"It's a good time to be an infrastructure-as-a-service provider. Enabling businesses to offload hardware and system architecture to an outside expert, IaaS is rising in many companies' estimation as a long-term solution to their most pressing cloud requirements. The worldwide IaaS market is expected to rise 122 percent in 2014, according to Gigaom Research, part of an incredible overall 126.5 percent rise in cloud computing services investments globally. The market reflects that IaaS is a key part of business growth and transitions from on-premises based computing portfolios to a more scalable, cloudier future.
Such a lucrative market is also giving rise to stiff competition in the IaaS space, which will likely benefit both the consumers of IaaS solutions that take advantage of more competitive pricing, as well as the continued innovation of the sector overall. However, the number of IaaS vendors continues to grow, with both startups and existing IT services providers ramping up their IaaS offerings in an effort to carve out their share. This can make investment decisions difficult in light of such a deluge of services information.
Do You Believe in Magic? Gartner Releases IaaS ˜Magic Quadrant'
In order to help businesses make a decision about their IaaS investment, Gartner recently released its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. The detailed document honed in IaaS specifically as a business-critical tool to build enterprise engagement in the cloud and make a deep dive in the platform more effective.
""This Magic Quadrant primarily evaluates cloud IaaS providers in the context of the fastest-growing need among Gartner clients: the desire to have a '˜data center in the cloud,' where the customer retains most of the IT operations responsibility,"" the report stated.
After careful analysis, Gartner placed the top IaaS providers on a set of axes, with each company fitting in one of its quadrants: Leaders, Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players, graded on ""completeness of vision and ""ability to execute.""
The biggest news was the runaway victory of Amazon Web Services, which garnered top marks in both categories and far outstripped all challengers on the grid. An early player in the IaaS and cloud markets, AWS has spearheaded innovation, competitive pricing and use cases for IaaS for the most diverse base of users in the market.
""[AWS] is a thought leader; it is extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile and very responsive to the market,"" the report stated. ""It has the richest array of IaaS features and PaaS-like capabilities, and continues to rapidly expand its service offerings. It is the provider most commonly chosen for strategic adoption.""
The most significant jump went to Microsoft Azure, which moved up from its ""Visionary"" status in 2013 to be the only other IaaS solution in the ""Leaders"" quadrant, alongside AWS. While the service has only been around for a little more than a year, Microsoft's firm position among technology services leaders enabled Azure to quickly surpass its competitors.
""Microsoft's brand, existing customer relationships, history of running global-class consumer Internet properties, deep investments in engineering and aggressive road map have enabled it rapidly to attain the status of strategic cloud IaaS provider,"" stated the report. ""It is second in terms of cloud IaaS market share '” albeit a distant second '” but far ahead of its smaller competitors.""
There were no companies listed in the ""Challengers"" quadrant, which may be good news for some companies, as Gartner grades a Challenger as a business that can serve its current markets but are not well-positioned to adapt to rising market and technology challenges. In the ""Visionaries"" quadrant were CenturyLink, CSC, Google, IBM (SoftLayer) and Verizon Terremark. In this category, providers will be competing to cement themselves in the market's currently uncertain third position, Garter analysts said. Placing in the ""Niche Players"" quadrant were Dimension Data, Fujitsu, GoGrid, HP, Joyent, Rackspace, VMware and Virtustream.
The Future of IaaS
As both a market and a technological platform, IaaS appears destined for continued growth. The number of businesses deepening their cloud connection has resulted in growth for IaaS, often at the expense of platform-as-a-service. Network World contributor Brandon Butler noted in January that the PaaS market could be earmarked for decline, as many of the defining characteristics of PaaS come under the IaaS umbrella. Additionally, The Motley Fool's Joseph Gacinga observed that the move of software-as-service firms like Salesforce into platform offerings could further weaken the case for PaaS as a standalone solution.
Gacinga also wrote that Microsoft, Gartner's second-highest rated IaaS provider, could leverage its infrastructure and platform support history for a run at AWS' IaaS crown. Azure has roots in PaaS, which may make it more focused on the brunt of customer's needs than a solution built purely for IaaS requirements. In any case, the flexibility, vision and scalable potential that AWS and Microsoft can offer is likely to keep them on top. Third place on Gartner's quadrant is still open, as the need for and depth of what IaaS can do continues to grow."