With Greene Aboard, Google Gets More Serious About Cloud

NEWS ANALYSIS: Google isn't often late to anything, but it was late to the cloud services business. It has catching up to do against AWS, IBM and Microsoft.

SAN FRANCISCO—Diane Greene, co-founder of VMware 19 years ago, made her first public appearance representing her new employer, Google, at the company's March 23 GCP NEXT 2016 here at the cavernous Pier 48 warehouse.

What was the significance of her appearance? Google is signaling to the entire IT world and to Wall Street that it is getting down to serious business in the cloud services and infrastructure markets. This is happening almost exactly 10 years after Amazon sprinted ahead of every other company by launching the first public storage cloud, S3 (Simple Storage Service), on March 14, 2006.

Greene (pictured) hadn't been visible for about eight years, since she was unceremoniously let go from VMware by owner EMC in 2008. Not all the details of the leadership change were for public consumption, but her firing—and subsequent resignation of her VMware co-founder husband, Mendel Rosenblum—followed a serious and lingering culture clash between the old-school East Coast company and the laid-back California firm that still hasn't completely gone away.

Moving Back into the IT Limelight

Greene and Rosenblum took some time off, then moved into the venture capital world. Greene joined the Google board of directors in 2012, then started Bebop, which Google acquired in January for $380 million. Bebop was making what it described as "a development platform that makes it easy to build and maintain enterprise applications." It is likely that Bebop’s IP has been, or eventually will be, subsumed into Google Cloud Platform.

Greene joined Google full-time as a self-professed "Googler wearing one of those propeller heads" in December. Now her job as senior vice president of Google Cloud Platform is to get the great Internet search company into the cloud product and services race against Amazon, Microsoft and IBM—the three largest cloud services providers in the world.

Greene, in a way, has come full circle: Google, with its vast global networks, products and services, was built directly on the virtualization software that VMware championed early in the new century. Google would not be Google without VMware and open source software, that much is certain.

Google Was Late to the Cloud

Google isn't often late to anything, but it was late to the cloud services business. It debuted its Cloud Platform in May 2010. In contrast, Amazon launched AWS cloud storage in 2006 and followed up with other services, while IBM launched SmartCloud in late 2007 and opened its IBM Cloud Services division after acquiring Softlayer in 2013. Microsoft, for its part, launched Windows Azure in November 2009.

Thanks largely to being a first mover, AWS now tops $9 billion in revenue per year in its cloud business, far more than it makes on all its retail items. Google's cloud run rate is about $500 million per year, and therein lies the challenge for Team Greene.

"At VMware, we could go into any business, and it was so easy to show the value and benefits (of virtualization). But what we have at Google is just so much more," Greene told a standing room-only audience of a few thousand people.

"What is most exciting to me is how Google is just 'all-in' on what we can do for the enterprise—all that we can bring, and help, organizations of all sizes, all around the world."

Calls Out Google Strengths

Greene called out Google's expertise across the Internet as major strengths that illustrate to potential customers the company’s inherent talent for innovation.
"We have Google Maps, Google Chrome, Android, Google Analytics—and our 'beyond productivity' office suite, Google Apps—that all of Google runs on," Greene said. "It's behind our culture. The collaboration, video conferencing, Hangouts, Drive, Gmail—it's what lets us be so communicative, so transparent, and so collaborative.
"There are things we can do in the virtualized environment through services, tools and tech that we can help startups get started," Greene said. "We need to get the word out about our differentiation in terms of open source, cost efficiencies and quality of of technology and our network. Google really is a network now."
The company currently has 16 major data centers around the world, with 10 more in the plans for 2016 and 2017.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...