Here's Who Made Gartner's 2015 Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting Magic Quadrant

An Orderly Cloud

Some like their cloud services rough-and-ready -- just an amalgam of raw resources available to be customized into any IT environment the user's heart fancies.

But many businesses want a more managed touch. They want a cloud provider who brings to the table a management platform for rapid, self-service provisioning, taking some of the headache out of deploying workloads on virtual machines.

For use cases like e-business hosting, web-based business application hosting and enterprise application hosting, managed services are a popular option for getting a handle on underlying cloud infrastructure. But even a managed cloud comes with a number of constraints, conditions, qualifications and considerations that VARs and end-customers must keep in mind.

The 19 providers that made the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for cloud-enabled managed hosting all have areas of strength, but also shortcomings customers should know.


The Gartner Magic Quadrant ranks cloud vendors on two criteria: Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision.

Execution is represented on the Y-axis of Gartner's chart, and vision on the X-axis. That lands competitors into one of four quadrants on the chart: Niche Players (low in both criteria), Visionaries (complete vision but lacking execution), Challengers (good execution but lacking vision), and Leaders (excelling in both vision and execution).

Among the 19 providers evaluated this year, only Rackspace and Datapipe landed in the Leader quadrant.

Leader: Rackspace

Since taking itself off the market last year, Rackspace has doubled-down on its Managed Cloud strategy, and the San Antonio-based cloud and hosting provider has staked out the top spot against all comers in both criteria evaluated by Gartner: ability to execute and completeness of vision.


Strengths: "Rackspace has a deep-rooted cultural focus on providing superior, high-touch customer service. Gartner clients consistently report high levels of satisfaction with Rackspace in their day-to-day operations, and customer loyalty is strong," Gartner noted.

Gartner also called attention to Rackspace's longtime position of leadership in managed hosting and willingness to adapt its business model to meet changing market demand. That's evident with a new partnership through which Rackspace will offer support for Microsoft Azure and other third-party platforms.

Cautions: Rackspace has more experience than anyone offering managed hosting, but still has no data centers west of Texas. West Coast customers might want to consider latency issues.

Managing third-party providers, like Microsoft, will present new challenges, such as not being able to physically access infrastructure supporting customer environments.

Leader: Datapipe

This midsize hosting provider based in New Jersey offers managed services across a large network of its own data centers built on CloudStack technology. A close partnership with IaaS leader Amazon Web Services allows Datapipe to offer an even broader managed cloud.


Strengths: Datapipe, as an AWS Premier partner, has done more than just about any rival to integrate its infrastructure with a hyperscale cloud. It recently expanded that capability to Microsoft Azure.

At the same time, Datapipe's own infrastructure has a global footprint -- including mainland China -- that benefits multinational clients.

Acquisitions of Layered Tech and GoGrid have broadened the platform.

Cautions: Datapipe can be a little more expensive than its competitors because of its focus on higher-touch service levels, Gartner noted.

Because Datapipe treats all workloads as production-level, some clients may be overpaying for particular use cases.

Visionaries: CenturyLink

The global telecom headquartered in Monroe, Louisiana, operates data centers across North America, Europe and Asia, from which it offers managed cloud, colocation and traditional managed hosting services.

CenturyLink is inching up against the Leaders quadrant. A slightly more favorable evaluation of its ability to execute will bridge the gap.


Strengths: Gartner commends CenturyLink for "breaking the link" between infrastructure and services "that has been a mainstay of the hosting market."

That allows CenturyLink to automate provisioning of servers, giving customers rapid access to fully managed services with granular billing.

CenturyLink is rolling its many legacy platforms into a single IaaS offering that customers can access through several delivery methods, with intuitive interfaces to boot.

Cautions: Gartner clients report "uneven" quality of customer service in recent years, although they tell of improvement.

A practice of limiting SLA credits with a maximum cap, regardless of length or number of failures, is an unusual practice some customers might find offputting.

Visionaries: IBM

IBM offers a number of managed hosting options throughout its global network of data centers, using multiple hypervisors to optimize application performance, all integrated into the SoftLayer data center network.

Any regression on the Completeness of Vision axis and Big Blue risks finding itself in the Niche Player quadrant.


Strengths: IBM's Cloud Managed Services platform, well-suited for core enterprise applications, enables hybrid cloud building through SoftLayer integration capabilities.

IBM also is unique in offering a turnkey on-premises version of its platform. The platform's user interface allows a high level of control over management options and compliance checking.

Cautions: IBM's Cloud Managed Services platform is provisioned slower than some competitors because IBM engineers "mediate" the process, reviewing and approving requests for new instances. And because of Big Blue's security management measures, users usually don't have full administrative access.

Niche Players: FireHost

FireHost, a small provider headquartered in Richardson, Texas, is laser-focused on security.

FireHost operates data centers in two North American markets, as well as in Europe and Asia.


Strengths: "FireHost has invested significantly in developing its own cloud management system, and has paid special attention to making sure that its overall security features are well-integrated into the platform and user interfaces," according to Gartner.

That makes FireHost a good choice for security-focused customers looking for a global network of production-grade virtual servers.

Cautions: The standard terms of FireHost's SLA doesn't offer credits until many hours of downtime have transpired. And FireHost's default backups are challenging for customers familiar with file-based systems, Gartner noted.

FireHost advises customers on how to leverage its platform to recover from disasters, but makes no guarantees of the kind customers with high-compliance workloads require.

Niche Players:

This midsize provider based in Denver, Colorado has a strong North American presence through which it offers managed hosting and colocation services for Linux and Windows.


Strengths: With a strong emphasis on health care and HIPAA compliance, guarantees auditors will be satisfied.

The provider also offers innovative disaster recovery management capabilities through its customer portal, with real-time views on the status of data replication and recovery-points.

Cautions: Hosting wants to become a unified managed cloud provider across multiple clouds, including AWS and Microsoft Azure.

"However, delivering a unified experience to customers will require a significant amount of engineering, which historically, the company has been slow to deliver," Gartner noted.

Because it lacks an international presence, American multinationals might find themselves limited on the platform.

Niche Players: NTT Communications

This Japanese telecom, part of the expansive NTT Group, operates data centers in two U.S. markets, as well as in Europe and Asia.

NTT Communications offers cloud and traditional managed hosting, as well as colocation services to global customers.

NTT Communications

Strengths: NTT is a good choice for customers who need significant capacity coordination between North America and Asia, where the provider has a long track record in the market.

With its software-defined networking, NTT delivers complex network solutions for customers with unique workload requirements along with managed security and application management services.

Cautions: NTT's adaptive SLAs can be challenging for customers to evaluate. And while the provider is adding back-end automation tools to its managed services, the user interfaces for its Enterprise Cloud aren't as complete as most rivals.

Niche Players: SingleHop

SingleHop, a small hosting and cloud IaaS provider headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, made the managed cloud Magic Quadrant for the first time this year.

SingleHop operates data centers in three metropolitan markets in North America and also has a facility in Europe.

The recent acquisition of Datagram added a colocation component to SingleHop's offerings.


Strengths: SingleHop is a young company that has been able to grow its capabilities quickly. It's already established a track record of focusing on infrastructure automation, and the provider is bringing that approach to its managed services capabilities while also beefing up DevOps automation capabilities.

SingleHop's "SLA report card" is a unique way of bringing transparency to an SLA guarantee.

Cautions: SingleHop doesn't provide much detail in its documentation, according to Gartner. Customers will probably need to take some time to figure out how the provider manages its operating systems, databases and Web servers.

SingleHop's managed services also tend to focus on newer platform stacks, sometimes lacking support for more traditional enterprise platforms.

Niche Players: Sungard Availability Services

A large IT availability and business continuity provider headquartered in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Sungard Availability Services operates data centers across North America and Europe.

Sungard brings to market cloud-enabled managed hosting, in addition to colocation and traditional managed hosting services.

Sungard Availability Services

Strengths: Gartner noted that Sungard is a good choice for organizations that need to host workloads with complex availability and recovery needs due to its SLA-backed recovery-as-a-service capabilities.

Sungard is planning an expansion of its managed and recovery services to hyperscale clouds like AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Cautions: In the process of shifting from CloudStack to OpenStack IaaS-enablement software, Sungard customers could notice stability and migration problems. That shift will also consume Sungard engineering resources that could have been applied to building higher-level capabilities.

Sungard's managed cloud also requires more human intervention in provisioning instances than most other providers, and is accessed through multiple portals that vary by region, making it hard for customers to get a unified global view of their deployed assets.

Challengers: Verizon

Telecom giant Verizon offers a complex array of cloud services across multiple platforms.

Verizon operates data centers in five metropolitan markets in North America, and also has facilities in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

If Verizon finds a way to improve on the Completeness of Vision access, it could find itself in the Leaders quadrant.


Strengths: Verizon recently completed a major infrastructure overhaul marked by the launch of Verizon Cloud. The new platform offers a cohesive view of the various managed services and SLAs across what it calls the "cloud spaces" in its larger infrastructure environment.

With additional lines of business like telecommunications and enterprise application outsourcing, Verizon can build broad solutions for customers.

Cautions: Verizon spent so much time developing its new platform that it now lags competitors as far as features. And the provider is still working on bringing all its legacy platforms under the Verizon Cloud umbrella.

"Given that the newest Verizon Cloud platform is still just getting off of the ground, customers should exercise caution with large-scale workloads until the platform has proven its ability to scale," Gartner noted.

Niche Players: Virtustream

Virtustream, a pure-play cloud vendor headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland that will soon join the ranks of the EMC Federation, offers managed cloud services throughout North America and in Europe.


Strengths: The cloud management platform Virtustream developed in-house "has enabled the company to focus on the performance needs of more critical enterprise applications," Gartner noted.

Customers with high-compliance cloud needs might be especially pleased with Virtustream's technical capabilities.

It's also one of the few providers to offer SLAs for storage latency and disaster recovery time objectives, as well as a method of charging customers for computing resources actually used, rather than allocated.

Cautions: While Virtustream does offer some SLA types that many other providers don't, its overall SLA credits don't pay out much.

Users might be disappointed in the lack of adjacent services, like object-based storage and a partnership with a CDN provider.

Challengers: NaviSite

NaviSite is a midsize hosting and cloud IaaS provider headquartered in Andover, Massachusetts.

The Time Warner Cable-owned provider operates cloud data centers in North America and also has facilities in Europe. NaviSite is bundled closely with AT&T on the Magic Quadrant, just barely in the Challengers realm.


Strengths: NaviSite has simplified use of its portal for provisioning, monitoring, managing and backing up virtual machines with just a few clicks. It's also breaking out managed services "into a la carte add-ons that can be individually selected and have granular pricing," according to Gartner.

The provider has a track record in hosting cloud services well-suited for managing complex applications, and a history of offering strong SLAs to its customers.

Cautions: NaviSite can be more expensive than competitors because it bundles lots of managed services into its products. And because it hosts two separate VMware-powered cloud solutions, there might be a long-term hazard of a division in engineering and development investments.

Challengers: AT&T

The telecommunications giant operates data centers across North America, as well as in Europe and Asia.

Any slide on the Ability To Execute axis will drop AT&T into Niche Player status.


Strengths: AT&T's wireless and wireline network, managed security services, cloud solutions and managed application businesses allow customers to leverage a comprehensive outsourcing model far broader than hosting alone.

Cautions: AT&T has slowed its investments in its cloud-enabled managed hosting products this year, Gartner said.

"Overall, AT&T's investment strategy appears to be shifting to focus on solutions that can add value to the company's overall portfolio, instead of trying to match specific infrastructure features available from other competitors in the market," according to Gartner.

Niche Players: Peak 10

Peak 10, a midsize hosting and cloud IaaS provider headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, operates data centers across North America.

Peak 10

Strengths: Peak 10 has focused on developing disaster recovery tools, and isn't afraid to sign a recovery-time-objective SLA, with financial penalties to boot.

The portal offers "rightsizing recommendations" that customers find useful in identifying infrastructure overprovisioning and easing fears of excessive cloud spends.

Cautions: Peak 10 has no international capacity, and lacks data centers west of Tennessee. West Coast users might want to consider latency issues affecting application performance.

Peak 10 also doesn't offer an object-based storage platform or have a partnership with a content delivery network provider.

Niche Player: Zayo

International telecom and colocation provider Zayo Group is a new entrant to the managed cloud hosting market, getting in the game in February through its acquisition of Latisys.

Zayo has integrated its multiple data centers with those Latisys operated in North America and Europe.


Strengths: Zayo's networking and bandwidth capabilities round out the Latisys cloud platform and compile a more complete set of offerings.

The cloud platform offers a consistent set of services available across all its data centers, and customers can use the same management platform for virtualized and bare-metal resources.

Zayo stands behind those offerings with strong SLAs.

Cautions: Because Zayo doesn't allow for granular pricing, dynamic workloads could bring in higher charges than competitors.

Zayo has done a good job in the past of integrating acquisitions, but disruptions during these phases, affecting focus and delivery, are common, Gartner noted.

Niche Player: Dimension Data

Dimension Data, the South African information and communication technology service provider that also has a VAR business, operates data centers in three North American markets as part of its large global footprint.

Owned by NTT Group, Dimension Data "seems to be increasing its reliance on channel and alliance strategies to drive future growth," according to Gartner.

Dimension Data

Strengths: The platform is consistent across all the company's international data centers, as well as with its on-premise cloud products.

"Dimension Data's offerings are one of the few choices for customers looking for a managed infrastructure capability on nearly every continent, and who also may want to have a private in-house capability as well," Gartner noted.

The provider also has a long-history of supporting ISVs looking to distribute their software through a SaaS model.

Cautions: While Dimension Data began the rollout of version 2.0 of its managed cloud platform this past year, for the most part, "the company's overall investments in its IaaS platform have lagged behind the market."

That's resulted in limited capabilities, with no interfaces by which customers can handle incident/change management and patching.

Niche Player: Internap

Internap is a midsize hosting and cloud IaaS provider headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia that operates data centers across North America, as well as in Europe and Asia.

It made the Magic Quadrant for cloud-enabled managed services this year for the first time.


Strengths: Internap's route-optimized bandwidth offerings are often a good choice for users running latency-sensitive applications, according to Gartner.

Internap also operates one of the largest OpenStack public compute deployments, making it a good fit for customers who want an OpenStack-based solution.

Cautions: G artner noted that Internap, with its years of experience operating in the hosting market, still has relatively immature incident and change management processes compared to rivals.

And unlike some competitors, Internap doesn't offer a proactive incident-response SLA with financial penalties.

Niche Player: CSC

Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, CSC is a large system integrator, infrastructure and data center outsourcing firm.

CSC operates data centers in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The company recently announced it will be splitting into two.


Strengths: CSC offers managed cloud as both a hosted service and an on-premise solution with a single-rate-card pricing structure.

The 2013 acquisition of ServiceMesh, which yielded a technology CSC now calls Agility Platform, has allowed CSC to transition toward a multi-cloud integration model "which should bring customers interesting options in multicloud services," according to Gartner.

Cautions: The Agility Platform derived from ServiceMesh splits the company's engineering focus into cloud brokering as well, Gartner noted, anticipating future investments to be more slanted toward the Agility Platform than underlying IaaS capabilities.

"While CSC has technology partners enabling many of its services, it needs to grow a strong value-added partner ecosystem to provide enhanced services seen in many other providers," Gartner said.

The impending division of the company could cause near-term disruptions.

Niche Player: Windstream Hosted Solutions

This division of Windstream Communications, a regional telecom based in Little Rock, Arkansas, operates an extensive network of data centers across North America.

Windstream Hosted Solutions offers managed cloud, colocation and traditional managed hosting. This is its first year on the Magic Quadrant.

Windstream Hosted Solutions

Strengths: "As a carrier, Windstream can cater to customer use cases where end-to-end SLAs (spanning wide-area network and compute) would be required," Gartner said.

Windstream has also embraced Docker, and has adapted quickly to the popularity of Linux containers in the cloud market.

A partnership with Racemi should help the provider simplify migration of on-premises virtual machines to its cloud.

Cautions: The lack of international capacity, or for that matter cloud-enabled managed hosting from any data center west of Little Rock, can limit adoption.

"Customers engaging with Windstream should make sure they have an understanding as to what services the company provides as managed services, versus what may be done as professional services (or what may be performed by third-party partners)," Gartner said.