Google admits original enterprise cloud strategy was wrong, why it's gone in a different direction

Considering a cloud platform for your enterprise? Here's the essence of Google's cloud strategy to challenge Amazon Web Services' leadership.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Meet Google, a challenger in the cloud platform space. That's a bit odd, since the company clearly knows how to build web systems at scale. This is the company, after all, that delivers YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs, and of course, Google Search.

Just a few years ago, Google's sales pitch suggested, "Build your app on App Engine, just like we do. You'll get great performance and high reliability at a reasonable price." That wasn't enough. Most enterprises deployed on Amazon Web Services, and some chose Microsoft.

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At the Google Cloud Platform Next 2016 conference in March, company leaders showed a different attitude and approach.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google's parent company, Alphabet, summed up the shift in the conference keynote: "We decided to meet you where you are, as opposed to where we think you should be."

Spoken like a true engineer, that's a huge shift.

Schmidt explained, "There was something fundamentally wrong with my conception, in 2008, of what we were doing. It's not realistic to expect people to go de novo, from an original architecture, into App Engine. So we decided that we had to change our strategy...We didn't give the right stepping stone into the cloud."

Today, containers--think Docker--make it easier for developers to build portable applications without any need to worry about the details of virtual machines. Another system--think Kubernetes--manages the details of all those containers. (From Greek, Kubernetes translates to "helmsman." Picture a container ship...Get it?)

"We've finally invented the internet operating system by meeting you where you are," said Schmidt. "And it works at a scale you've never seen before."

To connect enterprise customers to the power of this internet operating system, Google turned to Diane Greene. Greene helped found VMware and led that company for about a decade. By most accounts, she understands enterprise IT concerns.

Greene suggested that customers choose the Google Cloud Platform for three reasons, "[Google Cloud Platform offers] better value--in terms of price and performance, reduced risk--in terms of security and open source software, and, sort of my favorite, the access to innovation."

Customers will likely compare Google Cloud Platform's offerings to those from Amazon Web Services. Brian Stevens, vice president of product management at Google, said, "Many users are actually using more than one cloud." And, most likely, that cloud is Amazon's.

Enter Google Stackdriver, a tool that Stevens described as "...a service for monitoring, logging, visualising, and alerting across your cloud services, across your resources, and across your applications."

Customers will be able to monitor the performance of Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services with this one tool. Stevens said that Stackdriver also will support private clouds in the future.

In the long term, though, Schmidt thinks Google Cloud Platform could help start the next era of computing.

"This platform is not the end, it's the bottom," he said. "And there's something above it. And the thing that is above it is machine learning...And this is the next transformation. I've decided to spend as much time as I can on it because I think it's so profound."

"The programming paradigm changes," Schmidt continued. "Instead of programming a computer, you teach a computer to learn something and it does what you want. It's a fundamental change in programming."

SEE: Google Cloud Platform signs up enterprise giants, how does it compare to AWS? (TechRepublic)

Sure, Google wants enterprise customers to compare Google Cloud Platform with Amazon Web Services on price, performance, security, and openness. That's part of Google's desire to "meet you where you are."

But, this is Google. The company's machine learning offerings today include Cloud Vision, Cloud Speech, and Cloud Translate. Need those capabilities? Use Google Cloud Platform.

In business terms, the distinctive innovation is machine learning-as-a-service. Google also provides Cloud Machine Learning as a platform for you to develop your own machine learning system. That's the access to innovation that Greene mentioned. Enterprise buyers' behavior over the next few years will tell us if that's the innovation customers want.

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