SAN FRANCISCO—To hear its executives explain it, Google has been doing cloud computing a long time. The company just waited until recently to build a business around it.
For years, Google was doing fine running the world’s biggest search engine and raking in billions of dollars in advertising. But as it grew it realized it needed a new architecture that was fast, scalable, flexible and manageable enough to handle vast amounts of data. The problem was the technology didn’t exist to do that, so Google had to build it from scratch.
In the early 2000s, “Google was exactly like today’s enterprise,” Brendan Burns, senior software engineer at Google, said here at the Google Cloud Platform Next 2016 conference. “Every app had its own machine, it was hard to scale and painful to operate.”
Google built leading-edge technology to run its business and contributed much of it to the open-source community. Now Google sees the opportunity to bring it to customers. “We have finally invented the Internet operating system by meeting you [the enterprise] where you are,” said Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent Alphabet.
The story isn’t that much different from Amazon, which originally built out Amazon Web Services from the technology running its retail business. The difference is that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw a business opportunity where Google didn’t—or didn’t yet have to.
Now AWS, Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM and Oracle have forced Google’s hand. Although the technology powering its data centers is the best in the world, Google is way behind all of them in customers and revenue. It will take time to show results, but Google will catch up eventually. More to the point, the enterprise will catch up to Google.
Despite what Schmidt said, most enterprises are not ready for what Google is offering, which is massively scalable and based on containers. We have seen this already with AWS. Customers cannot simply “lift and shift” to the cloud, not without help from trained consultants like Cloud Technology Partners (CTP).
There is no magic fairy dust to move an enterprise into the cloud. The specialists who have been moving customers into AWS know this. It takes good old-fashioned business strategy to make it work. “You need to start with a proven method, start small, iterate and learn,” said Mike Kavis, vice president and principal architect at CTP, speaking on a panel here.
What Google Cloud can do very well right now for customers is run large, data-intensive, scalable applications, such as big data or digital effects processing. Two special effects companies, ConductorIO and Atomic Fiction, used Google Cloud to render images of the World Trade Center and New York City in the Oscar-nominated movie “The Walk,” about Philippe Petit’s famous high-wire act between the Twin Towers in 1974.
Google Declares Its Cloud Platform Is Ready for the Enterprise
What made Joseph Gordon Leavitt’s walk so convincing is the detail provided in the special effects. The renderings need massive amounts of compute power, storage and bandwidth. Local systems can take as long as two days to render one frame of a movie among hundreds of thousands of frames.
Rendering in Google Cloud cut that time to minutes, and the on-demand capability meant the firms spent much less on provisioning. Still, the 30 minutes of effects in “The Walk” took 9.1 million compute core-hours to render, said Monique Bradshaw, vice president of business development & operations at Conductor IO.
Another customer, Telstra, is Australia’s largest ISP and mobile operator, with 20 million customers, 5 billion ad impressions a month and 3TB of traffic data to analyze. Google’s own DoubleClick for Publishers could not handle anything other than the most basic analytics. But with the BigQuery SQL data warehouse, “we stopped worrying about infrastructure, reduced costs and turned days into seconds,” said Pablo Caif, a Google Developer Expert for Shine Technologies, who worked on the project.
That was a point reiterated several times at the conference. Google has abstracted away so much of the Internet computer that it’s OK to not worry what applications are running on or where. In this sense, Google is much more than just an infrastructure public cloud. It’s a platform as a service for cloud apps.
So the technology is there, but until Google put Diane Greene in charge of the cloud business last November, there was no business around the technology. The former co-founder of VMware will change that. She said customers are starting to come to Google Cloud Platform for “better value, reduced risk and access to innovation.” Google says it’s a better value than what the other guys offer because of per-minute pricing.
That will appeal to businesses that are still formulating cloud strategies. What really matters is business problems that can be solved by cloud applications. Customers now have many choices in cloud computing. That in itself makes things more confusing for CIOs, but it’s a good problem to have.
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.