I was fortunate enough to attend Google Cloud Platform Next last week and wanted to summarize a few of my thoughts on the conference. As I sat down to analyze the event, I found a few distinct themes that I would like to expand on.
Google is serious about multi-cloud support for their monitoring and integration products. As a cynic, if Google wants to steal customers from Amazon, offering tools to aid the transition is in their best interest. As a realist, most companies will continue to operate in a multi-cloud environment to take advantage of the strengths of each platform, and it’s nice to see Google recognizing this fact and working within it. Either way, I think being open about supporting AWS is a good thing.
Google views their Machine Learning offerings as a distinct competitive advantage. Both Eric Schmidt and Jeff Dean spent time discussing machine learning and how it can help companies. I would consider the use of machine learning in business to be on the cusp of a major breakout but most people I talked to were unsure about how machine learning will help. There seems to be a large gap between understanding how machine learning is useful and understanding how it is useful to my business.
At GCP Next, Google unveiled more machine learning tools that businesses can leverage in their own products. If your product fits within the existing the realm of speech, vision, or translation, then you will be able to leverage Google’s APIs to your advantage. If you need something more advanced, you can write your own learning algorithms using TensorFlowand deploy them on Google’s platform. At this point, machine learning and big data is a definite competitive advantage for Google over AWS.
Google’s products are marketed as “no-ops”, meaning that they work without any manual operations or administration. In my experience with Cloud Platform I’ve generally found this to be true but it does come with trade-offs. Google has, in the past, treated their cloud offerings — like BigQuery — similar to their consumer offerings — like Gmail — by offering a polished product with minimal or no customer service and support.
The Infrastructure Advantage
Google took multiple opportunities to talk up their data centres and network as the envy of “other cloud providers”. Data centres, along with pretty much everything else, are not my area of expertise so I can only say that Google was proud of their data centres and really wants you to use them.
The Elephant in the Room
Although it was never mentioned directly, Google is mostly competing with Amazon for enterprise cloud sales. By the tone and content of the conference, they are fighting this battle by offering the best tools for big data and machine learning. Unfortunately, enterprise sales and support contracts are usually not won by offering the best tools but by offering the best “sales and support”. In this area, Google lags behind AWS. I would have been happier to see announcements on sales and support staff than on BigQuery speed improvements as a sign that Google is committed to cloud platform over the long term. Right now, it still seems as though cloud is an afterthought for Google — despite the fact that it may turn out to be more valuable than ads in the long term.