Last month Gartner released its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service and Web Hosting. The report positioned AT&T, Rackspace, Savvis, Terremark and Verizon as the leaders. Controversially, Amazon.com didn't make the cut as a leader partially because it doesn't offer certain features such as managed hosting or options for hybrid clouds. Amazon.com and many of the other providers ranked are focused on developers and on providing web services, not hosting virtualized enterprise applications such as ERP.

Gartner gauges companies based on several criteria for each Magic Quadrant, and one is usually "completeness of vision." By this measure, Amazon.com does lag some of its competitors. We've also noted that even with the recent price reductions Amazon.com's support is considerably more expensive than its competition. But that doesn't mean it offers a worse service.

When selecting a vendor for anything, whether that's on-premise hardware or SaaS, it's important to assess your specific needs. Many of Amazon.com's customers don't need or want to the services that Gartner notes are absent. Looking at an analyst ranking doesn't give you a customized view of the situation - it gives you a very generalized view.

This doesn't meant there's no value in the reports, but it does mean that there's very little value in just looking at the quadrant graphic. We had a good conversation about the value of the Magic Quadrant reports in particular in the comments of this post.

This thread on Quora dives into how relevant analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester will be in the future. ccLoop CEO Michael Wolfe, makes a great point: "If I want to spend $10m on a piece of enterprise software, I spend $5K on a report written by a single analyst a year ago?" He suggests that what we need is a "Yelp for Enterprise."

Venkatesh Rao suggests LinkedIn could become the Yelp of enterprise. We've written before about how LinkedIn Company Pages can be used to evaluate vendors:

Although we doubt these social network reviews will take place of journalists and analyst firms, it would be nice to have one more way of learning about a company before signing on the dotted line. The challenge for LinkedIn will be keeping recommendations authentic and keeping the whole thing from turning into a giant spam pit.

That remains true today. LinkedIn Pages or some other well-vetted review site for enterprise products and services would make a great compliment to existing resources. Gartner gets customer testimonials while preparing the Magic Quadrant reports. A "Yelp for enterprise" would give decision makers the chance to look at those testimonials directly, decide how relevant the comments are to their organizations and possibly even real customers directly.

Another way analyst firms could evolve is by providing more dynamic information sources to replace or compliment static reports. Although Gartner mentions that it might update the Magic Quadrant reports during the year if there's a significant development, it hardly feels like the reports are up to date. Real-time data - possibly even complimented by aggregating information from multiple "Yelps for enterprise" - could be embedded into reports to keep them fresh.

What do you think? What would make it easier for you to make decisions?