Google Cloud Platform shows signs of life with Spotify deal

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Google Cloud Platform is still stuck in third place, far behind Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, but by convincing streaming music heavyweight Spotify to switch much of its technology from AWS, Google is making a case that this is more than a two-horse race.

According to a Spotify blog post on Saturday, "Announcing Spotify Infrastructure’s Googley Future", the company is “working with the Google Cloud Platform team to provide platform infrastructure for Spotify, everywhere.” And blog author Nicholas Harteau, vice president, Engineering and Infrastructure, noted, “This is a big deal.”

Harteau is right, and maybe even more for Google than for Spotify. Frankly, despite Harteau crediting Google’s thought leadership and “and the sophistication and quality of its data offerings,” once Spotify made the critical decision to go all-in on the cloud, it most likely could have found essentially similar services at AWS or Azure.

Harteau’s post cited Google’s technical capabilities: “From traditional batch processing with Dataproc, to rock-solid event delivery with Pub/Sub to the nearly magical abilities of BigQuery, building on Google’s data infrastructure provides us with a significant advantage where it matters the most.” But I think pricing had even more to do with it. Harteau told the Wall Street Journal that, “We negotiated hard on price.”

I take that to mean that Google gave Spotify a deal it couldn’t refuse.

Still, the big benefit for Spotify comes with moving the cloud instead of maintaining its own infrastructure. I don’t see a transformative difference hinging on which cloud platform it chose.

A big win for Google

For Google, though, this is a huge win. Spotify is another high-profile operation it can now count among its customer roster. According to the Journal story, Spotify was a “marquee Amazon Web Services customer, and had produced a case study on the company to market AWS. Ben Kepes wrote on Computerworld, meanwhile, that “Spotify has some workloads on AWS, and sources tell me that Spotify isn't planning to shift these workloads off AWS,”

Either way, though, this is indeed a big deal for Google Cloud Platform. It sorely needs all the market momentum and customer confirmation it can get to show prospective users that this isn’t simply an AWS market, with Azure as the only big-time alternative for companies that don’t want to use Amazon for some or all of their workloads. Anything that puts Google Cloud Platform on the same level as AWS or Azure is pure gold for Google.

The Spotify signing will help Google get the attention of cloud customers, at which point Google is in a position to cut very tempting deals as it hustles to remain a core part of the cloud discussion. That’s a good thing, if you ask me. A three-horse race is a lot more interesting, and three-way competition is likely to foster faster innovation and better pricing for cloud users.

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