I and all my cloud computing commentator friends eagerly await each new edition of Gartner's Magic Quadrant for public cloud vendors. Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, while criticized by many, are an interesting viewpoint of which vendors have the biggest scale, vision and ability to deliver in any particular sector. Given that the public cloud is such an important and industry-changing area, this particular MQ is highly anticipated.
The reality is, however, that in recent years, some things in the MQ haven’t changed. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been the front player in the space and, to be honest, the slightly tongue-in-cheek question every time a new MQ is published is whether Gartner plans on re-jigging the scale to allow for just how far ahead AWS is.
But beyond the “AWS is always in first place” dialog lies an interesting battle. Perennial second and third place getters, Microsoft with its Azure offering and Google with the Google Cloud Platform, are doing everything they can to bridge the gap.
Microsoft – Leveraging a huge existing customer base
Microsoft has an incredible footprint within existing enterprises. Whereas AWS is a compelling option for those with no legacy assets to think about, for most existing players, their challenge is how to reconcile where they are today, with where they want to be tomorrow.
These are the sort of organizations that have existing applications running on traditional infrastructure, organizations with committed decisions around platforms, languages and other architectural approaches, and existing relationships with a bunch of service providers.
For these customers Microsoft has a compelling point of difference. Their line is often, “We can help you navigate the torturous path from today’s IT infrastructures to those of the future.” So, whereas AWS can point to the shiny new organizations with no baggage, Microsoft can offer a more measured opportunity to modernize.
Google – Leveraging the scale, the smarts and the new leadership
For its part, Google is arguably the most experienced company in the world at running web-scale infrastructures. While Amazon and Microsoft both run massive web properties, the reality is that the smarts that it takes to run Google’s search engine, mapping, office productivity and other services is incredible. Google has an incredible depth of talent.
But where Google has historically fallen down is in the non-technical aspects of selling to enterprise. Google has traditionally displayed a fair degree of arrogance – it considers itself to be beyond reproach when it comes to technology, and hence anyone that doesn’t follow its own patterns or approaches is flawed. That’s not a particularly good approach when you want to sell to enterprises.
That is why Diane Greene, founder and former CEO of VMware, being named head of all things cloud at Google is an interesting development. Greene came to Google via the acquisition of her startup, Bebop. It has to be added that Greene was already on the board of Google and the acquisition of Bebop had far less to do with the company’s products, and much more to do with securing Greene to change things up at Google.
In the year or two since Greene came on board, she has gone on a massive hiring spree, bringing in huge enterprise talent that understands how to sell to enterprise, and the specific product requirements that these sort of organizations have. Offerings such as Google’s Dedicated Interconnect, a way for organizations to connect their existing data centers directly to Google’s cloud, are fascinating developments. It's an offering that one would expect from the other two of the big three, but one which would have been anathema to the Google of old.
From a pragmatic perspective, enabling customers to quickly transfer data back and forth between their private data centers and the Google Cloud makes obvious sense. But from the perspective of the die hard “our way or the highway” types at Google, it is revolutionary.
Gaining important customer wins
Google recently announced that Marketo was coming on board – part of a six-year “alliance” with Google that will include integration of Google tools into Marketo's products, a joint go-to market approach and expanded use of Marketo internally at Google. Marketo plans to be fully migrated off its own servers and onto Google's cloud before 2019. Marketo had been a holdout to date and was one of the larger ISVs to avoid a cloud commitment. That Marketo changed its mind, and did so with Google is a huge win.
Of course Google is sure to have sharpened the pencil when negotiating pricing with Marketo. But if you believe the spin, that’s not really what this is about. While Google is providing "migration incentives" to help with the short-term costs of Marketo moving over, word is that Marketo chose Google over potentially cheaper options because of Google's advertising products and relevance to marketers and then its technical fit. Marketo’s CEO, commenting on the decisions, made some important points saying: "Before we even got to the technology, we spent a lot of time on the opportunity and synergy. Diane Greene and her team took a very strategic approach. I found that to be refreshing."
I’ve always been frustrated by Google’s approach when it comes to cloud. The company had previously always demonstrated an arrogance and an unwillingness to listen: to commentators and to customers. That is all changing under Greene and the company is proving to be a communicative and responsive operation today. This Marketo win is just a single customer, but it is an important customer and speaks to Google’s willingness to flex to customer needs.
Gartner’s Magic Quadrants are always interesting and in a space where the size of the pie is rapidly growing, some reflection on each vendor's share of it is fodder for the punditry.