Sure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the golden child of cloud computing, but Microsoft Azure isn't too far behind. And according to Gartner’s recently released Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (Iaas), it's starting to nip into AWS’s market.

Gartner contends AWS is beginning to face significant competition on two fronts:  Microsoft is competing in the traditional business market and Google is challenging it in the cloud native market.

Look at All the Players

What is also noticeable about this Magic Quadrant (MQ) is that, unlike other IT markets, there are no Challengers vying with the Leaders to get themselves noticed. That is not to say that there are no other players -- there are. It's just that, in this case, they fall into the Visionary and Niche Player segment in almost equal numbers, providing specialized or evolving services to a whole range of companies.

The result is that, for those looking at buying into this still immature market, Gartner recommends that potential customers look at all the vendors in the space. It says that with all the MQs, but here, because of the high level of specialization of vendors outside the Leaders’ quadrant, it is particularly true.

But what exactly is it that is being discussed? There are so many different kinds of cloud computing vendors and services it is probably a good idea to take a look at how Gartner approaches cloud computing.

First, it defines cloud computing as "a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using Internet technologies." On top of that you have Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS):

A standardized, highly automated offering, where compute resources, complemented by storage and networking capabilities, are owned by a service provider and offered to the customer on demand. The resources are scalable and elastic in near real time and metered by use."

These Companies Rock

There are a wide variety of companies that are able to offer these services. There's Azure and AWS in the Leaders’ Quadrant, with CSC, CenturyLink, IBM, Google and Verizon in the Visionaries Quadrant. 

In the Niche Players Quadrant there's also Dimension Data, Fujitsu, Go Grid, HP, Joyent, Rackspace, VirtuStream and VMWare.

None of the companies listed could be described as "slouches," so what exactly is it that makes them Leaders?  In this 50 page report, Gartner offers a long list of inclusion criteria. However, it says that Leaders distinguish themselves by offering a service suitable for strategic adoption while simultaneously demonstrating an ambitious roadmap.

It says Leaders do not necessarily excel in all areas and may not be the best providers for those organizations that have specific needs. They even avoid some use cases entirely. That said, they are still at the top of their game and have a considerable market share.

Digging into the IaaS Leaders

Today we will look at the Leaders Quadrant and some of the trends that are emerging in the market. However, because of the size and nature of the companies in the other quadrants -- like Google, VMWare and IBM -- a second piece later this week will look at what they are offering and why Gartner says Amazon and Microsoft still beat their offerings.

Amazon Web Services

AWS is a cloud focused service provider with what Gartner describes as a very pure vision of highly automated, cost effective IT abilities delivered in an on demand manner.

It has data centers all over the world, covering just about every region on the planet and ensuring that organizations’ concerns about the geographical location of stored data are all addressed.

Its Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2, offers multitenant, fixed sized and nonresizable virtualized VMS, while single tenant VMS are available through Dedicated Instances.

It has a wide range of storage options that cover long term and object based storage, as well as a cloud storage gateway appliance for easy access. It has also been dramatically cutting storage costs as it battles with both Microsoft and Google for market share.

It is worth noting for prospective customers that enterprise grade support is extra. Gartner points out that while the Service Level Agreement (SLA) covers a wide range of eventualities, it does not have any exclusion for maintenance. It also offers continuous availability on its portal and API.