Cloud Just Got Real – The Race Begins

Posted on by Randy Bias


This week, Google hosted its Cloud Platform Live event. Some people were a little surprised at my enthusiastic live twitter coverage for a number of Google’s announcements. I have been waiting for them to “go big or go home” for a while now. My biggest surprise was how long it took Google to get up to speed. My fundamental belief is that they waited so long because they realized what they needed to do to succeed had little to do with initial speed, but was more about long term momentum.

Let me explain.

There are Three Ways to be #1

I wish I could claim this is my original thought, but I heard it from someone else[1]. If you know a more canonical source, I would very much like to have it. Please send it along via twitter or comments.

The saying goes like this:

There are three ways to be #1 in a market:

  1. Being first
  2. Being best
  3. Being cheapest

Ideally, you would be two or more of these things, leading to market dominance.

If you were Google, entering into this market years after AWS has launched and gained the market traction they have, you might reflect on what your best strategy is. Maybe you know the above truism or maybe you just have good instincts. If you are playing to win and you can’t be first that means you need to be best or cheapest, but preferably both.

And that, in essence, I think boils down why Google took a while to get “in market” and really tried to nail the technology before getting very serious as we saw this week.

Public Cloud is A Development Engine Game

I have always thought that public cloud was less about technical features (e.g. VMs on demand, object storage, etc.) and more about building a world class development engine. As I noted on previous occasions, businesses like Amazon actually increase in feature velocity as they get bigger, not decrease. This is a relatively new phenomena only seen in web-scale businesses (and Apple).

Building velocity like this is less about technology and more about culture and organizational structure. I’m sure you have read the seminal The Mythical Man Month, which essentially says that as a development team gets larger your overhead on communication increases to the point where you actually move slower. The answer to this is typically moving to an agile model, but that’s only a partial fix. It is far more effective to make your development organization look like a set of loosely coupled independent startups with clear targets for success and clear accountability. In that way teams run their own business.

This also maps to the actual underlying technology structure of the business and is the general “a-ha” moment that large scale web businesses collectively had. Here’s a 2007 ZDnet article talking about Amazon.com’s (the retail site) services oriented architecture.

Google Cloud Platform’s Announcements

I don’t really need to recap the various announcements this week. You can find that in various places. What I do want to highlight is the two underlying trends that these announcements represent:

Google thinks this is a game for the hearts and minds of developers of new apps
Google is doubling down on it’s own development engineering might first

This is reflected in the Wired article that came out yesterday entitled Google’s Bold Plan to Overthrow Amazon as King of Cloud.

The key quote is here:

“We will spend the majority of our development efforts on this New World,” wrote [Urs] Hölzle. “Every developer will want to live in this world…and it’s our job to build it.”

More succinctly what Urs is saying is that Google’s strategy is to build a developer advantage inside Google in order to enable developers outside of Google to have cloud services (platform and infrastructure) that they will love.

Hints of this can be found in the more nuanced technical announcements yesterday such as the support of integrated build/test pipelines through a combination of Google Compute Engine (GCE) + Google App Engine (GAE) using the GAE Managed VMs offering.

Being Best AND Cheapest

Google’s approach to their Cloud Platform has been the slow and steady buildup of a hard-hitting, quick-firing development engine that is capable of increasing the velocity of feature releases over time. That development engine has now reached escape velocity. There are only two other public clouds like this: Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure [2].

Google’s development engine shows they are targeting being Best AND Cheapest. There are a number of good reasons why they can accomplish those goals and perhaps I will deep dive into them in a future blog posting.

Consider this … If it’s a three way horse race in public cloud with OpenStack for the private cloud then we need to accept that we are now living in a multi-cloud world. For me, this is a sure indicator of a rapidly maturing marketplace that delivers maximum choice to developers and enterprises.

To paraphrase: Cloud just got real.


[1] Marc Andreesen I think, but I can’t find the blog posting where I thought he laid it out. BTW, if you haven’t read Marc’s original blog postings on entrepreneurism and startups, you are really missing out. The archive is here.
[2] HP might develop this capability over time, but they need to seriously commit to the path, so there are significant question marks about their possibilities for success until their business is more stable.

 

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