Is Google pushing the cloud envelope too far?

At GCP Next in San Francisco, Google shows off its whiz-bang cloud

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Google is effectively jumping up and down, waving its arms and screaming to businesses: Look how great our cloud is!

Such is to be expected when companies hold major user conferences, as Google is this week for its Cloud Platform at Pier 48 in San Francisco.

But Google’s also pushing the envelope in the cloud market. And the big question is: Are users ready to use all the great stuff in Google’s cloud?

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Google SVP of Technical Infrastructure Urs Holzle at GCP Next in San Francisco

Google brought out all the big wigs for its cloud event. Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked things off, then it was Diane Greene, the newly appointed senior vice president of cloud at the company. Parent-company Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt came out (and read notes from a printed paper); Urs Holzle, SVP of Technical Infrastructure spoke, along with Senior Fellow Jeff Dean, VP of Cloud Brian Stevens and Cloud Product Manager Greg DeMichille. Executives from Disney, Coca-Cola and Spotify all donned the keynote stage at GCP Next.

It was an all-out blitz to show that 1) Google is serious about cloud 2) businesses are already using Google’s cloud 3) Google is pushing the envelope in terms of innovation in the IaaS cloud market.

A Third Wave of cloud

Holzle, who was one of the first dozen employees at Google and is credited with building up the company’s massive global infrastructure, captured the company’s argument perhaps most succinctly: The cloud is evolving into a third wave, being led by Google.

The first wave of cloud started out with co-location facilities, which were basically bare metal servers hosted by a provider. The advent of the hypervisors brought about virtual machines and cloud-based workloads. The third era of cloud revolves not around infrastructure, but around applications and data.

Holzle says the market will get to a point where developers write code, upload it to the cloud, and the cloud platform takes care of running it. No provisioning of infrastructure, no virtual machine load balancing, no storage planning. DeMichille showed an example of an application built in containers running in Google Kubernetes Engine that scaled up from managing hundreds of requests to managing more than 20,000. Then DeMichelle threw an update to the app. GKE didn’t blink, and kept serving the requests, gradually rolling out the upgrade.

Coca Cola’s CTO explained how the company used Google’s cloud to host an application that invited people from all over the world to upload a photo of themselves, which was then displayed as a mosaic at the World Cup opening ceremony. Google’s cloud automatically scaled up even as millions of photos poured in and Coke didn’t have to build or provision a single piece of hardware.

Nicholas Harteau, VP of Infrastructure at Spotify, which recently announced its partnership with Google, put it best when he said transitioning the applications’ infrastructure to Google’s cloud is like changing tires on a vehicle as its traveling down the highway.

How many customers are ready to embrace this new microservices, container-native, cloud-hosted world? Google has customers that will use these services, as proven at its GCP Next even this week. Holger Mueller, VP of Research at Constellation, says Google’s ahead of where most customers are though. “But you have to be ahead to attract customers and out innovate the competition,” he explained. “The question is - can you bridge the gap and make it close enough to regular world adoption - or are you too far out. That's what's going to be interesting to watch.”

By most pundits’ belief, Google is in third place in terms of market share among the big three of the cloud: Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

Industry strategist at devops company CloudMunch Krishnan Subramanian says it’s a new world of cloud now though. “AWS has won the legacy cloud workload space,” he notes. “When it comes to AI world, Google and IBM has an upper hand over AWS.”

Grab your popcorn, folks, this market will be fun to watch.

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