Infrastructure as a Service market going gangbusters, but no time to celebrate

IaaS spending set to grow by one-third this year, Gartner tells us. But it takes a lot of big money for a vendor to compete in this space.

Global spending on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is expected to reach almost $16.5 billion in 2015, an increase of 33 percent from 2014, according to the latest estimates from Gartner. At the same time, IaaS vendors aren't exactly celebrating, the analyst firm suggests -- the IaaS market, they say, is "in a state of upheaval, as many service providers are shifting their strategies after failing to gain enough market traction."

Photo: Joe McKendrick

IaaS is all the nuts and bolts of computing -- processing power, messaging and storage. A separate analysis from Gartner puts Amazon Web Services in the catbird seat. Gartner analyst Lydia Leong puts AWS out ahead in its so-called Magic Quandrant rankings, observing that the IaaS vendor alone has more than ten times the computing capacity than Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Rackspace combined. Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine are also gaining traction, however.

Leong, who also led Gartner's work on the IaaS market sizing, pointed out that competing in the IaaS space requires some heavy investments, and it takes a lot of money to keep up. As a result, she points out, "the IaaS solution ecosystem is rapidly consolidating around a small number of market leaders." As a result, many players in this space will be backing off or getting out of the business entirely.

So, caution is advised when moving infrastructure over to a cloud provider, Leong concludes. "We urge buyers to be extremely cautious when selecting providers; ask specific and detailed questions about the provider's roadmap for the service, and seek contractual commitments that do not permit the provider to modify substantially or to discontinue the offering without at least 12 months' notice."

Good advice for any major technology commitment.

Of course, this discussion is about public IaaS providers -- there's also a huge reservoir of private IaaS implementations being developed across the corporate landscape. But Gartner points out that as of last year, the absolute growth of public cloud IaaS workloads surpassed the growth of on-premises workloads (of any type) for the first time. The consultancy's 2015 CIO survey indicates that 83 percent of CIOs consider cloud IaaS as an infrastructure option, and 10 percent are already cloud-first with cloud IaaS as their default infrastructure choice.

Leong also issued some cautionary words about vendor lock-in: "Cloud IaaS is not merely a matter of hardware rental, but an entire data center ecosystem as a service. The more you use its management capabilities, the more value you will receive from the offering, but the more you will be tied to that particular service offering."

Cloud IaaS is now used for virtually all use cases that can be reasonably hosted on virtualized x86-based servers, Gartner adds. The most common use cases for cloud IaaS are development and testing environments; high-performance computing and batch processing; Internet-facing websites and Web-based applications; and non-mission-critical internal business applications.