Google Is Really Serious About the Enterprise This Time, Right?

James Governor, co-founder of analyst firm RedMonk, published a July 30 column in which he suggested Google is finally serious about seizing enterprise cloud customers.

At the now-concluded Google Next 2018 conference, he wrote, the company didn’t just roll out new business-centric tools; the executives on panels made a point of emphasizing how Google now listens to enterprise-customer concerns. “Google has historically had a reputation for being somewhat high-handed when dealing with customers,” he wrote. “Google as the best listener? That’s a very different Google. That’s a Google that’s going to win a lot more enterprise deals.”

This hasn’t been a rapid change on Google’s part; the company has been talking up its engineering support for business for quite some time. At this year’s Google Next, it also emphasized how its A.I. advances can rapidly improve clients’ infrastructure and services. For example, it devoted much time to breaking down how three tools in beta—Cloud Auto ML Vision, Natural Language, and Translation—will massively enhance corporate machine-learning.

G Suite now has a variety of features designed to make Google a more aggressive competitor for companies’ productivity requirements, although it seems unlikely to topple the dominance of Microsoft Office anytime soon. It will certainly take a lot of effort on Google’s part to convince companies to keep sensitive documents and data perpetually in the cloud, as opposed to safely on-premises, although some of the new stuff—most notably security features that allow administrators a granular degree of control over G Suite activity—might mitigate at least a portion of those fears.

But many of these updates don’t really concern engineers, sysadmins, and others who wrestle with enormous infrastructure. Those tech pros want to hear about how Google’s cloud will play with SQL Server and Windows Server, and serve those companies that are very Windows-centric. Google Cloud Platform already has pre-configured images for Windows Server Core and Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise on Google’s Compute Engine, but it’s an open question whether such moves are enough to catch up with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s own attempts to keep its customers in the fold (and on Azure).

Google’s selling point to businesses is that its cloud is the most advanced. This might not prove enough, however, as Mario Ciabarra, founder and CEO of Quantum Metric, pointed out in a Forbes column earlier this year. “Building a next-generation cloud doesn’t mean enterprise customers begin streaming in effortlessly,” he wrote. “Amazon and Microsoft have a tremendous lead in cultivating developers, and available talent is a serious consideration when choosing a cloud provider. Trends demonstrate rising GCP developer traction, but Google will need to continue to invest in developer evangelism to jump ahead.”

A few months ago, Larry Dignan at ZDNet worked up an extensive breakdown of the cloud-provider market, and found that Google lags significantly behind AWS and Microsoft in enterprise adoption, virtual machines in the cloud, and other metrics, although it has shown encouraging growth. If Google can convince more businesses that it’s deadly serious about enterprise expansion, it might be able to climb further—but that’s largely dependent on its sales and executive culture (as well as those evangelicals that Ciabarra mentioned).

For developers, sysadmins, and other tech pros, a stronger Google in an enterprise context is only good news, even if they have no intention of using the company’s products and cloud. A stronger Google means that AWS and Microsoft will cut their prices in order to stay competitive, accelerating what’s already a race to the cost bottom. That’s not the best thing for those companies’ margins, but it’s pretty great for tech pros who are wrestling with their annual budgets.

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