How Google can catch AWS in the cloud race

The cloud race, or cloud wars, as they are being called is still in infancy, and though we have AWS in the lead with a considerable margin, the folks at Google, Diane Greene in particular, seem to think it won’t take them more than five years to catch up. Greene, former founder and CEO of VMware and a director on Google’s board, was named Google Cloud boss (senior vice president of Google cloud business) in November 2015 and has set her sights on the No.1 spot. A recent interview with has her laughing at accusations that Google is not an enterprise company and has been too laid back while competitors pick up lucrative enterprise deals.

Consolidating Google Cloud

Her reply was that ever since she’s taken over, she’s been working on taking the Cloud, the apps, the sales, and marketing side with regards to Maps, Devices, Chrome, and Android, and combining it into one coherent unit. She also mentioned that they’re putting a lot of effort into customer service and doing their best to make sure their engineers are approachable and available to their customers. All in all, this integrates into a very lucrative “broader” story from an enterprise point of view and she points out that now all their focus is on investing in technology and ramping up customer support and services. She ends the Fortune interview still laughing, and between giggles tells us that it’s pretty darn cool that they run close to 7 billion active user apps and are quite excited to show the entire world what they can offer in terms of innovation and technology.

cloud race

The claim to reach that No. 1 spot now firmly occupied by AWS came at a Forbes conference where Greene was said, “I think we have a pretty good shot at being No. 1 in five years.” If believing you can do something is half the game, Google has no shortage of belief that the current cloud situation is temporary — like the lead AWS has. To answer several questions about machine learning and AI, Greene pointed out the acquisitions of DeepMind and Kaggle by Google, as well as noted projects in insurance, satellite imagery, and malware detection where AXA, Airbus and SparkCognition are using Google technology, respectively.

Filling in the empty spots

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Diane Greene (photo: Google)

Google’s $625 million acquisition of API company Apigee is another strong statement that Google has definitely moved its crosshairs to the enterprise and is gearing up to take on AWS in a big way. Google’s strength has always been backend, and it’s doubtful that anyone can crunch numbers better that the search engine juggernaut itself. That being said, Google still lacked a complete tool that connected their backend services to the mobile-first applications of today. In Greene’s words, they had a piece of it but not a full solution like Apigee, and that’s why they were a perfect fit. This isn’t surprising in any way as with the backing of Google, there probably isn’t anything that Greene can’t afford to buy or have developed to reach that five-year goal.

If you look at the rate at which Microsoft — No. 2 in cloud services — is gaining on AWS, what’s clear is that the current situation is just the tip of the iceberg and what matters is how deep a company’s tentacles go into people’s hearts and the enterprise. With Microsoft in particular, they’ve been investing and growing purely off the legacy customers who are just used to using MS Office and the millions of Windows users around the world that have spent their lifetimes using the operating system. That’s tens of thousands of business users that already run Office and Windows in-house who are going to have an affinity to choose Azure as their cloud platform.

Google runs deep

So if Microsoft can bank on people using Windows and Office, what about the millions of G Suite users, billions of Android users, and the total dependency of people on the Google search engine for just about everything. Add the popularity of Chrome and Chrome devices and you’re talking about a lot of people. If Microsoft is throwing its weight around because a lot of people use Office and Windows, can you imagine what will happen when Google starts playing that game?

cloud race

There’s an old Chinese saying that goes like this: If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; and if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people. Educate people is exactly what Google did when they stole the education sector from MS Office ages ago and are now the de facto standard across educational institutions around the world. Yesterday’s students are tomorrow’s enterprise leaders, and Google’s plan to catch them young and watch them grow definitely played out.

If there are any doubts about whether it’s actually possible for Google to do what it’s saying it can in five years, here’s a quick history lesson. Google took over the search engine business almost overnight when people thought the search engine business was done. It’s Gmail then took over personal email when no one really needed to change from Hotmail or RocketMail or whatever it was they were using. Google even signed a “Space Act Agreement” with NASA back in 2006 and now has satellites that are being used to map every road and street in the world. Another point to note is that Google is also always at the cutting edge of AI and deep learning technology and arguably the people who understand containers better than anyone else, judging by the success of Kubernetes.

You can’t underestimate the search engine

Add all the above to the fact that they’re now going out of their way to make their customer service exceptional, and there aren’t a lot of reasons not to go with Google Cloud. How hard can it be for the search engine giant to ramp up data centers, especially since it’s already producing its own AI chips, among other things. According to Greene, this new broad package that includes everything from Google to Chrome to Android to advertising is going to be an “irresistible” option for enterprise cloud customers.

Google has its roots deep in each and everyone of our lives, and none of it is that easy to replace, either. Android users will never get the freedom they are used to from Apple products ,and who is in their right minds is going to use any other search engine except Google? If Kubernetes and Prometheus are examples of how projects just based on Google’s ideas can become the overnight enterprise sensations that they have become, what happens when Google decides to really share their technology with us, all of it?

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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