Perhaps the biggest hurdle Google faces is trying to convince enterprise customers that it’s serious about them, says John Dinsdale, an analyst at Synergy Research, a firm that tracks cloud market share. “The issues of course are around it being late to market and the perception that Google isn’t strong in the enterprise. Until recently Google never gave the impression (through words or deeds) that cloud services were really important to it. It is now trying to make up for lost ground, but AWS and Microsoft are streets ahead,” he explained.
When Kubernetes got started, it was an unnatural act. Google hadn’t contributed to an open source community, but a group of people internally thought they needed to change the game in the cloud and open source was the way to do it.
But Google has been making some strides using open source to lead the way. Using Kubernetes, the popular open source container orchestration system as an example, Scott Raney, a partner at venture capitalist firm Redpoint, says it showed that Google could offer robust open source tools, something that surprised some people in this market.
“When Kubernetes got started, it was an unnatural act. Google hadn’t contributed to an open source community, but a group of people internally thought they needed to change the game in the cloud and open source was the way to do it,” Raney said.
Kubernetes, and indeed all of the open source projects being generated by Google, such as TensorFlow for machine learning, Spanner for launching massive distributed databases or Draco for 3D graphics compression, to name but a few, were part of a concerted and deliberate effort in-house to be a more open organization.
Resistance is futile
That openness is what attracted GCP VP of product management, Sam Ramji to Google last November when he joined the company from Cloud Foundry. Ramji admits he wasn’t looking for a job, but he was pleasantly surprised to find such an open philosophy, and he saw the chance to shape Google Cloud into a developer-friendly platform — an opportunity, he says, that was too good to pass up.
“My job is to make [the open philosophy] happen and to make it real,” Ramji explained. He said that, when he spoke to Google VP of cloud platforms Brian Stevens last year about taking this job, he hadn’t considered Google a place to work on open things. When he was told the vision was to make GCP the open cloud, “I thought that was really a shock,” he said.
That openness philosophy runs the gamut now including letting customers run whatever open source stack they choose on Google’s infrastructure, releasing and supporting open source projects and making the ecosystem, the partners who build tools and technologies on top of GCP, a first class citizen on the platform. “We are treating them as part of the whole and the net is bringing the tech you want and using Google technology or using any of the [partner] services,” Ramji said.
For example, its open source poster child, Kubernetes, can run on any platform. Just recently Microsoft announced Kubernetes on Azure. Ramji also points out with some excitement that there is more TensorFlow adoption on AWS than there is on GCP, which could be even more shocking than Kubernetes on Azure.
Make it so
The question becomes, how do you differentiate yourself in a crowded market and Redpoint’s Raney says the way to win over developers is being open. “They need to win the hearts and minds of developers. Clearly Amazon has done that. If you’re Google, how do you play this game? You can’t just roll out similar services,” he said.
“The fact that these guys have become much more supportive of the open source community makes people feel better about Google and makes developers feel better about working with their tools because they can avoid lock-in,” he added.
In fact, one of the biggest things that has frustrated enterprise buyers with traditional technology vendors was getting locked in, Greg DeMichillie, director of product management explained.
“We invest as much in what it takes to get off of [our platform] as we have in getting on because we honestly believe open source and open APIs will be critical. Every enterprise you talk to signed contracts with ‘Oracles’ and other companies and they seemed like good deals, and in the end they were not happy — and the cloud is an opportunity not to repeat that mistake,” he said.
Forrester cloud analyst Dave Bartoletti says the company also could take advantage of its strength around data and analytics. “If I’ve got a terabyte of data with customer sentiment, how can I throw it on a platform and run machine learning algorithms and get useful answers to use — and make open source for even the partners to get something going,” he asked. This is precisely what Google is doing.
Greene, speaking at the Goldman Sachs conference last month, pointed to data and analytics as a special strength for the company. When asked by the moderator what the easiest path to the enterprise could be, she answered that it was around data management and analytics.