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IBM Named Top IaaS Provider

Cloud infrastructure users may be flocking to Amazon now, but new IDC survey suggests IBM, HP, Cisco, and AT&T may be the IaaS leaders of the future.
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IBM, HP, Cisco, and AT&T are the preferred infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers, topping the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, or Rackspace, according to a new IDC report on enterprise cloud computing.

In a key finding, the report says, "buyers selected IBM as their overall top preference among providers they believe can most effectively provision IaaS, whether private or public. Following IBM in the top spots were Cisco, HP, AT&T, and Google."

The report, "U.S. Buyers Rank IBM, Cisco, HP, AT&T, and Google as Likely Most Effective Top 5 Providers in Delivering IaaS," is IDC's first Public Cloud Tracker report. It was authored by IDC analyst David Tapper. Tapper defined infrastructure-as-a-service as either shared, multi-tenant servers in the cloud (public IaaS) or dedicated servers in the cloud (private IaaS). Rackspace and IBM's SoftLayer unit provide dedicated servers to customers who want greater isolation than multi-tenant servers allow.

To understand what the report is talking about and why these vendors emerged at the top, the spot usually held by Amazon, it's necessary to go into a little background. The main question was carefully worded to ask what surveyed buyers would "prefer" in an IaaS provider, not who they were actually using as a cloud vendor. It was: "Please select the top 3 vendors that you believe can provide infrastructure as a service (IaaS), for private and/or public, most effectively, whether or not you currently utilize these services from third-party providers."

Such a survey could favor vendors who do not currently have large market shares, but may be capable of gaining more in the future, if the survey proves accurate.

[Amazon's cloud unit, AWS grew rapidly from its 2006 debut to more than $3 billion in revenues by the end of 2013. Want to learn more about Amazon's overall growth? See Amazon Posts 20% Revenue Growth, Stock Drops.]

IDC said it interviewed 402 cloud buyers representing companies with more than 1,000 employees, but supplied little other description of who was surveyed. The absence of small businesses might have helped tilt the odds in favor of large, legacy system vendors, such as IBM, HP, Cisco, and AT&T.

The IDC survey might be viewed as an alternative to the "leaders" category in Gartner's influential Magic Quadrant of IaaS suppliers, which ranks vendors by completeness of offerings and actual traction in the marketplace. Amazon Web Services was far ahead in the "leaders" category of the Magic Quadrant, with only CSC (formerly Computer Sciences Corp.) sharing the quadrant. Perhaps coincidentally, the laggards in Gartner's Magic Quadrant are at the head of the pack in the IDC Survey.

Nevertheless, the survey does offer some insight into what enterprise cloud buyers may be looking for as they compare cloud services providers in the future. It covers a span from 2006-2014 and appears to reflect long-term changes underway in the market.

The survey also assessed "the preferred business models" through which buyers in the future would like to obtain cloud services. The most popular business model was "full-service outsourcer," and IBM, CSC, and HP fit into that category. Second place went to "software company," and Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP were listed as leading examples. The third-ranked category was "network operator/communications service provider," with Verizon, AT&T, and CenturyLink Savvis using that model. "Online service provider" was the fourth-ranked preferred business model, and Amazon and Google fit there.

The report indicated the full-service outsourcer category will decline in popularity over time, but remain the leading choice. The same chart also shows the online service provider model declining. With this kind of realignment based on business model, it would be interesting to learn more about who the 402 participants in the survey were, a subject on which scant information was made available in the report.

IBM didn't simply lead as the preferred IaaS provider, but more than doubled the votes of what one might consider two close competitors: IBM received 35%, while Microsoft and Google each obtained 16%. The closest IaaS provider to IBM was Cisco at 28%, followed by HP and AT&T, both at 19%. Amazon was seventh, with 13%. Dell, Verizon Terremark, and VMware were ranked 8, 9, and 10, each with 8% to 9% of the votes.

From there, in descending order of preference, were: Cognizant, Bluelock, and CSC. Also, Hosting.com, British Telecommunications, Capgemini, CGI, Rackspace, Infosys, EMC, GoDaddy, HTL, and Unisys.

By this measure, IBM's most profitable days as a provider of cloud computing lie directly ahead of it, as do Cisco's, HP's, and AT&T's.

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