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Google's SQL Server support is latest bid to win enterprise love

In its latest attempt to shake perceptions that it’s not an enterprise-grade IaaS option, Google is cozying up again to Windows workloads in the cloud.

Starting this month, Google users can launch Google Compute Engine VM images preinstalled with Microsoft SQL Server. Google now offers beta support for three versions of the SQL Server relational database management system: SQL Server Express 2016; SQL Server Standard 2012, 2014 and 2016; and SQL Server Web 2016. The cloud provider said support for SQL Server Enterprise Edition 2012, 2014 and 2016 is “coming soon.”

Organizations could technically run SQL Server workloads on Google Compute Engine before by spinning up a VM, and then installing and managing SQL Server themselves, explained Simon Margolis, director, cloud platform at SADA Systems, a cloud and IT consulting shop, and Google partner, based in North Hollywood, Calif.

With this expanded support from Google, however, those SQL Server images can now come preinstalled, and with a broader range of baked-in administrative capabilities. That shifts much of the SQL Server deployment, management and support responsibilities away from users and onto Google.

“It brings a good deal of peace of mind that otherwise didn’t exist,” Margolis said.

The move also expands the licensing options for running SQL Server on Google cloud. Since 2014, organizations with license mobility, through the Microsoft Software Assurance program, could move existing SQL Server licenses to a Windows Server instance running on Google, and then manage those licenses themselves.

Now, users can also choose to spin up new SQL Server databases on Google and pay as they go, based on Google’s per-minute billing cycles, just as they would for other Google cloud resources.

“If I run my instance for 90 minutes, I’m not paying the same as I would if I just bought a license from Microsoft for a server I have physically,” Margolis said.

Google eyes the enterprise

Google’s expanded SQL Server support isn’t a major surprise. Over the past year, the cloud provider has made a series of moves intended to grow its enterprise appeal. For example, it rolled out a number of new cloud security features, including identity and access management (IAM) and the ability for users to bring their own encryption keys, as well as new database and big data services.

The expanded SQL Server support is another “paving stone” for Google to more seamlessly bridge corporate data centers to its cloud, said Dave Bartoletti, principal analyst at Forrester Research, an analyst firm in Cambridge, Mass.

“[This] removes the friction for companies who just want to get their database workloads into the cloud, often before they are ready to modernize them,” Bartoletti said.

But Google’s attempts to win enterprise mindshare haven’t exactly gone off with a hitch (or two). The provider has grappled with a series of service outages and disruptions this year that renewed questions about its reliability, and the platform still trails rivals Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in the public cloud market.

While the vendor’s cloud portfolio has evolved significantly this year, gaining ground in the enterprise is not so much about Google’s cloud products, anymore, but its performance, support and partner base.

“There are no major gaps in Google’s offerings in terms of developer and infrastructure services,” Bartoletti said. “It’s now about execution with enterprise customers and building out its partner ecosystem.”

For Google, only time will tell if that’s easier said than done.