Google’s premier cloud infrastructure event, GCP:NEXT 16 was held a few weeks ago in San Francisco. The event represents a concerted effort by Google to explain how they are bringing cloud computing innovation to the enterprise. Google invited a large number of press, media, and analysts to the event for the first time, clearly signaling a determined effort to drive a high level of visibility around three core tenets for why customers choose Google: value, risk, and innovation. These three tenets comprise the DNA of Google, and are readily visible across their stack from their underlying infrastructure up through GCP and its growing array of services.
All of us are generally aware of the purpose-built scale and sophistication of Google infrastructure. We’re aware of this primarily through our experience with Google’s search engine. What most of us suspected, and which was verified at GCP:Next, was the degree to which Google has sweated the details on every aspect of their data center and infrastructural development and expansion. By developing their own data centers, servers, storage, and networking; Google is able to drive down cost, increase reliability, and deliver a continuously high quality of service regardless of workload size and scale. Google achieves all of this while consuming energy at a rate that is 50% less than that of conventional data centers.
This represents immense value in the eyes of customers who outsource their infrastructural requirements to Google, allowing these enterprises to focus more on driving business value. In short, value is driven by the economies of size, scale, and purpose-built infrastructure that Google employs to ultimately deliver competitively-priced cloud infrastructure services to customers. Indeed, an ESG Lab analysis of Google's Cloud Platform pricing found that Google frequently has the lowest relative price across a number of common infrastructural configurations.
While value enables a vendor to get short-listed as a cloud infrastructure provider, it takes a combination of value, security, and alignment with enterprise needs to prove out the viability of a public cloud solution. Google’s security tsar, Niels Provos, provided a convincing description of Google’s thorough approach to security. The core of Google’s approach includes 8 layers of security that address the following constructs: hardware, boot, OS & IPC, storage, application, development, operations, and usage. This represents a strong initiative by Google to share details regarding their data center operations and provides a remarkable view into arguably the most sophisticated data center operations on the planet. Google therefore succeeded in communicating their message around addressing value and risk (security).
The Google way
Innovation is evident everywhere you look inside Google: from their internal data center operations, Google Search, to Google Earth, their self-driving car, and their approach to platform services. While there is certainly a culture of innovation in support of platform services (container orchestration, machine learning, big data, and multi-cloud management for example) areas still remain in which Google needs to innovate, acquire, or partner to provide more complete solutions.
From my vantage point as an analyst covering application development and deployment trends, Google still has work ahead in developing its DevOps and integration capabilities. I’ve called out these capabilities because the tagline for GCP:Next 2016 was "bringing cloud innovation to the enterprise" and for public cloud vendors like Google, this means bringing a high level of support for helping enterprises transition from existing tools and techniques to more modern tools and techniques.
These areas would represent a new challenge to Google because unlike greenfield innovation — which is where Google excels — DevOps and integration bring legacy considerations into the picture and thus require bridge-building from old to new in the areas of data, process, tools, and technology. As virtually every other leading application development and deployment vendor has learned, addressing DevOps and integration are daunting, time-consuming, and tedious tasks. For that reason, many vendors, including Google, have turned to acquisition to more immediately establish baseline capabilities and partnering to crowdsource capabilities in areas like integration where many types of solutions are needed.
Finding the right fit
Despite the current challenge that Google has in DevOps and integration, it is clear that Google is actively working to determine solutions worthy of the Google brand. One of the breakouts at GCP:Next16 involved Netflix and Google talking about Spinnaker, a software delivery pipeline developed by Netflix that takes advantage of modern infrastructure and application deployment principles. Google’s involvement with Netflix signals that they are actively accumulating the experience required to potentially deliver a compelling DevOps solution.
However, if we step back and presume that the cloud services market is currently in the first inning of the proverbial ball game, then Google is well-positioned to become a leading vendor. The reason for this is because the most difficult problems to solve are the physical infrastructure and network ones at the bottom of the stack. As one of the few true hyper-scale cloud operators, Google has already addressed these problems and resolved them in an industry-leading way.
The application development and deployment issues I've pointed out, DevOps, and integration would be services associated with Google’s application engine and addressed by software-based services. This gives Google far more flexibility in choosing how to address these needs: innovate, acquire, and/or partner. These are all areas where Google is now investing heavily so we can expect significant change to occur quickly given Google’s resources and commitment to bringing cloud innovation to the enterprise.