Gartner’s Magic Quadrant disses Amazon cloud

Gartner's Magic Quadrant report has placed Amazon's cloud computing service in one of its lower tiers, saying that for all of Amazon's commercial success it is “visionary” but “unproven.”

Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, which provides on-demand access to virtual machines and other computing resources, has helped define the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) technology model and bring cloud computing into the mainstream of IT. But that doesn't mean it's the best option for customers, according to the Gartner analyst firm.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for cloud infrastructure-as-a-service and Web hosting, published last month, places Amazon in the “visionaries” tier, one step below the “challengers” and two steps below the “leaders.” In Gartner's view, the leaders are Savvis, AT&T, Rackspace, Verizon Business and Terremark Worldwide. Visionaries include Amazon, GoGrid, CSC, Joyent and IBM.

“Visionaries have an innovative and disruptive approach to the market, but their services are new to the market and are unproven,” Gartner writes.

Gartner did express some admiration for Amazon's cloud service.

“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,” Gartner analysts Lydia Leong and Ted Chamberlin write.

But the analysts caution customers on several fronts. “Amazon does not offer any managed services … Amazon is the only evaluated vendor that does not also offer the standard options of colocation, dedicated nonvirtualized servers. … Amazon is a price leader, but it charges separately for optional items that are often bundled with competitive offerings. … Amazon's offering is developer-centric, rather than enterprise-oriented, although it has significant traction in large enterprises.”

Some of these criticisms are simply a byproduct of the fact that Amazon is purely an infrastructure-as-a-service vendor, whereas rivals who place higher in Gartner's Magic Quadrant are in the business of hosting physical servers and managing the data center infrastructure for clients. In fact, Gartner's recommendation to customers for “visionaries” is to “buy these services on demand, or in contracts of one year or less.” Amazon sells its services in an on-demand model, so this is hardly much of a restriction.

But Gartner also criticizes Amazon's service-level guarantees.

“Amazon has the weakest cloud compute SLA of any of the evaluated competing public cloud compute services, even though its uptime is actually very good,” Gartner writes. “Most providers offer 99.99% or better, with many offering 100%, evaluated monthly, with service credit capping at 100% of that monthly bill. Amazon offers 99.95%, evaluated yearly, capping at 10% of that bill.”

Amazon spokeswoman Kay Kinton defended the company's service-level agreements.

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