Jan Brass Takes a Hard Look at the Cloud

What Does Google Have to do to Get Serious About the Cloud?

Is Google Making a Half-Hearted Attempt on the Cloud?If asked about the contenders in the cloud services industry, most people are likely to reply that it is a three-way race between Google, Amazon and Microsoft. After all these three organizations are constantly leapfrogging one another in terms of features, slashing prices and offering innovative new services.

Amazon is by far the leader in this field and is performing well enough to break out cloud revenue numbers separately in its quarterly reports. Microsoft on the other hand is finally getting serious about the cloud and it has the clout in the enterprise segment to push customers towards its own portfolio. It is reasonable to expect that Google – a company built on cloud services, analytics and search – will also be a top contender and have a serious strategy in place.

However a closer look at the recent Google announcements and the company’s activities would seem to indicate otherwise. The company is the least transparent regarding its cloud service revenue and investors do not even know if the company is making any profit at all from its myriad offerings. The majority of Google’s customers appear to be cloud startups and not established enterprises who seem to prefer Amazon or Microsoft for deploying their hybrid clouds.

In fact Google’s strategy baffles analysts and most suspect that the company is not actually serious about leveraging its expertise in this field. The company has a free version of Google Apps which is quite popular among businesses but its financial reports do not reveal the exact numbers regarding paying customers and the financial viability of the service. While experts agree that Google’s cloud can be easier to use than AWS and its pricing structure is more transparent, they also feel that it lacks differentiation.

For instance, Amazon leverages its influence amongst the developer community and offers plenty of options – whether it is about prices, features, services or options. Microsoft has a lot of weight among enterprise customers who already use some Microsoft service or the other. The company provides an excellent hybrid cloud offering that would be the preferred alternative for these businesses. In direct contrast, the cloud division at Google appears to be rudderless and have no clear direction.

In a recent interview, the vice president of Google’s cloud platform said that analytics would be the focus of the company going forward1. While that sounds reasonable – after all Google is known for its expertise in analysis and crunching big data – it doesn’t set it apart from a field of competitors who are also playing the analytics trump card. Google may say that it will focus on analytics but so far there have been no big announcements or a parade of impressive customers.

Predictions regarding the cloud strategy of Google are of great importance to its customers – both current and prospective. After all, no business likes to find out that a key partner is likely to pull out or shut down a service that they have already committed to using, least of all one they rely on to power crucial apps or infrastructure.

1. Published in Computerworld, June 2015

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