Sep 1 2011   6:55PM GMT

Which cloud computing vendors will end up on top?

Christina Torode Christina Torode Profile: Christina Torode

Gartner analyst David Mitchell Smith made one thing clear when he gave an overview of the leading cloud computing vendors during a recent webinar. He was not endorsing any of them.

But it was obvious that Gartner is placing its bets on a few technology companies — namely Microsoft and VMware — as the contenders for the title of top cloud-computing vendor.

More specifically, the two vendors are in prime positions to become leaders in the enterprise and cloud computing space, Smith said, adding that they are not “shoo-ins”; they just have more comprehensive offerings than some of the other players.

“The two are perceived already as leaders in cloud services and enterprise software and systems,” he said. “Both are well entrenched in the enterprise — VMware with its virtualization software, and Microsoft with SQL Server, Exchange and other things. Both are by far the most aggressive in terms of moving to a cloud services model.”

Smith categorized potential leaders based on the types of cloud services they offer, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS); whether they are a cloud services “enabler” or “provider” (more on what that means below); and whether they offer public or private cloud services.

Here’s Smith’s take on where some cloud computing vendors stand, in no particular order:


  • Has software that is used widely in enterprises.
  • Is an enabler and provider: Its software and services are used by other providers to offer cloud services (the Windows Azure platform), and the company itself provides cloud services, such as Office 365.
  • Is a public and private cloud provider: Windows Azure provides public cloud services and the Hyper-V virtualization system, and its System Center IT management product line and a coming Azure appliance are products used in the design of private clouds.
  • Is an IaaS and PaaS provider: Azure spans both IaaS and PaaS, as well as SQL Server; and AppFabric is PaaS middleware.


  • Is well established in the enterprise because of its virtualization software.
  • Is more an enabler than a provider.
  • Spans public and private clouds: Its products are used by cloud providers and enterprises to build cloud infrastructures.
  • Is moving higher up the chain into PaaS through acquisitions, such as the purchase of SpringSource, to develop its vFabric Cloud Application Platform.
  • Is entering the SaaS space with its Zimbra, Socialcast and SlideRocket acquisitions.

“Overall, VMware has a good strategy that is bringing the company beyond infrastructure. They are much more complicated and visionary now — if you haven’t paid attention to them in the last couple years, significantly moving beyond their virtualization roots,” Smith said.

  • Is a public cloud IaaS player.
  • Has some PaaS offerings, such as elasticity for memory caching, but its PaaS services “do not add up to a comprehensive PaaS offering,” he said.
  • Offers cloud services in addition to its mainstay retail business.

“Amazon is perceived as the pioneer in cloud,” Smith said. “You bring your own [technology] to this [Amazon cloud] world, and are responsible for everything above the bare metal, such as for the OS and middleware. That’s what makes them different from others offering a higher-level IaaS model.”

  • Is purely a public cloud provider.
  • Is a SaaS applications pioneer for customer relationship management, or CRM, and is expanding this with such offering as the social media app Chatter.
  • Is a PaaS pioneer with


  • Provides only a public cloud.
  • The heart of the company and its revenue is search and advertising, which creates 97% of its revenue. “They have huge processing power and storage, and are free to experiment with secondary strategies,” Smith said.
  • Has SaaS offerings, such as Google Docs.
  • Has the PaaS layer covered with Google App Engine.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard:

  • Are both cloud enablers and providers. They have product groups that build hardware and software that are used in public and private clouds.
  • Are both cloud providers, given their large services organizations and history of offering outsourcing and hosting services.
  • IBM is more focused on building private clouds with WebSphere CloudBurst, and has technology that can be used in IaaS and Paas offerings.
  • IBM has a PaaS hosted-software partnership with
  • IBM is a cloud integration player through its acquisition of Cast Iron.
  • IBM has the LotusLive SaaS offering.

“Hewlett-Packard mirrors IBM in many ways, but is a year or so behind them,” Smith said.

  • Hewlett-Packard is a cloud enabler, targeting private cloud build-outs, with its converged infrastructure offerings and CloudSystem for private and public cloud environments.
  • Hewlett-Packard has cloud automation services based on its competency in management services.
  • Hewlett-Packard is working with Microsoft to deploy the Windows Azure appliance, making the partnership a PaaS player.

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email: Christina Torode, News Director.

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