - Asian IT goes global, to the cloud
Fujitsu, the global tech company based in Japan, has a compressive cloud offering featuring a global public cloud, local regional public clouds and a private cloud service. All use Xen virtualization technology, although the company has been certified by VMware as a vCloud Data Center services, but has not yet rolled out those features. Each of the regions Fujitsu operates in, such as Japan, Australia, Germany, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S., each roll out features separately, with Japan usually being the first to add new services. The company's strong reseller network in Asia/Pacific and Europe make the company a major global cloud provider, but some complain about a non-intuitive user interface, longer provisioning times and its global cloud service missing single-tenant features, seen by some as important for enterprise customers.
More information: Fujitsu cloud
GoGrid - The always-on cloud
GoGrid has some attractive qualities: 100% availability SLA; standard architectures across public and private cloud deployments; and GoGrid Exchange, a marketplace to run applications in its cloud. These have made GoGrid's Xen-virtualized service become one of the top five IaaS providers by the number of VMs, Gartner says. But Gartner warns that the company's internal development of its services could eventually catch up to the company, seeing as it doesn't have the resources to commit to R&D compared to some of the other, bigger companies in the market.
More information: GoGrid
Savvis - Cloud, etc.
Perhaps no other cloud provider combines a self-service, managed hosting and cloud model quite as well as CenturyLink and its Savvis cloud division, Gartner says. The VMware-powered IaaS offers customers a broad portfolio of cloud features and products, almost to a detriment, Gartner points out. The large selection of options can make it confusing for customers to decide which ones are ideal for them. But, the breadth and depth in its offerings and deep security features combined with a well-established track record and customer selling opportunities from parent company CenturyLink make it a formidable player in the cloud.
More information: Savvis cloud
OVH - European flavor of cloud
One of Europe's largest cloud providers by the number of VMs is OVH, an independent company with a history in Web hosting. OVH's offering is tailored mostly for small and midsize businesses, but it combines an IaaS virtual machine capability with an object storage service. One of its claims to fame is its fast onboarding process, Gartner says, allowing customers to deploy new instances from its European or Canadian data centers in less than 30 minutes and add or remove hardware within less than five minutes. Its VIP option includes advanced support. Despite being a big name in the European cloud market, OVH does have some drawbacks, Gartner says, most notably the lack of support for complex network topologies and private VM IP addresses.
More information: OVH
SoftLayer - The SME cloud
CloudLayer, the name SoftLayer has given to its public and private cloud platform, is a Xen-virtualized IaaS targeted mainly at small and midsize businesses. It includes an OpenStack-powered object storage service that accompanies its offering of virtual machines. It also has a content delivery network, which it partners on with Internap. Gartner calls SoftLayer a "thought-leader" in the cloud because it seems to be pushing the envelope with its offerings, from integrations with third-party security services such as Verisign, to PCI scans from partner McAfee. Gartner notes that the company's proprietary API has yet to be integrated by many other independent third parties, though, which SoftLayer would have to change if it wants to make a play at the larger end of the enterprise market.
More information: SoftLayer
Tier 3 - The pure-play cloud company
Tier 3 is all-in with the cloud. In addition to having a pay-by-the-virtual-machine IaaS, the company also offers a database as a service and has integrated VMware's Cloud Foundry platform as a service (PaaS). It's even extended Cloud Foundry PaaS framework to support .Net through a project named Iron Foundry. Gartner says Tier 3 has good features and an easy-to-use portal, plus an innovative and ambitious roadmap with a strong SLA.
Tier 3 has a premium service offering in which virtual machines automatically replicate to other data centers and it has a feature named Blueprints, which helps customers deploy complex, multi-data center infrastructures. The challenge for the company, Gartner says, is that it just isn't one of the big tech companies, and therefore could be limited by its small salesforce and low brand awareness. Gartner also says all these factors make it a prime target for a potential acquisition.
More information: Tier 3
Rackspace - The OpenStack cloud
Rackspace has bet big on OpenStack, which Gartner says is mostly a strength for the company, but it warns that OpenStack's future is not only uncertain, but that the broader open source cloud deployment project can proceed, and succeed, with or without Rackspace also succeeding, given that Rackspace has ceded control of the project to a newly formed foundation.
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Still, though, Rackspace has the second-largest market share in the cloud, provides excellent customer support -- what it calls fanatical -- and offers low-cost entry points into the cloud, making it ideal for experimentations. It uses Xen to virtualize its cloud, and has object storage, CDN and platform as a service (PaaS) offerings. Its goal is to provide hybrid cloud connectivity with customers who use OpenStack in their on-site private clouds. Its traditional strength in the managed hosting space gives it a strong customer base to sell its cloud products into, Gartner says.
Cloud Servers, the company's public cloud, has some limitations, though, Gartner says. Notably, it does not support single-tenant VMs, nor does it allow for importing of customer VMs or IP addresses. The company is also running dual clouds right now -- its legacy cloud based off its managed hosting product and the new OpenStack-powered one, where it is devoting most of its ongoing resources.
More information: Rackspace
Joyent - The biggest cloud provider you haven't heard of
Joyent is an independent cloud provider and maker of the SmartOS operating system, which provides what Gartner calls a "holistic" approach to infrastructure, combining elements of compute, networking and storage into one cloud-delivered stack. With this converged infrastructure approach, Joyent targets high-performance apps to run on its cloud.
The offering is targeted, Gartner says, at developers and specifically for native cloud applications where there's an emphasis on performance and visibility. The company has seen a particular following in the mobile space, especially in its Global Compute Network, a cloud federation model with other cloud partner providers. Joyent is aiming for the fences, with its founder, Jason Hoffman, openly saying he's looking to take on the biggest names in the industry, from Amazon to Microsoft and Google. But Gartner warns that Joyent could have an uphill battle in doing so, seeing as those competitors have significantly larger development resources than the still-small Joyent.
More information: Joyent
Virtustream - Wants your complex apps
Virtustream is the cloud for complex apps. A small, independent pure-play cloud, with an optional managed hosting service, Virtustream takes a consultation-type approach to selling its service, which makes it optimized for large, complex legacy or cloud-native applications to run in its public or private offering. Virtustream uses VMware, but aims to be hypervisor neutral and will work with customers to implement across a variety of hypervisor platforms. It has strong unified platforms across its data centers and private clouds it sets up on customer sites. It has a number of innovative features as well, including micro-instances of virtual machines that are charged based on resources used, not resources allocated, and application performance APIs. Gartner warns that, like other cloud startups, it could be a subject of acquisition by a bigger brand and says that its consultative approach to sales makes for a lengthy sales cycle.
More information: Virtustream
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.