Gartner’s Magic Quadrant: What is it?
Gartner is one of the most famous consultancy and research companies. It developed the Magic Quadrant, a scheme that provides an overview regarding technological suppliers on the market.
The Magic Quadrant is presented as a Cartesian coordinate plane where on the X-axis there is the “Completeness of vision”, while on the Y-axis the “Ability to execute”. The four categories are on the four quadrants:
- Leaders: as the name implies, they are the best on the market, they understand its development and they have a very broad customer base;
- Niche Players: they are companies specialized in a certain niche of the market which is not large. However, Gartner also uses this quadrant for large companies (which could potentially be leaders) which fail to develop themselves or to understand future market performances and, consequently, they are not able to influence it;
- Challengers: these companies are growing thanks to their potential and, at the moment, are not a threat to the leaders, but they could become so if they are underestimated;
- Visionaries: they are very innovative companies, in most cases, and they are able to respond to important problems, to predict market evolution, but they do not have the “ability to execute” that, instead, characterizes and differentiates them from the leaders.
The Magic Quadrants for IaaS cloud services
Gartner uses the Magic Quadrant to analyze many industries, including that of IaaS cloud solutions. We are going to consider the 2017 study in order to compare it with that of 2018 in a future article. In particular, we are going to analyze those that Gartner considers leaders (Amazon with AWS and Microsoft with Azure) and two of the visionaries (Google and IBM).
Gartner’s analysis is conducted worldwide and does not consider companies that provide only cloud storage or Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS). Furthermore, the study considers standardized offers, not those customized in a private cloud.
In the leaders’ quadrant, therefore, Gartner positions Amazon and Microsoft.
In the visionaries’ quadrant, instead, there are Google, Alibaba Cloud, IBM and Oracle.
The niche players’ quadrant includes Virtustream, CenturyLink, RackSpace, Joyen, Skytar, Interoute, Fujiitsu and NTT Communications.
The quadrant of challengers is, instead, empty.
According to Gartner’s analysts, Amazon is a leader which summarizes both the ability to execute and the completeness of vision, the same characteristics that we find in Microsoft, another vendor that is positioned among the leaders.
Amazon, with its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform, is a pioneer of the IaaS cloud market and made its appearance in 2006. Amazon addresses the enterprise world and dominates both the IaaS cloud market and the integrated IaaS + PaaS one. Furthermore, it allows its customers to benefit from the most common commercial software offered in SaaS mode. AWS offers many innovative services. Every year more companies choose AWS; Gartner estimates that, in 2016, AWS’s proceeds were $ 14 billion. It is chosen both by companies that work on digital projects and those that are transferring their data centers from traditional environments to IaaS cloud solutions.
However, Gartner emphasizes that when a client decides to choose Amazon’s platform as an IaaS cloud service provider, he needs to be aware that to use these services, he needs to have experience. Fortunately, everything is made easier thanks to the commercial support that the company offers and all the documentation available on the web. Moreover, Amazon Web Service is a point of reference in the price field for all cloud providers. It is the cloud provider with the highest prices and, thanks to its success, does not aim to decrease them to be more competitive. Finally, not all the services offered by Amazon are covered by the SLA.
Microsoft entered the IaaS cloud market in 2012 with the launch of Azure Virtual Machine. Before that date Microsoft only had a PaaS offer.
Microsoft Azure offers IaaS and IaaS + PaaS cloud solutions. Microsoft has seen an increase in the number of customers and services offered over the years and Gartner estimates that Microsoft’s revenue from Azure at the end of 2016 was $ 3 billion. Microsoft is continually launching new innovative features of its own, instead of following and re-proposing those of the competitors. Another point in favor of Microsoft’s cloud platform is the fact that Azure integrates perfectly with all other Microsoft’s products.
Anyway, Gartner underlines as critical elements, problems in the technical support and lack of documentation regarding the services. These negative elements lead customers to be reluctant about a possible migration of their data centers, even though the company is facing these problems. Azure cloud platform also tries to meet the needs of its customers in terms of security, availability, performances, network flexibility, but users still do not find the ease of use or the API qualification that they desire.
Google entered the cloud market in 2008 with initially only a PaaS offer and joined the IaaS cloud market in 2012 with Google Compute Engine. Google’s cloud platform is GCP (Google Cloud Platform) and is an integrated cloud solution (IaaS + PaaS).
Google provides its customers with the same services that it uses for its search engine and for YouTube and its Customer Reliability Engineering service helps companies to make the most of the potential of these services. Google’s cloud platform is the perfect choice for cloud-native companies. GCP’s prices are extremely competitive: Google offers strong discounts and flexible contracts and it is also, thanks to this tactic, increasing its customer base. Moreover, Google is pushing hard on partnerships with important companies, a prerequisite for its customers and is involved in many open source ecosystems. Also for these reasons it is chosen by customers as an alternative to Amazon’s AWS.
GCP is perfect for cloud-native companies, but not so much for more traditional companies. In addition, the range of services it offers is not comparable to that of Microsoft Azure or AWS. However, it is trying to match what its’ competitors offer and at the same time differentiate itself with its own functionality such as Google BigQuery and Cloud Spanner.
Another issue, according to Gartner, is the fact that Google has data centers in few countries (5 at the time of Gartner’s research), even if Google does not hide intentions to expand to more countries.
IBM’s offering is an integrated IaaS + PaaS cloud offering that uses the SoftLayer platform infrastructure and Bluemix portal functionalities.
IBM is working on an ambitious cloud project “Next Generation Infrastructure” (NGI) that provides for a scalable infrastructure. It is going to be an important step forward for IBM, perfect for both cloud native companies and IBM’s ambitions in cognitive computing. IBM’s goal is to transfer all its current customers from the SoftLayer platform to NGI and focus on local presence to differentiate itself from the other cloud service providers.
Other strengths of IBM, according to Gartner, are the brand reputation and the network of relationships that IBM has built around the world.
NGI promises to be a cloud platform that is going to give a lot of satisfaction to IBM, but currently IBM’s customers use SoftLayer infrastructure that despite the acquisitions of IBM in recent years, has not seen its functionalities increase. SoftLayer is a cloud platform more oriented to hosting and does not have many IaaS cloud aspects which are required by customers. In addition, over the years, IBM has often faced engineering challenges and customers and partners consider this aspect of uncertainty when they choose IBM’s cloud services.
Another problem of IBM that Gartner reports, is the fact that IBM’s IaaS + PaaS cloud services are not perfectly integrated: SoftLayer, in fact, represents the cloud infrastructure of IBM, but to access many of the features you need to go to the Bluemix portal. This means that choosing to use Bluemix+SoftLayer or using Bluemix + any external cloud infrastructure provider is exactly the same thing.