Out this month is the Cloud Infrastructure as a Service Magic Quadrant. Most of us can predict the findings – Amazon Web Services is the leader and other big brands such as Rackspace, HP, IBM, Dimension Data, Verizon and Joyent are all named.

Amazon Web Services

What I found interesting was the summary of vendor profiles, strengths and cautions. In it, the report cautions us to keep some key points in mind. There were a number of points focusing on storage and security, but here, in my own words, are a few I found interesting:

  • All the vendors offer public cloud.
  • Most focus on solving the needs of traditional IT operations.
  • They all offer high SLAs regarding infrastructure, performance and compute availability.
  • Most of the providers off self-service, front-end load balancing.
  • All of the vendors offer a portal and self-service mechanism. This also includes hierarchical administration and role-based access control.
  • The providers have the ability to support sophisticated billing (well maybe sophisticated is too strong a word).

So what do these six bullets prove to me? They prove that for a cloud service provider to compete in the world of big brands, they must not just emulate, but also differentiate their services. Importantly, they also need to create a compelling position for their target markets. Many industries have dominant brands (think hotels, think retailers, think airlines) however this does not eliminate the potential to build brands and services, with unique USP’s. As Joe Wienman said in his book, and I am paraphrasing, ‘any thoughts of commoditization is really only a lack of imagination’.

There is always room and need for smaller players in the market to help those businesses that want more than a big brand offers. Of course you could spend a lot of time and effort researching the market for the individual components you need to build and launch your cloud services business. This might have the benefit of keeping your in-house development teams busy (or someone else’s). For me, rather than wasting time acquiring components and then developing your solution I would genuinely recommend that you invest development efforts on product creation and marketing and licence a complete solution like Flexiant. You’ll get to market faster, at a fraction of the cost and then you can spend your time differentiating based on what your early experiences teach you.

While the Gartner report is useful and it indicates the extent of Amazon positioning against the rest of the market leaders, it is not the whole story. Many new cloud service providers are successfully securing and growing their customer base and positioning themselves quickly and successfully on the rising tide of demand.

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