Google Cloud Platform scores Spotify. Is the plan coming together?

It's always tempting to put changes in how a vendor performs down to an executive change. When it comes to Google's public cloud ambitions, it might just be justified.

With news last week that high-profile music streaming service Spotify had decided to move its currently on-premises infrastructure to Google's Cloud Platform public cloud offering, Google got a much-needed endorsement from a high-profile customer.

The announcement was regarded by many as Google's "Netflix moment." To explain, Netflix has historically been the case study upon which Amazon Web Services drove much of its growth. Like Spotify, Netflix formerly ran its own infrastructure but several years ago made the decision to shift, over time, to AWS. The notion of it being better to let a vendor at scale manage your infrastructure while you focused on core business played right into the hands of AWS specifically and, by extension, the other public cloud vendors.

But here's the thing. Google had been sorely missing a case study of the scale, scope and pedigree of Netflix. With Spotify, the company may have found it. True, Spotify has some workloads on AWS, and sources tell me that Spotify isn't planning to shift these workloads off AWS. But the fact that the decision to shift the on-premises workloads to Google, as opposed to AWS, is a pretty major move.

This move comes soon after the appointment of VMware co-founder and former CEO Diane Greene to the role of head of all things cloud at Google. While it is always tempting to put a reversal in fortunes down to one person, and in doing so ignore the core competence that has been built over many years, Greene is very much seen as the key ingredient to moving Google from a potential cloud player to an actual one.

As I've said before, Google has the engineering talent and the scale to be a massively important public cloud vendor. What it lacked was all the non-technology stuff -- Google was always hampered by an arrogance that assumed it didn't need to play by the usual enterprise rules. While it is early days, this announcement and the changes that Greene is making suggest that those days may be coming to an end.

To add insult to what must be seen as something of an injury to AWS, Spotify's head of engineering and infrastructure, Nicholas Harteau, in announcing this move also said, "Operating our own data centers may be a pain, but the core cloud services were not at a level of quality, performance and cost that would make cloud a significantly better option for Spotify in the long run." The inference is that only Google has reached a level that meets Spotify's needs.

Of course, it would be naive to think that there wasn't a pretty serious amount of negotiating in all of this and that both AWS and Microsoft weren't also pitching for the work. One can only imagine what sort of a deal Google cut Spotify to get its business. One thing's for sure: Spotify was offered a deal so sweet and compelling that it couldn't resist. Obviously, Google needed to tick the functional boxes that Spotify had but, beyond that, I suspect it came down to economics and negotiated deals more than anything else.

Commercials notwithstanding, this is a huge win for Google heading into its Cloud Platform-specific conference next month.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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