I have mixed feeling about Google’s recent move into cloud IaaS. On one hand, I’m excited by the potential of a company like Google to disrupt the existing cloud market on features and price. On the other hand, my excitement is tempered by the recognition that Google has almost no track record in successfully delivering services to businesses that are not byproducts of a consumer service (e.g. AdWords). The pile of dead carcasses of Google services - Froogle, Video, Buzz, Wave, Answers, Catalog, Coupon, Google+ (oh, that one is not dead yet ;) ), shows a company with an astounding ability to take risks on creative consumer services. But when it comes to business to business services, they have only one real offer: Google Apps.
Google launched Apps to such promise, entering the office productivity market with a minimum viable product and a disruptive business model. What the offer lacked in features, it made up for with its promise of an innovative new way to share and collaborate with device and location independence. Like all early adopters, we bought based on the future potential, and then waited. And waited. If you were to ask me my favorite new feature of Google Apps in the last two years, I’d have to ask: Google has added new features in the last couple years? Using Google Apps can sometimes feel like living next to a newly constructed but unsold house: looks great but isn’t something missing?
I remember when Microsoft launched the first Office for Windows in the early 1990s. While it too had great promise, let’s be honest, it sucked. Each release though, Microsoft made rapid improvements in quality and features until one day, Office was an indispensable tool in business. Sometimes when I see a press release of an enterprise adopting Google Apps, I wonder if their CIO is relying on that same rapid iteration from Google. If so, to date they would be sorely disappointed.
Google’s success would be positive for all of us who have cashed in all our chips for cloud computing. It would bring competition that almost certainly would result in new features, increased innovation and lower prices. I also cannot think of a company with better DNA to take on Amazon, with their deep expertise in both highly scalable software and infrastructure. But just when I get excited enough to spin up some infrastructure and do some hacking, I think: is this just another Google Apps?
While I have not entirely lost hope that Google might finish what they started, I will confess to having Office installed on my MacBook. For further reading__, check out my DevOps manager’s recent post on Google in the cloud.