Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, May 27, 2024

Microsoft Pressuring AWS In The Clouds 

A closely watched assessment of the cloud computing industry again ranks Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the leading cloud infrastructure-as-a-service provider (IaaS), but notes that rival Microsoft is slowly gaining ground as it fleshes out its cloud offerings.

Market watcher Gartner released its annual cloud IaaS rankings in the form of a Magic Quadrant For Cloud Infrastructure as a Service report. Despite inroads made by Microsoft and others, the survey found that pure-play cloud powerhouse AWS possesses a five-fold advantage in cloud computing when compared to the other 14 cloud vendors surveyed.

AWS "has the richest array of IaaS features and PaaS-like capabilities, and continues to rapidly expand its service offerings," Gartner concluded. "It is the provider most commonly chosen for strategic adoption."

Gartner also warned that "AWS currently has a multiyear competitive advantage, but is no longer the only fast-moving, innovative, global-class provider in the market."

The market watcher's methodology involves ranking cloud providers based on "completeness of vision" on one axis and "ability to execute" on the other. Market leaders land in the upper right quadrant while also-rans end up in the lower left quadrant.


AWS and CSC were the only cloud providers to land in the "leaders" corner of last year's magic quadrant rankings. The other quadrant categories are "visionaries," "challengers" and "niche players."

Last year's rankings placed Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud offering in the "visionaries" category, but Redmond continues to move up and to the right in the Gartner rankings as a market leader, Gartner found.

The cloud IaaS leaders along with Google have been locked in a price war since March as they seek to gain traction in a market where cloud adoption is growing. "We recognize that economics are a primary driver for some customers adopting cloud, and [we] stand by our commitment to match prices," Windows Azure general manager Steve Martin said in announcing Microsoft's response to previous price cuts by AWS and Google.

As the IaaS leaders battle for market share, other cloud competitors appear to be either slipping or regrouping. CSC fell out of the market leaders category, dropping back into a pack of cloud providers in search of market niches like cloud brokering.

Moving up among Gartner's visionaries is CenturyLink, which acquired pure-play IaaS provider Tier 3 in November 2013. Others in this category included IBM, which has acquired SoftLayer, Verizon, which acquired Terremark, and Google, which has become serious about building an infrastructure cloud service after pushing platform services for several years exclusively.

Rackspace Hosting, Virtustream, and VMmare were ranked in the middle of the pack. Bringing up the rear in the Gartner rankings as "niche players" are Dimension Data, Fujitsu, GoGrid, Hewlett-Packard, and Joyent.

HP is investing $1 billion over the next two years in a "converged infrastructure" of cloud services geared to hybrid IT platforms and based on OpenStack. The investment boosted HP in the Gartner rankings, but the market analyst is waiting to see how HP's Helion cloud infrastructure initiative pans out. One unresolved issue is "limited interoperability" between public and private clouds based on HP's CloudSystem infrastructure, Gartner warned. This is something that EnterpriseTech has pointed out a number of times as well.

Meanwhile, upstarts have been augmenting their IaaS offerings. One is VMware, with its vCloud Hybrid Service, which is being rigged out with cloud management automation tools. But Gartner questions whether these niche approaches to cloud computing will appeal to developers and whether they can ultimately compete with the sheer size the AWS and Microsoft.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).