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Better late than never, Google plants its flag in public cloud market

AWS remains king, but Google Cloud Platform has made strides to offer enterprise IT some enticing features to give it a second look.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google is reinforcing its commitment to the public cloud market, adding a string of new features intended to catch up to the competition -- and, in some ways, pass them.

Alphabet Inc. executives Eric Schmidt, Sundar Pichai and Diane Greene each took their turn here at the GCP Next 2016 user conference to tout the benefits of Google Cloud Platform, as the company rolled out new features around security, networking, multicloud management, machine learning and analytics.

The message from Google is an acknowledgement that it is late to the game, but it's addressing that gap in two ways, according to Dave Bartoletti, senior analyst with Forrester Research. It's playing catch-up with tools for security, access management and key encryption, but it's also trying to leapfrog the competition, with tools such as container orchestration and machine learning.

It will likely take several more years for Google to truly catch up and be a serious competitor with enterprise customers, but its commitment to being aggressive in that market is encouraging, Bartoletti said. To accomplish that, Google must expand its partner ecosystem and do some handholding to migrate enterprises' on-premises workloads into the cloud, "not just build new things," he said.

Diane Greene, in her most public appearance since taking over Google's cloud unit in December, tried to counter the company's reputation for struggling to lure in enterprises.

"Google is all-in on what we can do for the enterprise -- all that we can bring and help organizations of all sizes all over the world," Greene said.

Without providing specific numbers, Greene said there has been "huge growth" in the core compute and storage services. Google Container Engine, meanwhile, is growing faster than its virtual machine services and doubling in usage every 90 days.

In the past year, Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, spent $9.9 billion in capital expenditures, and Google made 326 improvements to its cloud platform. This week, Google opened new data center regions in Oregon and Tokyo, and plans to add 10 more by the end of 2017.

Security has been repeatedly emphasized here. New features rolled out include audit logging, identity and access management roles, and customer-supplied encryption keys for Compute Engine and Storage -- the former being generally available, and the latter in beta.

Google may not have the same presence within enterprises as Amazon Web Services (AWS), but when the two are compared side to side, Google's platform capabilities are competitive -- especially from a price-performance perspective, said Chris Clabaugh, who runs strategic accounts and partners for Tectonic, a systems integrator for Google Cloud Platform. The security upgrades are important for enterprises, and the marketing approach changed from a focus on parts to services.

If there's one area where Google's cloud still lags, it's the ability to stitch together all the services it provides, Clabaugh added.

"It's like selling a bunch of car parts, but you want to buy the [whole] car," he said. "That, frankly, is Google's biggest weakness."

Several marquee customers took the stage on Wednesday, including Coca-Cola and Spotify, as well as its latest high-profile customer: Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media.

Disney, which has 200 projects on the platform, chose Google because of its culture around failing fast, and its ability to get things up and running quickly, said CTO Mike White.

Other new features include Machine Intelligence, a suite of existing and new products for machine learning; upgrades to BigQuery; and virtual private networking to connect private data centers to Google's public cloud.

One of the more intriguing new offerings is Google Stackdriver, which is in beta and lets customers monitor not only Google environments, but workloads on AWS, too. In 2014, Google acquired startup cloud monitoring company Stackdriver, which worked primarily with AWS. Since then, it has expanded the service's capabilities considerably, including logging, alerts across resources and drilling deeper in on errors.

"When you're No. 3 or 4, you need to do something to connect to people that are already going to Amazon," and the beefed-up Stackdriver "is a great way to make that connection," Bartoletti said.

Google hasn't said if it also will support Microsoft Azure, said Brian Stevens, vice president of product management for Google Cloud Platform. It's more likely the next step will be the addition of on-premises technology, such as VMware or OpenStack.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at [email protected].

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