Analyst Opinion: Analyzing the Gartner Magic Quadrant

Gartner recently released its Magic Quadrant for storage. While I don’t always agree with their positioning, it is a reasoned analysis and I’m sure they can defend the various positioning of vendors they are tracking. It also gives other analyst firms like Storage Switzerland an opportunity to reflect and comment.

What is the Magic Quadrant?

Graphs in plane geometry have four quadrants and two axes, with each point being defined by a set of Cartesian coordinates (an x and y value). Gartner positions vendors on the x-axis based on their ability to execute a certain strategy or “vision”. This is a combination of marketing, operations and engineering capabilities. A vendor’s ranking along the y-axis is based on the “completeness” of that vision. This is a combination of how accurately they’ve determined the market’s needs, how well their products address those needs and what their plans are for the future.

Gartner actually subdivides the first quadrant (positive x and y values) into four sections. The lower left is for niche players, the upper left is for challengers, the lower right is for visionaries, and the upper right is for leaders, companies which have earned high values for both vision and ability to execute.

The vendor community puts a lot, and I mean a lot, of effort into being placed in the upper right of the quadrant. Of course what matters most is the importance that end-users place on Gartner’s assessment. In my experience enterprises tend to treat the Gartner quadrant with a fair amount of respect so analyzing the rankings is indeed important.

The Leaders

In the leader section of the quadrant this year Gartner placed EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, HP and NetApp as the top four vendors. In my opinion Gartner provides a lot of credit for historical execution, hence the reason that the top four are household names, at least within storage circles. What’s most interesting in this group is the move of HDS to the number two position – as determined by how far “up and to the right” their point is on the graph. This move, I think, was influenced by HDS’ significant product announcements and vendor acquisitions over the past year to 18 months. They have also clearly broken away from the pack and are running much closer to EMC than any other vendor. For the enterprise and large business HDS deserves strong consideration. They have always been known for their high quality storage hardware and now the software capabilities of their solutions are helping them earn that number two spot.

The other two companies in the leadership quadrant are IBM and Dell. Franky it’s no surprise that IBM is there, and I think their strong positioning of Storwize and San Volume Controller are making an impact. Dell being in this quadrant is a surprise and it’s important to note that they are the highest ranked private company. Their recent Compellent announcements are, well, compelling.

In our next column we will take a look at the Visionary quadrant, which is full of interesting startups all positioning to be the next “big thing” in storage.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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2 comments on “Analyst Opinion: Analyzing the Gartner Magic Quadrant
  1. Henry PAN says:

    Saluting George,

    Can’t wait to see your next analysis on the storage MQ:>)

    Thanks + Happy Holidays

    Henry PAN

  2. Sean says:

    Interesting. I used to follow the Gartner Magic Quadrant a few years ago; I previously worked in marketing at Fujitsu and Sun. The MQ is thought-provoking when used well but too often is used simple as a blunt filter.

    In reality Gartner makes judgement calls (most of which I agree with). One of the challenges in the MQ is that, by being presented in the form of a graph, there is an implicit assumption that they are scientific and based (exclusively) on hard data. The reality is different. Despite this, I found that in general GG made fair judgements.

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