Gartner: Amazon runs away with IaaS cloud Magic Quadrant; Microsoft catching up

Brandon Butler

Amazon Web Services, for another consecutive year, is running away with the IaaS cloud market, according to research firm Gartner, but unlike other years the competition - namely Microsoft, is giving the market leader a run for its money.  

Gartner released its IaaS Magic Quadrant today outlining the IaaS market; it's hailed by some as a sort of benchmark for the industry to determine who is leading it. Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the report though is just how big AWS is. Gartner estimates that AWS has five times the compute capacity than all of the 14 other vendors analyzed in the report combined.  

AWS is clearly the market leader in IaaS, Gartner says, calling the company a thought leader, extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile and responsive to the market. Its pure-play cloud offering is suitable for any virtualized workload or environment, although highly secure or compliant workloads require extra attention to architect correctly in the public cloud.

If there are any concerns with AWS, it is that the company may be growing too fast. It's intense popularity means that its sales staff is strapped and customers need to pay extra - up to 10% of their bill on average - to receive enterprise-grade support, leaving customers who do not pay for this charge unsatisfied with their consultation from the company. Its granular pay-as-you-go pricing structure can make for complicated billing too. "AWS currently has a multiyear competitive advantage, but is no longer the only fast-moving, innovative, global-class provider in the market," the report states. Microsoft is catching up.

Azure is ideal for Microsoft-centric IT organizations, but its biggest advantage over AWS may be the interoperability between the public cloud and its suite of on-premises software, such as Windows Server, Systems Center, Hyper-V and Active Directory, which are the components that can be used to build a private cloud that sits inside a company's firewall.

"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," Gartner says. "It is second in terms of cloud IaaS market share -- albeit a distant second -- but far ahead of its smaller competitors."

But there are reasons Microsoft isn't first in this market. AWS has the first-mover advantage of its cloud having been up and running for years. Azure is slightly newer so there are feature gaps, although Microsoft is closing those quickly. Gartner says these are most notable in networking and security functionality. Multiple services are still in "preview" with no timetable as to when fuller functionality will be built out. And AWS has a larger partner ecosystem of SaaS applications, optimization services and plug-ins that are built to run seamlessly on AWS's cloud; Microsoft is still building up its partner network.

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