Despite all hype, the private cloud computing market is still in its infancy. The enterprise customers deploying what we call at Gartner “cloud management platforms” (CMPs) are in the order of the thousands. Not insignificant, especially given the size of the accounts that buy CMPs, but far away from mainstream adoption.
Evaluating the few dozen alternatives (you can read a list of them in my research document Market Profile: Cloud Management Platforms, 2013), IT organizations naturally try to understand which vendor is preferred by industry peers, or more in general which CMP is the most deployed. Answering the question is all but simple, and it’s easy to be misled.
The most sophisticated CMPs usually are a bundle of multiple management tools retrofitted to address the cloud management use case, glued together by some unification code or point to point integration.
When a vendor cannot count on an existing application portfolio to repurpose, it has to proceed with a bunch of acquisitions, but the end result is the same: a collection of different tools that must work together in a way they were never meant to.
In fact, a way to measure how mature a CMP is consists of evaluating how well its management modules integrate with each other.
In many cases, a large enterprise already owns and uses one or more management tools that coincidentally are also offered as part of a CMP. Hence, the vendor upsells the CMP for that installation base. The customer may well buy the CMP license but does not necessarily deploy any additional component.
In other situations, given how many modules a CMP may include, and how complex is to deploy and operate all of them, customers actually use just a couple of them, out of four, six, twelve included in the SKU, hoping to roll out the others with a phased approach (that may take years).
The result is a series of claims where vendors report great customer wins, but where in reality customers deployed a couple of CMP modules long before they were included in a CMP SKU, and maybe those modules are not even the ones that should be considered key enablement for cloud management.
Then there are those situations where customers decide to implement a CMP but their expectations are completely failed in just six-to-twelve months. Many things can go wrong: the deployment time promised by the vendor goes beyond the deadlines, the CMP features are insufficient to the address customer’s needs, the integration with the existing enterprise management tools requires a lot of unexpected professional services activity, and much more.
In all those situations, the IT organization has to go back to the drawing board, select a different CMP, and go through the painful process of replacing the unsatisfying product.
That’s why, when we evaluate CMP market penetration at Gartner, we spent a great amount of time reviewing customer references, asking people what pieces of the CMP they actual deploy, how they are using them, or if they changed CMP for some reason. Sometimes the interview reveals that what the vendor sold as a CMP implementation actually is not, or it’s not even close to what it should be in terms of components deployed and how they are used. In other situations, we incidentally discover that a CMP has been abandoned in favor of a different one.
Bottom line: don’t believe claims about private cloud market share. Every implementation must be carefully reviewed and re-verified after a few months. And this exercise paints a picture that can be very different from the one CMP vendors describe.