Literally, since cloud computing was invented, and despite what vendors such as Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Oracle might have told you back in the day, one vendor was generally accepted as the biggest and most innovative provider. That vendor is, of course, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Without fail, every time an analyst firm opined on the market share, breadth of product offering, or vision for the cloud, AWS was at the top of the list. Indeed, it got kind of boring in that the only thing of interest from these was reports was a discussion about just how much AWS had increased its lead on all-comers.

Which is why the latest version of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for cloud storage has pundits pretty excited. In the quadrant, in which Gartner’s opines upon the relative vision and ability to execute of the different vendors, AWS lost ground, in relative terms, to Google and Microsoft, the generally accepted second and third-placed vendors, and even Alibaba Cloud, the dark horse that is massive in Asia but not particularly well known in the West.

Google finally getting cred for its turnaround

In the past couple of weeks, subsequent to me attending Google’s NEXT conference, I’ve opined at length about Google and its stellar public cloud turnaround. The fruits of Diane Green’s labors are starting to pay off and there is a real feeling of progress being made by the company. That shows up in this report as well with comments about Google’s superior availability and network performance than its competitors (at least when it comes to multi-region storage.) Gartner noted that both customer awareness and actual customer wins have been positive for Google over the last 12 months.

Microsoft doing well but needs to do more to leverage the Azure Stack opportunity

Gartner was similarly bullish about Microsoft, commenting on its early forays into hybrid storage offerings by way of a partnership with NetApp. That said, Gartner seems pretty dismissive of the particular NetApp platform (ONTAP) at least in a public cloud setting. Similarly, the analysis notes that Microsoft’s various regions don’t always align well with those of other vendors and that this is a cause for concern.

Gartner makes a special call out for Azure Stack, Microsoft’s hybrid cloud play and something that could (should?) be a massive point of difference for Redmond. As the report says:

There are no integration points thus far between Azure Stack and Azure’s public cloud storage offerings, and Azure Files still does not support Active Directory nor does it support SSDs.

Market size helps Alibaba’s showing

On Alibaba, Gartner admits that its product offering isn’t as advanced, either in terms of the feature set or flexibility of charging models. It also notes that outside of China, Alibaba hasn’t really moved the needle. The reality is, however, that China is such a huge market that Alibaba can do just fine domestically before needing to find global growth.

ON that #1 slot

While it may have dropped a bit in relation to its competitors, AWS is still in the front position in the report. This doesn’t stop Gartner, however, from making some criticism of AWS’ approach. From the report:

the price of AWS’s General Purpose SSD, known as gp2, has not decreased since 2014Optimal usage of AWS’s storage services requires an array of sophisticated skills that many enterprises lack

Everyone else

Who cares? While there is some interesting detail in the report for those willing to wade through it, the real interest comes from the top places and the higher-ranked sections of the report. That’s all about AWS< Google, Microsoft (and Alibaba for good measure).

MyPOV

Remember, folks, this is just a report about cloud storage. As such it doesn’t assess the entirety of a company’s vision or ability to deliver. For that, we have to wait until the general public cloud MQ. That said, AWS boss Andy Jassy doesn’t like moving in any way but upwards and the fact that, of the three most important players, AWS is the only one which moved in the wrong direction on both axes is a real cause for concern.

Expect to see some prioritization about storage-related product news in the next couple of months leading up to AWS re:Invent conference and a concerted effort to keep AWS moving both up, and to the right.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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