Lydia Leong

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Lydia Leong
Research VP
11 years at Gartner
19 years IT industry

Lydia Leong is a research vice president in the Technology and Service Providers group at Gartner. Her primary research focus is cloud computing, together with Internet infrastructure services, such as Web hosting, content delivery networks…Read Full Bio

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What’s cloud IaaS really about?

by Lydia Leong  |  January 5, 2011  |  4 Comments

As expected, the Magic Quadrant for Cloud IaaS and Web Hosting is stirring up much of the same debate that was raised with the publication of the 2009 MQ.

Derrick Harris over at GigaOM thinks we got it wrong. He writes: Cloud IaaS is about letting users get what they need, when they need it and, ideally, with a credit card. It doesn’t require requisitioning servers from the IT department, signing a contract for any predefined time period or paying for services beyond the computing resources.

Fundamentally, I dispute Derrick’s assertion of what cloud IaaS is about. I think the things he cites above are cool, and represent a critical shake-up in thinking about IT access, but it’s not ultimately what the whole cloud IaaS market is about. And our research note is targeted at Gartner’s clients — generally IT management and architects at mid-sized businesses and enterprises, along with technology start-ups of all sizes (but generally ones that are large enough to have either funding or revenue).

Infrastructure without a contract? Convenient initially, but as the relationship gets more significant, usually not preferable. In fact, most businesses like to be able to negotiate contract terms. (For that matter, Amazon does customzed Enterprise Agreements with its larger customers.) Businesses love not having to commit to capacity, but the whole market is shifting its business models pretty quickly to adapt to that desire.

Infrastructure without involving traditional IT operations? Great, but someone’s still got to manage the infrastructure — shoving it in the cloud does not remove the need for operations, maintenance, patch management, security, governance, budgeting, etc. Gartner’s clients generally don’t want random application developers plunking down a credit card and just buying stuff willy-nilly. Empower developers with self-provisioning, sure — but provisioning raw infrastructure is the easy and cheap part, in the grand scheme of things.

Paying for services beyond the computing resources? Sure, some people love to self-manage their infrastructure. But really, what most people want to do is to only worry about their application. Their real dream is that cloud IaaS provides not just compute capacity, but secure compute capacity — which generally requires handling routine chores like patch management, and dealing with anti-virus and security event monitoring and such. In other words, they want to eliminate their junior sysadmins. They’re not looking for managed hosting per se; they’re looking to get magic, hassle-free compute resources.

I obviously recognize Amazon’s contributions to the market. The MQ entry on Amazon begins with: Amazon is a thought leader; it is extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile and very responsive to the market. It has the richest cloud IaaS product portfolio, and is constantly expanding its service offerings and reducing its prices. But I think Amazon represents an aspect of a broad market.

Cloud IaaS is complicated by the diversity of use cases for it. Our clients are also looking for specific guidance on just the “pure cloud”, self-provisioned “virtual data center” services, so we’re doing two more upcoming vendor ratings to address that need — a Critical Capabilities note that is focused solely on feature sets, and a mid-year Magic Quadrant that will be purely focused on this.

I could talk at length about what our clients are really looking for and what they’re thinking with respect to cloud IaaS, which is a pretty complicated and interesting tangle, but I figure I really ought to write a research note for that… and get back to my holiday vacation for now.

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