Google Enters Cloud. I Am Skeptical They Will Succeed.

Google is finally making its big push into cloud computing.  They are way behind Amazon’s AWS and moderately behind Microsoft’s Azure. Rackspace, and IBM.  But they can bring to bear Google’s massive dollars, scale, and experience base/skills.  I remain skeptical that they will truly succeed.  Why?

1.  Cloud is not Google’s “real” core skill.  Related, but not as closely as many think.

  • Google, Facebook, etc. are some of the (surprisingly few) players with real experience operating at massive “Internet-scale” – data farms employing a huge numbers of servers spread globally.
  • But their CORE skill lies in operating one big application (search, ads, social) seamlessly. Google/Facebook/etc. have little experience operating multiple small applications across large-scale infrastructure.  This may seem like a small distinction, but it is an incredibly meaningful one.  In a real world analogy, Google knows how to move tons of a single commodity (e.g. coal) using a huge fleet of railroad cars.  But success in cloud computing is about moving equivalent tonnage of wildly disparate items (e.g. diamonds, thumbtacks, widgets, and maybe some coal too).  Both skillsets demand “moving stuff around.”   But the details (and operating efficiencies) are massively different.
  • Arguably only Amazon (and Rackspace) have deep experience with large-scale, multi-application workloads.  And Amazon is a orders of magnitude further up the experience curve than anyone else.

2.  Google is way behind Amazon in scale terms.  Even if Google can adapt its skillset, they have given Amazon a huge lead.  Google will, of course, pick up some customers just by showing up.  And they could under-price Amazon drastically.  But Amazon’s aggressive track record in the retail catalog business suggests there won’t be much (if any) room for deep under-pricing.  So Google will have to offer something truly “better.”  Which loops back to the experience curve problem stated above.  In this fight, Amazon is Google Search and Google risks being… Bing!  Although at least Google didn’t pick a terminally dorky name…

3.  Google has chronically weak staying power.  Google’s new service launches  tend to start fast out of the gate and then fade (mostly through self-inflicted neglect).  With a few exceptions, Google has been the hare to someone else’s tortoise.  Maybe it will be different this time, but I wouldn’t give them the benefit of the doubt up front.

The main question in cloud remains – can anyone catch Amazon?  Google has a credible shot, but Amazon is still running away with the game.

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