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

Brandon Butler | May 21, 2015
A "year of reckoning" leaves all other vendors behind.

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.

Between 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.

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.


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