Across the last three Infrastructure as a Service Magic Quadrants, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft have held relatively stable positions and distance from one another. This year, Google has finally managed to crack the leaders category, though the company faces some distance to catch up to Microsoft.
Most significant movement has taken place in the niche players and visionaries categories. In 2017, Gartner released a Magic Quadrant with 14 totals vendors, eight more than in 2018:
All of 2017's niche players — CenturyLink, Fujitsu, Interoute, Joyent, Rackspace, NTT Communications, Skytap and Virtustream — dropped off the quadrant this year, and Alibaba Cloud, Oracle and IBM moved back from visionaries to niche players.
Alibaba now leads the other two vendors in ability to execute, followed by Oracle and IBM. Oracle outpaced IBM and Alibaba — with Big Blue just a hair ahead of the Chinese cloud company — in completeness of vision.
AWS and Microsoft occupy a very similar position year-over-year, though slightly more to the middle of the leaders' quadrant on the completeness of vision scale — a move largely attributed to Gartner's expansion of the market boundaries. Google moved up into the leaders category, cinching a spot just ahead of the intersection of the four quadrants.
So why the relative continuity for the six remainders? Here's Gartner's assessment of cloud infrastructure's leaders and aspirers:
Amazon Web Services
Long reign the king: Amazon sits atop a decade of IaaS and PaaS dominance. With the best partner ecosystem, broadest provider ecosystem, aggressive expansion and a rich portfolio, the company isn't looking to go anywhere but up.
In fact, in earlier Gartner assessments, "AWS has been so close to the boundary of the graphic that it was impossible really to give them higher scores without having them crawl off the graph," said Lydia Leong, one of the Gartner analysts who compiled the report, in an interview with CIO Dive.
The vendor is recommended for all use cases in a virtualized environment, and it remains the "safe choice" in the market and the most popular choice for strategic cloud adoption
BUT: Managing the extensive portfolio and costs is difficult and requires a lot of in-house expertise, and the expansion of the partner program means more choice but less assurance of high quality.
Amazon is also still figuring how to handle substantial competitors and how to navigate the open-source community with its growing compatible services.
Microsoft is now recommended for all use cases in virtualized environments, and the company's SaaS dominance means the Azure cloud boasts easy integration for organizations using Microsoft products. The company has an extensive customer ecosystem and strong brand loyalty to use to its advantage.
The Azure stack is well-suited to hybrid and multicloud solutions and, with heavy investment and innovation, continues to offer a broad range of services in IaaS and PaaS with ambitious future plans.
BUT: Large-scale adoptions of Azure have encountered challenges, with Microsoft support sometimes failing to come to the rescue.
Azure is geared to ease of use for newer customers, but this can lead to complex implementation, and support for open-source and third-party solutions can be lagging. Reliability problems for virtual networks have affected some customers, though Microsoft is steadily improving infrastructure reliability.
Google has solidified its place as No. 3, though the internet company's infrastructure is recommended for Big Data and analytics applications, machine learning and cloud-native operations.
The company has built a strong and reliable IaaS and PaaS core, and its roadmap has expanded from cloud-native companies to also include more traditional workloads, with continued emphasis as an "open" provider supporting open-source ecosystems.
BUT: Google still lags in capability parity relative to Microsoft and Google, even if it is differentiated by investments in cutting edge technology. Its partner ecosystem still needs some building out, and customers sometimes encounter licensing problems.
Enterprise discounts are short-term, and contract negotiation can be difficult for smaller customers.
In the last year, Alibaba has had time to build out its international offering, though — just like this time last year — its capabilities continue to lag behind the company's service in China. But for companies looking to build up cloud infrastructure in China, a hotbed of technology innovation, Alibaba is often the best choice.
With vast ambitions and resources to match, the Chinese company is set on continuing its global expansion. The IaaS vendor has extensive IaaS and PaaS offerings and software and services with hybrid cloud compatibility.
BUT: In trying to keep pace with its global competitors, Alibaba still hasn't been able to differentiate its international offering. Its offering is roughly two years old and still borrowing heavily from rivals, even as capabilities for non-cloud-native workloads lag behind demand.
Even though the company is independently audited, security and regulatory concerns abound in business deals with China, with the U.S. responding to IP abuses with retaliatory tariffs earlier this week.
Oracle's Gen 2 cloud offering is still young and best suited for hosting applications from Oracle or using Oracle databases as well as bare-metal server provisioning. The company is still migrating PaaS and SaaS offerings to its new infrastructure, with the goal of customers using its integrated stack.
The infrastructure has strong hyperscale architecture and feature selection, competitive pricing and strong support for Oracle workloads. Acknowledging its late market entrance, the company is focused on building up capabilities.
BUT: Oracle is offering the "minimum viable product" that cannot support broad use cases, and the earlier Gen 1 infrastructure isn't differentiated. Customers still on Gen 1 need to factor in Oracle's plans to focus on Gen 2.
Its partner ecosystem and customer base still in the early stages, and the company engages sometimes in "high-pressure" sales practices, such as software audits or cost hike threats.
Like one year ago, IBM is still in the midst of building a new IaaS offering and is best suited for supplemental IaaS for companies using bare-metal servers, applications using Bluemix PaaS and API control to meet performance, licensing or regulatory standards.
The company has strong brand and customer relationships, with a large ecosystem of developers and outsourcing customers. The company's Next Generation Infrastructure is expected to fill many capability gaps and implement hyperscale infrastructure, greatly improving the company's IaaS capabilities.
BUT: The NGI product still isn't here — with no clear timeline when the new services will arrive — and while customers wait there were several big outages in IBM's SoftLayer services last year. This infrastructure is still better suited to SMBs and not larger enterprise customers, and the company's cloud remains "disjointed" geographically.