Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced that Gmail has surpassed 1 billion users per month and that its Google Cloud Platform is used by more than 4 million applications. Pichai also asserted that the Google Cloud Platform “is ready to be used at scale,” and that the company has reached a point where its cloud infrastructure and applications have reached a level of maturity at exactly the time when the broader, industry-wide “movement to cloud has reached a tipping point.” Pichai further noted that Catholic Health Initiatives, one of the nation’s largest non-profit health systems, announced its transition to Google Apps last quarter in what amounts to yet another example of the Google Cloud Platform’s readiness to embrace workloads from large organizations and enterprises. Unlike Microsoft and Amazon, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, failed to break out revenue run rate details about its subsidiary cloud business but the company’s appointment of VMware executive Diane Greene to head Google’s cloud services division in November constitutes ample proof of the company’s interest in building out its cloud business. The question now, however, is when and how Google plans to court the enterprise, which has traditionally been dominated by Microsoft and IBM in the enterprise software and infrastructure space. Without more details of its anticipated strategy for gaining traction for cloud products and services in the enterprise, investors and analysts alike will be hard pressed to understand how Google plans to build cloud market share, particularly given continued impressive revenue growth for Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s growing ascendancy in the cloud products and services space under CEO Satya Nadella.
On Thursday, Google announced the second generation of its Cloud SQL database that was initially launched in 2011. Google’s Cloud SQL Second Generation BETA delivers performance improvements by a factor of seven as well as enhanced scalability by a factor of twenty. Cloud SQL Second Generation also offers users greater control over maintenance windows in addition to less frequent maintenance requirements. As a fully managed cloud offering, Google’s Cloud SQL database platform delivers the convenience of not having to manage deployment, upgrades and security in addition to the convenience of configuring automatic backup and data replication. Cloud SQL Second Generation offers users the ability to scale to up to 10 TB of data, 104 GB of RAM and throughput of 15,000 IOPS, well in excess of the performance and scalability of the first generation as noted in a blog post by Brett Hesterberg. The new version of Google’s cloud-based SQL database platform, based on MySQL, marks one of its most significant announcements regarding its cloud portfolio since the recent appointment of former VMware executive Diane Greene to the role of the head of its cloud business in November.
On December 2, Google announced the release of the Google Cloud Vision API, an application programming interface that gives developers access to its powerful and nuanced image recognition technology. Developers can use the Google Cloud Vision API to categorize images, identify faces and read words and characters within images hailing from multiple languages. Google’s face identification technology allows users to identify the appearance of faces within an image in conjunction with the probability that a face has a specific emotion such as joy or sadness. The API also enables the identification of popular landmarks and its associated latitude and longitude. Available in limited preview, the API gives users a glimpse of Google’s powerful image recognition technology and throws open the door toward the larger project of adding metadata to unstructured data. As scale-out storage platforms for structured and unstructured data proliferate, the Google Cloud Vision API represents a powerful tool that developers can use to add metadata to tag, organize and classify image files.
The obvious question raised by Google’s reorganization as Alphabet is whether Larry Page and Sergey Brin will decide to break out Google Cloud Platform into a separate business from Google, the search engine-focused subsidiary headed by CEO Sundar Pichai. Breaking out Google Cloud Platform (GCP) into a separate entity not only paves the way for more significant, dedicated investments dedicated to cloud computing on the part of Google, but also provides a means for investors to more accurately gauge the success of the Google Cloud Platform as measured by its financials and the growth of the entity more generally. The tricky part about breaking out Google Cloud Platform as a separate entity involves the depth of its inter-relationship with all of Google’s other businesses, and particularly Google Search, Google Maps, YouTube and Android. While assessing revenue generation from third party customers of the Google Cloud Platform is easy, the more challenging task involves quantifying the operational overhead of GCP, particularly given that it powers all of Google’s infrastructure already.
Google has reached a preliminary agreement qua memorandum of understanding to bring Project Loon, the initiative that delivers internet access by means of balloons that float high in the sky, to Sri Lanka, the island located just off the southern tip of India in the Indian Ocean. If an agreement is finalized, Sri Lanka will be the first country to boast universal internet access, all courtesy of Google. According to The Verge, Google plans to collaborate with Sri Lanka’s internet providers to bolster their services to collectively span every inch of the country. Project Loon aspires to bring access to all 20 million of Sri Lanka’s populace whereas currently, estimates indicate only 3 million people have internet access.
Here are three quick thoughts on Google’s recent decision to become a corporate sponsor of OpenStack:
1. Google’s support of OpenStack marks one of the biggest endorsements to date of OpenStack, and as such, bolsters the credibility of the platform even further. Even though OpenStack is currently endorsed by the likes of Platinum Members Red Hat, IBM, HP and Rackspace, Google’s announcement constitutes an especially significant announcement given its ownership of a competitor public cloud IaaS platform in the form of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Google’s endorsement suggests that the days of OpenStack’s segregation from proprietary public clouds such as the Google Cloud Platform, AWS and Microsoft Azure may well be numbered and that the IaaS space may well end up developing APIs from proprietary platforms to OpenStack in the foreseeable future.
2. The cloud computing industry is increasingly coming to terms with hybrid cloud infrastructures and the necessity for interoperability across different cloud ecosystems. By supporting OpenStack, Google embraces cloud hybridity and in particular, the necessity for Kubernetes to integrate deeply with the OpenStack ecosystem. Given that enterprises almost invariably embrace some combination of private and public clouds as part of their larger cloud strategy, Google’s support of OpenStack constitutes an emphatic affirmation not only of OpenStack, but also of the criticality of hybrid cloud infrastructures and management frameworks at this stage of the evolution of cloud computing.
3. Google’s collaboration with OpenStack on the Kubernetes project underscores the emerging ascendancy of containers to contemporary cloud computing as an alternative and complement to virtual machine based computing. By working with OpenStack to ensure the compatibility of Kubernetes as part of Project Magnum, Google is betting big on increased adoption of container technology throughout the industry. Furthermore, Google is placing its bet that Kubernetes, as opposed to other container management frameworks, has the pizazz to emerge as one of the premier container management frameworks in the industry, particularly in light of its forthcoming, deepened integration with OpenStack.
On Thursday, Google announced its sponsorship of the OpenStack Foundation as a corporate sponsor. As noted in a blog post, Google’s decision to join the OpenStack Foundation is motivated by industry trends toward adoption of hybrid clouds and container-based application development. By sponsoring OpenStack, Google is expected to contribute heavily to OpenStack Magnum, the project that aspires to ensure the compatibility of container orchestration platforms such as Docker and Kubernetes with OpenStack. Google’s contribution toward the integration of Kubernetes with OpenStack is expected to accelerate the adoption of container technologies and thereby facilitate development of more robust hybrid cloud infrastructures marked by the union of increasingly heterogeneous computing infrastructures. Google’s sponsorship of OpenStack represents a huge coup for the OpenStack Foundation and marks another notable twist in the ongoing battle for cloud market share amongst the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google.