AWS beats Rackspace and Microsoft in 451 Research's top IaaS provider poll

Amazon Web Services (AWS) tops 451 Research’s poll of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) suppliers, based on how they meets customers' needs

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has come out top in 451 Research’s user poll of the best-performing infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers, based on how well they meet customers' needs.

The analyst house asked 1,500 IT professionals to rank AWS, Microsoft, VMware and Rackspace’s IaaS offerings to see if their marketing promises lived up to the level of service users received in their real-world deployments.

This data was used to compile 451 Research’s Vendor Window report, which draws on providers’ enterprise adoption levels and customer feedback, to rank their overall performance. 

AWS was highly praised by respondents, with 451 Research claiming the firm received lots of positive feedback from users about its ability to meet their needs – both from an experience and technical innovation perspective.

Overall, 57% of respondents used AWS's products, making its offerings the most widely used among those polled. Furthermore, 35% claimed the company is the “most important” IaaS provider their organisation uses.

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Communication and customer focus

Speaking to Computer Weekly at the AWS Summit in London earlier today, Ian Massingham, AWS’s head of UK evangelism, said the company prides itself on having an open and responsive approach to customer care.

He cited the recent work the company had undertaken to upgrade the software and security tools underpinning its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service.

“No-one wants to be in a situation where you have to interrupt services for customers, but it’s also critical that customers are secured from one another and know their data is secure,” Massingham said.

“We’re very proactive about communicating to customers in that type of scenario and dealing with it in an upfront manner even if it does mean they might suffer a short outage or disruption to service.”

Massingham said the company went to great lengths to ensure the people it hires have the same level of commitment to customer focus.

“It’s in everything we do, not just AWS. It’s in our DNA and we’re very focused on this when we hire people into the company. Do they have evidence of customer obsession and putting customers before themselves in previous roles?” he said.

“If you talk to AWS customers, it’s very unusual to find someone who’s had long-term dissatisfaction with AWS and, if something has gone wrong, the most important mark for a company that positions itself as customer-centric is how they respond to that.

“We’ve got a pretty get a track record on that.” 

Rackspace delivers service-level agreements

Despite trailing behind AWS in market adoption, Rackspace’s ability to fulfil its customers’ IaaS needs was also highly commended by users, with many citing its ability to deliver on its service-level agreements (SLA) promises.

Jeff Cotten, managing director of international operations at Rackspace, said the firm was pleased with the outcome of the report. He pointed to the managed nature of its cloud as the reason why it scored so highly.

“Rackspace aims to differentiate itself from competitors by going beyond standard levels of support, playing an advisory role for our customers in many cases. We become an extended part of their own IT teams. By combining this with our industry-leading SLAs, I believe we provide a compelling offering that will retain existing customers and attract new business,” he said.

Microsoft calls Gartner to witness stand

Conversely, Microsoft and VMware fared less well, with respondents accusing the pair of overpromising and underdelivering users' service levels.

Microsoft ranked second in the enterprise adoption stakes, with 42% of respondents saying they used it, but ranked lower than the other providers overall because of its scant support for open-source software and the overall customer experience it offers.

Microsoft hit back at 451 Research’s findings by emphasising how keenly adopted its IaaS platform, Azure, has been among enterprises.

“We have seen strong pick-up of Microsoft Azure by customers, which speaks to the differentiated value that Azure provides across hyper-scale infrastructure, hybrid and enterprise-grade experiences,” said the company.

It said 57% of the Fortune 500 uses the technology, and 10,000 new customers sign up to use the platform each week.

“For a deeper evaluation of how Microsoft's IaaS technology compares to other vendors, I would encourage you to read the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, in which Microsoft is positioned in the Leader Quadrant,” it said.

Competition rises as cloud matures

However, Michelle Bailey, senior-vice president of digital infrastructure and data strategy at 451 Research, said the results showed just how competition in the IaaS market was growing.

“While the 2015 Vendor Window for IaaS shows Amazon Web Services as the clear leader based on multiple metrics, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace and VMware’s vCloud Air are becoming competitive challengers,” she said.

“As more mainstream customers move business-critical workloads to cloud environments, the decision criteria for evaluating potential vendors change relative to early cloud adopters, and in turn so do the vendors under consideration.”

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