Making sense of Infrastructure Services


In 2017, HfS is focusing heavily on IT services as a research topic and, thanks to my stint as a cloud and data center services analyst and hands-on experience in infrastructure services over the past 20 years, – I am looking after the cloud and infrastructure part of the market.

Given my recent blog on the infrastructure as a service market. HfS believes that making the right choice of infrastructure services partner is becoming increasingly critical for end-user clients, particularly given the amount of disruptive change the market is going through.

In preparation for this renewed focus, I’ve been looking more in-depth at the market for the main cloud and infrastructure service providers. This has inevitably led me to look through briefing information HfS has collected on the suppliers, talk to end user clients, look at many of the suppliers’ websites, and at the various quadrants that are in circulation around this space. One of the most recent ones, which is on Amazon Web Services (AWS) website is Gartner’s Infrastructure as a Service quadrant – which has placed AWS as a leader for six years.

By the way, this is not a critique of this quadrant or an attack on AWS – far from it – the positioning is dictated by the information provided and the customer references, and, given its laser focus on IaaS, I can buy the positioning. It’s hard to argue with AWS’ huge strength in this space, and that it’s a leader…  by some margin. It acknowledges, by Microsoft’s position, that it’s closing the gap. As a slight side, note I do like the euphemistic “niche” player category particularly its use in this quadrant. What niche are these players filling? Do they provide services to organizations that want a crappy cloud? Is that a niche? Not that I want to start a semantic discussion, but I’m not sure IBM is a “niche” infrastructure services player even in IaaS, regardless of your view of the market. Particularly if you buy the IaaS as part of a larger infrastructure engagement, with any perceived shortcoming of the IaaS layer provided by another part of the service delivery.

This is what is missing, for me, the relevance of this research to an enterprise buyer. I see how the quadrant, as it stands, would be useful to a developer looking for the “best” IaaS to use, but for an enterprise looking to plan its cloud infrastructure strategy, I’m not so sure. Although IaaS can  -and is –  bought on its own, it is rarely bought without a context, at least in an enterprise organization. This means the services that wrap around the delivery of the IaaS are probably as important, if not more important than the actual IaaS – particularly in a hybrid environment. Of course, there are some 100% pure public cloud situations, but these are still fairly rare – most enterprise organizations, even in 2017, have a degree of complexity and require a mix of computing types.

My argument is that, in a complex environment, comparing one element is not enough and the excellence of that one component may be lost, as the whole infrastructure is built from interconnecting pieces, and some of the additional services that make the compute component great, are provided by another layer. The fact that there are a lot of additional services on top of the compute layer from AWS, for example, may not be useful to an enterprise looking for commodity compute delivered through a service provider that adds the additional functionality.

The Bottom Line – Who is this Quadrant benefitting?

So is the quadrant suitable only for companies that are looking to buy an IaaS engagement and don’t need to integrate it into any other environment? This would be the one way to make sense of the positioning. There are some uses that are 100% public cloud, and I can see situations where consideration of the overall enterprise architecture is not relevant, but this is quite a limited picture. Again for enterprise organizations.

So is this quadrant for a services firm suitable for an IaaS firm to choose a partner? It does help if the service provider is looking to pick the richest IaaS environment and leverage the brand of the IaaS provider. Which would work if infrastructure were more like a software eco-system, but in many cases, the service provider will want to add value on top of the IaaS. So this doesn’t help select a good basic IaaS service offering.

So what are we going to do about it? Next year we are going to look at the whole infrastructure management space with our own quadrant – an HfS Blueprint. One that takes advantage of our buy side contacts and uses over 200 interviews as the basis for our positioning and a guide to what is critical in the marketplace. The IT Infrastructure Management & Cloud Services Blueprint will take a more holistic view of the market and provide guidance on selecting the best provider for an enterprise organization. Focusing on end to end management of a client’s infrastructure services rather than just one aspect.



Posted in : IT Outsourcing / IT Services


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