buying considerations

5 Key Considerations When Selecting a Public Cloud Service

What the Gartner IaaS Magic Quadrant tells us about enterprise cloud buying decisions.

There are many considerations when selecting a public cloud service. Resources from analyst firms like Gartner can help enterprises assess the strengths and weaknesses of each vendor before deciding which one is the right fit for their business.

One of those resources is the annual Gartner Magic Quadrant for IaaS. The Magic Quadrant provides a comprehensive look at the factors that go into making a leading cloud vendor, and in doing so, offers insight into what enterprises prioritize in choosing a public cloud service and how the top vendors fare in meeting those requirements.

Released last week, the most recent version reflects a “more stringent inclusion criteria” and includes eight vendors, a 42 percent reduction from 14 vendors last year. The vendors in the leaders’ category – unsurprisingly – are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google.

What do enterprises want in a public cloud service provider? Ease of use, flexibility in pricing, and technical support are just a few of the factors that enterprises evaluate, Gartner says.

Here are five public cloud service requirements for enterprise buyers:

Ease of Use

Difficult-to-use cloud portals have been problematic for enterprises since the advent of public cloud. In some cases, this has led to sensitive workloads being exposed because of misconfigured security permissions. Ease of use is a key consideration for enterprises selecting a public cloud service.

Per Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for IaaS, Alibaba Cloud’s international offering has a particularly confusing portal, where the capabilities available in each region are not always clear.

IBM has two separate cloud portals – one for IBM BlueMix, and one for IBM SoftLayer. Both portals offer distinct capabilities, as the IBM SoftLayer portal is maintained for legacy customers.

The user experience with Microsoft Azure is geared towards less experienced users, but that too can have limitations.

“Microsoft Azure's user experience is optimized to deliver ease of use to novices with simple projects, but this comes at the cost of sometimes making complex configurations difficult and frustrating to implement,” Gartner said.

To help make cloud platforms more accessible and easy to use, cloud providers that integrate more management capabilities in their portfolio can help enterprises manage system and application infrastructure as a single entity, Gartner suggests.

Open Source Friendliness

One of the cornerstones of an enterprise-ready public cloud service? The availability of open source software and “strong ecosystems that can successfully support a broad array of customer use cases”, Gartner says.

Google is particularly strong in this area, “with a portability emphasis that is centered on open-source ecosystems” – to a point. “Google delivers value through operations automation at scale, and it does not open-source these proprietary advantages.”

AWS is introducing more open-source-compatible services and has begun to change its approach to work with open-source communities in a more “mutually beneficial fashion,” Gartner says.

While Microsoft Azure’s capabilities have become more open, particularly around improved support for Linux and other open source application stacks, Gartner cautions DevOps-oriented customers to watch out for a lack of strong Azure support in some open source and other third-party tools and software.

Cost

Enterprises typically look to IaaS to achieve cost savings, Gartner says, but it varies in terms of how much savings IaaS can deliver.

For short-term or disaster recovery needs, IaaS does provide a cost savings, but large companies with “existing internal data centers, well-managed virtualized infrastructure, efficient IT operations teams and a high degree of automation, IaaS for steady-state workloads is often no less expensive, and may be more expensive, than an internal private cloud.”

When evaluating a public cloud service for competitive costs, customers should understand the types of discounts available. For example, while GCP positions itself as a cost leader in the market, its discounts are per-service rather than over the contract.

“Google is frequently rigid in contract negotiations, save for its largest customers, who may receive exceptional flexibility,” Gartner says. “Its sales force, while technically adept, often has limited experience dealing with enterprise procurement organizations.”

Gartner cautions against choosing a cloud based on the discount available, however, as new service offerings from less-established vendors may not have a track record of enterprise customer success, even though they offer steep discounts at first to win customers. Enterprises should speak to reference customers like them to decide if a vendor is worth the risk.

Once a cloud is in use, tracking the costs of a public cloud service is the next step, and there are numerous third-party tools available to enterprises that provide clear visibility into resource usage.

Technical Support

Customer service with 24/7 availability and account managers are table stakes at this point when it comes to public cloud service providers. Some vendors, like Google and Microsoft, offer a lower level of support by default, but allow customers to pay extra for enterprise-class support.

Gartner says that some of its clients with larger-scale cloud implementations have reported significant challenges with Azure adoption because professional service teams and technical support personnel may lack “adequate expertise.”

Due to this, customers must turn to a managed service provider to execute a more successful implementation for Azure, Gartner said.

Strong Partner Ecosystem

Enterprises should not underestimate the complexities of public cloud service implementation. Companies must research a vendors partner ecosystem to ensure adequate support is available.

Public cloud service providers that do not have an ISV, consulting partner and MSP ecosystem will only be useful for narrow use cases, Gartner says.

AWS adoption is generally more successful with a systems integrator (SI), Gartner said, since AWS’s extensive services portfolio requires expertise to implement.

Partners also help extend the range of capabilities with APIs, adding “’stickiness’ to these platforms by offering tight integrations between applications, middleware and infrastructure.”

Customers looking for managed or professional services may also require local or regional partners.  

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