Has Google’s second mover advantage left the rest playing catch up?
Thu 29 May 2014
Google has made its play as a cloud platform and is now innovating technology and becoming very competitive on pricing. Chris Swan, the CTO of CohesiveFT, believes it is now leaving the others to play catch up
Google’s recent Cloud Platform Live event included an impressive demo of live migration of a server from one data centre to another – whilst it was streaming HD video, without any visible interruption in service. One of the enabling technologies for this is the network used by Google Compute Engine (GCE). Subscribers to GCE can define networks without having to worry about the underlying data centres – the networks transcend the physical fault boundaries. This contrasts starkly with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) approach where a virtual private cloud (VPC) subnet is confined to a given availability zone (AZ). The bottom line here is that AWS makes its users worry about the underlying network architecture, whilst Google doesn’t.
Arguably the team at Google have a second mover advantage, and they’ve been able to learn from Amazon’s mistakes (which in some cases were actually their own mistakes, as some of the GCE network team came from AWS). GCE may also be able to take advantage of innovations within Google’s data centre and cross data centre networks that enable us to consume Google services without any regard to where they’re coming from. This has in some part given credence to the idea that with ‘cloud’ nobody knows where their data is stored, which isn’t really true with any infrastructure as a service (IaaS) where typically one of the first decisions a user needs to take is which region (or regions) to deploy to.
The part of the Google Cloud Platform Live event that caught the most attention was the announcement of big price cuts – starting a cloud price war by undercutting Amazon’s lowest prices and offering further discounts for continued use. Amazon retaliated with price cuts the following day, but chose not to match Google. At this stage Amazon can rely on its broader range of services, and some degree of customer inertia to keep users in their cloud. That’s not a situation that will stay static in the long term, as Google is offering lower pricing and a better network – in a way that makes customers worry less about how they consume things from their cloud service provider.
Google isn’t alone in bringing a next generation service to market with an edge on networking. Verizon’s new public cloud service is presently in beta, and comes with a flexible networking model that’s designed to appeal to enterprise customers. This leaves some of the more established cloud service providers playing catch up to offer the network features and functionality that customers need and want.