Cloud

Google cloud keeps getting new features, but new customers are harder to come by

Every week or so, Google talks up another new feature for its burgeoning public-cloud service, Google Compute Engine. Last month, for example, Google said engineers can now export and run queries on data about their use of the cloud. The feature could be helpful, but it’s unlikely to solve a lingering problem.

Since Google introduced Compute Engine in June 2012, the tech giant has announced many capabilities and new features for the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) product, and other technology companies have announced support for it. But Google hasn’t made many announcements about big customer wins. And that’s not the best state to be in when the public cloud market is moving quickly, with competition building up all over the place.

To be fair, there have been some deployments. Google blog posts mention Google Compute Engine usage from behavioral analytics startup CoolaData, game developer Fishlabs, mobile development company grandcentrix, genetic diagnostics company Mendelics, online grocery retailer Ocado, and media-streaming company Wowza.

Publicly traded Brightcove chose to run its Zencoder video encoding service on Google Compute Engine, although the service can also work with other public clouds, like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace.

But look at the dates on these blog posts. Almost all of them appeared on Google blogs in December 2013, coinciding with the Google Compute Engine becoming generally available three months ago. (Amazon’s earliest public cloud services became publicly available in 2006.)

Duly noted

Indeed, we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed the lack of boasting about new Google Compute Engine customers. Lydia Leong, a Gartner analyst covering IaaS, noticed it too, even if the analyst firm does suspect the customer base is growing.

“They’re being quiet for a reason, although Google is being hugely hush-hush on the reason why,” she wrote in an email to VentureBeat.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment for this article.

Googlers and corporate fanfolk will cry that it’s too soon to criticize Google like this. But several analysts believe Google has what it takes to challenge public-cloud market leader Amazon Web Services — with wide scale, an abundance of features, and regularly falling prices. The company can take a little bit of criticism. It’s Google. If it aspires to operate on the same level as Amazon in the public cloud, it will need to grow, and grow quickly at that.

Sure, new features like multiple IP addresses for a single instance, a tool to estimate future usage costs, and a way to download data on previous expenditures can help companies convince themselves the Google Compute Engine is more mature. So a chicken-and-egg dynamic could be at play.

Mass adoption

But high-profile adopters will also increase the rate of adoption.

Other public clouds already have big names.

Microsoft’s Windows Azure claims usage from BMW Latin America; Herbalife; Kaggle; the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; Toyota; and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

IBM’s SoftLayer public cloud had 22,000 customers when VentureBeat spoke with SoftLayer chief executive Lance Crosby in January.

Rackspace cites BART, Behance, Domino’s Pizza, Edelman, Fujifilm, Six Flags, and Under Armour as customers.

Virtustream, which is considerably smaller than Rackspace, IBM, and Microsoft, calls out lots of big names on its customer list, including Domino Sugar, Intel, Kawasaki, and Yum Restaurants.

And Amazon’s website currently shows testimonials from Adobe, Dow Jones, Expedia, LinkedIn, Lionsgate, News Corp., Pfizer, and Unilever. That’s the cloud to beat for everyone — and it makes the Google Compute Engine look puny by comparison.

Even if it’s early for Google, the web giant needs to hustle in the public cloud business, not just in in advertising, search, and file sharing.

Google will hold a public cloud event in San Francisco next week. We’ve heard the company will make product announcements — but we’d like to hear some new customer names, too.


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