Forrester Wave: Public Cloud Platforms -- The Winner Is…

…not that simple and therefore not always Amazon Web Services.

First off, we didn’t take what might be construed as the typical approach, which would be to look either at infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings. We combined the two, as the line between these categories is blurring. And historical category leaders have added either infrastructure or platform services that place them where they now straddle these lines.

Further, many people have assumed that all developers will be best served by PaaS products and ill served by IaaS products. Our research has shown for some time that that isn't so: 

  1. Many developers get value from IaaS because it is so flexible, while PaaS products are generally too constraining.
  2. The -aaS labels overlook the actual capabilities of the services available to developers. All PaaS products are not the same; all IaaS are not the same.
  3. Not all developers are the same. Devs will use the services (PLURAL) with the best fit to their skills, needs, and goals.

The reality we find with enterprises is commonly a mixing of the two classes. Those who prefer PaaS often desire the freedom to drop down to the infrastructure layer when they feel the need for stronger configuration control. The mixing of the two is also highly common in the form of modern applications that mix virtualized workloads with abstracted PaaS executables.

And there isn’t just a single developer audience being served here. Our analysis looked at the market of cloud platform leaders from the point of view of four potential customers:

■  Rapid devs value graphical, automated tools for creating applications and see public cloud platforms as a fresh break from more-limiting business process modeling tools with the potential to yield massive gains in the quantity, velocity, and quality of application delivery. They rarely desire and often lack the skills necessary to write complex code, control virtual infrastructure or middleware configuration.

■  Coders want to program, not manage infrastructure. They want to concentrate on building complex applications and will mostly work in an abstracted environment. They often need to make configuration decisions to get the performance and capabilities they seek, so they want access to the IaaS layer but rarely do they want to take on management of the infrastructure configuration.

■  DevOps pros are expert programmers who want control over the configuration the platform, the application server, database, and virtual infrastructure. They don’t like graphical tools and other abstractions that impede access to all of the platforms' “tuning knobs.”

■  Enterprise development managers employ all three developer types who increasingly use a variety of languages and frameworks. Thus, for many enterprises, the best choice of a public cloud platform will be a service (or a portfolio of platforms) that addresses the best mix of the above developer types working together on cloud projects.

Through these separate lenses, the landscape of public cloud choices takes on vastly different hues and yields different rankings for the vendors. Thankfully the Forrester Wave tool offers clients the flexibility to adjust the criteria weightings in our analysis to reflect your environment and needs, and reflow the rankings. So we leveraged this to present Forrester Wave findings for each group.

As you might expect, the vendor landscape for the Rapid Devs is the most askew from the rest due to the more abstracted needs of this audience. They really aren’t candidates to leverage a pure or mostly IaaS solution. For this audience, Microsoft Windows Azure came out ahead for its breadth of capabilities, broad applicability, and robustness.

Through the lenses of the coder, DevOps buyer, and enterprise application development & delivery (AD&D) manager, Amazon Web Services’ relentless rollouts of middleware, infrastructure, and managed services has provided a wealth of value to these buyers.

But this is far from a two-horse race. The cloud platforms from CloudBees, Cordys, Engine Yard, IBM, Mendix, Miosoft, Rackspace, and Salesforce all proved to be strong choices for the different audiences mirrored in our analysis.

Forrester clients can now access the full Forrester Wave report from our website, including the modifiable Forrester Wave tool used to customize the criteria rankings. We highly encourage you to do this so you examine the market from the point of view of your own organization. Forrester Leadership Boards members can go one step deeper into our analysis, as videos of each vendor’s Forrester Wave demonstrations will soon be available to you exclusively in the FLB Community.

But where’s the analysis from the infrastructure & operations (I&O) buyers' point of view? There isn’t one — because you aren’t the customer of these solutions. You may ultimately become the buyer and you certainly will play a role in the operations of your company’s public cloud tenancy and applications, but your analysis of the public cloud should start with understanding how well they serve the needs of your internal customers — the developers. Use the adoption of cloud as a means of fitting yourself into the DevOps movement.

Your care-abouts were not forgotten in this analysis, however. Many of the criteria used in the Forrester Wave reflect I&O needs such as operational transparency and certifications, security architecture and features, administrative tools, and role-based access. There’s even criteria looking at whether these solutions can be brought into your private cloud or offer non-cloud hybrid solutions such as traditional hosting, managed services, and colocation.

For a more in-depth preview of this report, please join Forrester VP and Principal Analyst John Rymer and myself for a client webinar on this Forrester Wave Tuesday, June 18th. You can register for this call here