Google takes aim at AWS - now it must convince CIOs it is right cloud for the enterprise

The user conference saw customer announcements, new features and expansion of its data centre regions all targeted at luring big businesses.

It is an area Google has lagged in so far. While it undoubtedly has some of the most advanced technologies - typically created to run its immense internal data centre operations - Google Cloud Platform has generally been more attractive to startups and the most technology-centric businesses.

Simply put, Google’s main selling point has been access to its innovative technologies, but for many IT leaders prioritise other factors such as manageability that AWS has excelled at.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai used his keynote presentation to attempt to change these perceptions.

“We don’t think of this as technology just for Silicon Valley,” he told attendees. “We want this to be for every developer and every business no matter what size or location.”

His ambitions were backed up a string of customer wins in the run up to Cloud Next in San Francisco. Senior execs highlighted Disney, Coca Cola and Home Depot as new customers, though there was no mention of reports of Apple moving some of its systems to Google’s cloud.

It also made numerous of announcements at the event to boost its enterprise credentials:

  • Expansion of its data centre network globally. Starting with Oregon, US, and Tokyo, Japan, Google plans to set up 12 new facilities by the end of 2017.
  • Partnerships with BMC, Pivotal, Red Hat, SAP, Splunk and others to integrate software with GCP, as well as joining up with systems integrators such as Accenture and PwC to help enterprise businesses start to move workloads to the cloud.
  • Audit Logging toolsare due to launch in May to help track usage of GCP. Google Stackdriver was also unveiled, offering businesses a unified tool for logging, monitoring and diagnostics for applications on AWS and Google's cloud.
  • Other enterprise feature including identity access management, encryption keys and improved networking functionality.

Ocado Technologies general manager, James Donkin, said there is now greater “alignment to enterprise features” from Google.

“Identity management is hugely important to us and fine grain access control…it is stuff that we have been interested in for a while now,” he told ComputerworldUK.

Donkin, who is also an AWS customer, says that Google is having to play catch up with its rival in terms of enterprise features, but is making good progress.

“AWS has the advantage that it had identity management there from very early,” he said.

“So every time they bring out a new product it is already there and they just slot it into the programme. Google had to retrofit it everywhere. So this [IAM] release brings them up to the level where every item they release a new product the identity service is in.”

Despite these improvements, Google has some way to go to beat AWS. Its rival has been hugely successful in convincing companies in what would generally considered more conservative industries, than say, an online giant such as Spotify.

Google is currently a small player, at least in relation to Microsoft and AWS, the latter of which recorded sales of $8 billion during 2015. In comparison, Google’s cloud reportedly drew in $500 million.

IT leaders have not been convinced by its offerings so far. According to a survey of 112 CIOs by Piper Jaffray earlier this year, the number planning to use AWS grew from 33 percent to 35 percent. Meanwhile those showing interest in Google Cloud Platform fell from 14 to seven percent.

But it is making the right moves.

Hiring former VMware CEO Diane Greene to lead cloud strategy was always going to be a good decision on Google’s part - she has immense expertise in convincing enterprises to move to new technologies. She also looks set to galvanise Google’s sales teams to attract more big customers.

In addition to this, Google is well placed as the the fight between cloud vendors starts to move away from storage and basic compute services, and up the stack to databases, analytics tools and machine learning. This is where Google has a strong set of products such as its BigQuery and DataProc tools, as well as its impressive AI capabilities.

Clearly the company has its priorities right in terms of catering to an enterprise audience. And it has big ambitions. Google's Urs Holze stated that the cloud business could outgrow Google’s ad business revenues within five years.

These are lofty aims, but most would agree that public cloud adoption is really in its infancy. Gartner analysts predict that global infrastructure as a service sales will jump 22 percent in the next year, reaching $22 billion. The reality is that a tiny fraction of applications are yet running in the cloud.

Google still needs to prove that it can execute on its enterprise strategy, but get this right and AWS will really have something to worry about.


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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