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Google needs to win enterprise confidence at cloud conference

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has become a more robust and reliable public cloud in recent years but still has nowhere near the enterprise mindshare afforded to fellow hyperscale platforms AWS and Microsoft Azure. Google’s Cloud Next conference later this month, only the second large-scale cloud conference hosted by the company, is its best chance yet to change those impressions and make GCP a larger part of enterprises’ IT strategy.

Google is in the same place AWS was earlier this decade: popular among developers, but trepidation from the enterprise IT market. AWS reversed those fears through outreach and additional technical and contractual safeguards, but broader perceptions didn’t truly change until Capital One, GE and other big-name corporations stamped their approval at AWS’ annual user conference in 2015.

Around the same time, and with virtually no penetration in the enterprise market, Google hired Diane Greene to head its cloud unit. Since then, GCP has spent billions to expand its footprint, bolster its portfolio of services and the depth of its features, and get closer to feature parity with AWS and Azure. More recently, Google also beefed up its sales and support teams and partnerships. Nonetheless, it still has a ways to go to be in the same breath as the other two in terms of market share.

For example, Google says it now brings in more than $1 billion in cloud revenues every quarter. Comparison of companies’ cloud businesses is an imperfect metric, but the disparity is stark: AWS generated $5.4 billion in its first quarter this year. For a sense of how much of that revenue comes from the enterprise market, here’s a hint from AWS CEO Andy Jassy at a press conference last November:

“People who mistakenly believe that most of AWS is startups are not being straight with themselves. You can’t have an $18 billion business just on startups.”

Google must accelerate its momentum with corporate customers if it truly wants to compete in the public cloud market, and the Next session catalog reveals a parade of household name brands to make that pitch. Home Depot, Citi, The New York Times and Spotify will share their GCP experiences, as will some newcomers, including AWS darling Netflix. Google needs those companies to reinforce its claims that it’s ready for enterprise prime time, but it also must show its feature set is worthy of selection over the competition. For that, it must answer lingering questions about bumps in the road.

It scored a coup last year when it hired Intel alum Diane Bryant as COO of its cloud division, but she abruptly left this month amid speculation she may return to Intel as CEO. Moreover, an incident last month gave users duplicate IP addresses and asked to delete and reboot their VMs as a workaround, and the month before one of GCP’s East Coast regions suffered an hour-long outage.

Bryant’s departure hasn’t damaged customer perception so far, said Deepak Mohan, an IDC analyst. And cloud outages are inevitable for any platform; in fact, GCP outages have dropped considerably compared to two years ago.

Google can help its enterprise case with more hybrid cloud deployments, Mohan said. Google has positive deals with Nutanix and Cisco, but it could really use a deal with a company with a major on-premises footprint. (The Cisco partnership is more about modern app development and Kubernetes than linkage between legacy systems and the public cloud.)

Companies also prioritize innovation when they move to the cloud, and GCP has caught the industry’s attention, particularly around machine learning and big data.

“They have strength in terms of momentum, and innovation and TCO,” Mohan said. “It does look like they’re putting the right pieces in place and there doesn’t seem to be any hard obstacles to them moving up in the market.”

Is Google ready to ride that momentum to greater success and a larger chunk of the market? Its impressions on potential customers at the Next show will go a long way to provide an answer.

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