Google Cloud Platform - Momentum gathers

It’s fair to say that the cloud IaaS/PaaS world has thus far been dominated by AWS, and Microsoft are now recognised by most as the second "horse in the race" with their ever evolving Azure offering. I spent some time down at the Excel centre in London this past week at the Google Cloud Next event, to get a closer view of Google’s plans for Google’s Cloud Plaform (GCP) for the coming years - and to see how they can help bring value to our customers.

The event

The first thing to say is that interest in Google Cloud is definitely growing. The last such event I attended in London was at least half the size, possibly smaller - I’d estimate there were around 4,000 people in London - which is encouraging. I should also note that the event covers all of Google’s Cloud offering. From a Cloudreach perspective, I’m primarily interested in GCP as opposed to the Android, Chrome, Maps and GSuite solutions. In general, the crowd was more balanced towards technology than business. Google themselves estimated around two-thirds of attendees were developers, with 10% executives and the remainder managers at various levels. This tech bias is both an opportunity and a weakness for Google.

Selling to the Enterprise

Technology companies, and developers in general, have always had a close affinity to Google. Companies such as Snap and Spotify are well known users of GCP, and two of Google’s largest committed spenders. This is in part driven by Google’s world class infrastructure when it comes to data centre performance and low international latencies, but is also likely driven by significant use of Google App Engine - which is well integrated to other Google services. Open sourcing of major projects like Kubernetes and TensorFlow certainly doesn’t hurt them either. Taking Kubernetes as an example, it has made a significant impact on container adoption and has now become the #1 container orchestration solution out there.

The weakness Google has historically had has been "selling to the enterprise", i.e. getting the biggest spending companies on the planet to adopt their tech at scale. As I’ve written previously, it still makes me weep that Google Apps (now GSuite) was so far ahead of it’s time, but didn’t have the impact on the world that it could have done back in 2011. Not repeating that is a challenge Google know they need to solve.

The opening keynote - and credit to Google they brought in some big hitters with Sebastien Marotte and Diane Greene - highlighted this push towards bigger clients and included a short presentation from HSBC (who are about as ‘enterprisey’ as you can get).

Core messaging

I felt the keynote wasn’t as slick as it could be - if I were betting, I’d say the autocue was broken, but still, that doesn’t take away from the core messaging which I’d summarise as:

  • We’re ready for the enterprise, and for Windows workloads and development teams
  • We’re investing massively in technology at approx $10bn/year
  • We’re investing massively in our go to market team to sell to enterprises
  • You get access to the same tech as Google runs our core services on
  • We have the edge in analytics and machine learning
  • We’re the cheaper cloud offering for your business

I’d like to pick up on few of those points for a moment:

  • On the tech investment side, it’s clear Google (like their competitors) are spending a lot. Their data centre map looks a little bare in parts currently, but the newly announced regions will change that significantly this year
  • The recruitment side is now a pretty brutal war. There are probably 10,000+ jobs available right now across AWS, Azure and Google on the cloud side - the skilled people simply don’t exist in the numbers they all need and want
  • On the topic of pricing, sustained use discounts and per minute billing are impressive - albeit not new to Google. The bold statements made about being generally 60% cheaper are perhaps overly bullish, but given my comments above, I actually like to see that from Google.

Big announcements?

Well, there weren’t any - but in fairness I wasn’t really expecting any given this isn’t a flagship event as such. I was however hoping for a more bullish keynote, perhaps with a repeat of some recent Q&A comments from Diane Greene where she claimed Google could be ahead of AWS in five years. That’s the kind of ambition they will need, and I think they need to be 100% clear on their differentiation message.

Sessions

I attended several interesting breakouts, primarily tech focused, and delivered well by people like Brian Dorsey, Ram Ramanathan and Bret McGowen.

My impression is that Google are on the right track regarding Serverless computing (with Functions), albeit like the rest of the world, they have a way to go in order to catch AWS in terms of mindset adoption and maturity at least. On the Analytics & Machine Learning side, I think they are leading on the technology proposition - and with a few big enterprise references, could really make a big dent in the market. If you want to have some fun in this area, take a look here: playground.tensorflow.org .

I also attended some interesting partner focused breakout sessions. Google remain very focused on partners (although the ecosystem needs more depth to it), which is obviously great from our perspective. Messaging around "triple digit growth" was well received by my ears.

The three horse race

The next few years are going to be interesting. The IaaS wars have already been won (well done AWS). The enterprise wars are really only just starting to take shape, as are those around Serverless, and Machine Learning. Predicting 5 years out isn’t easy, but would a bookie bet against AWS as the dominant player? No…. But don’t forget that the IT market is huge. There is room for 3 large players, and this will force competitive evolution at a pace not seen for some years. I believe that Google can take a significant stake in the enterprise cloud space if they continue to invest, continue to tell the world how they are different, and continue to capitalise on the momentum that is building. Cloudreach can’t wait to get stuck in.   For more posts by Chris Bunch, click here

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