Google to Challenge Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace in the Cloud
Marc is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Google Compute Engine Launched
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) just announced at the "Google I/O" conference a new "IAAS" (Infrastructure as a Service) dubbed "Compute Engine." This is a major competitor in the cloud hosting space joining the likes of other tech titan competitors such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX).
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is both the present AND future for companies looking to reduce infrastructure costs and run web servers, databases and other computing tasks in the public cloud. The cloud allows companies to purchase computing resources on demand and scale up or down almost infinitely. Cloud computing is simply computers (servers) in data centers that can number in the 100's, 1,000's and even millions and be tasked at any time to do work.
Microsoft Azure Cloud
Microsoft's "Azure" offers both Linux and Windows environments for companies to deploy their applications. While Microsoft was somewhat late to the party trailing the leaders such as Amazon and Rackspace, they nonetheless have put together a competent offering especially for Windows Centric shops and developers. Azure provides all the expected Cloud services such as a choice of operating systems, storage, database services all allowing you to build applications with any language or framework. Azure also lets you scale up and down like its competitors to keep pace with demand. They also offer a CDN (content deliver network like Akamai). Microsoft has a competitive advantage in that they own the Windows OS so they don't have to pay license fees like Amazon, Rackspace and potentially Google do for Windows Server deployments in their data centers.
Amazon is the largest cloud provider with their "AWS" offering (Amazon Web Services). Amazon has put together a well rounded offering for companies with enormous computing needs or busy web sites. Their services include just about everything you could possibly want as a developer or company wanting to deploy a fully scalable web/computing platform. Services include elastic computing, domain name services (i.e. translate www.domain.com into an IP address), hosted email, managed database services, S3 Storage (unlimited and redundant storage), Cloudfront CDN, Virtual Private Clouds and quite a few other services. You get the idea. Also Amazon's infrastructure is such that you can replicate data and servers across data centers and/or geography for redundancy and backup. It's pretty cool stuff!
Rackspace Hosting is a long time player in the managed hosting space and went all in on Cloud Hosting as the space was growing and they realized they had to get on the cloud train. Rackspace differentiates itself by both its services and "fanatical" support. Their tech support team is extremely knowledgeable, talented and offers service with a smile in a timely fashion. Something rarely seen in any business this day and age. I have been a customer of Rackspace for almost 10 years and have used both managed and cloud services. Rackspace has an extremely solid competitive cloud offering with many of the same features that Amazon AWS and Azure offer although some implementations are slightly different (I'll spare the technical details since most readers do not have in-depth knowledge of cloud infrastructure, operating systems, stacks, etc). Rackspace has done a great job in their cloud ramp-up and is one of the toughest competitors for Amazon.
So Many Competitors. Can Google Compete and Win?
So can Google compete with these incumbent giants? My opinion is yes, absolutely. Google already has one of the largest computing infrastructures and data center footprints on this earth. They know cloud computing extremely well as all their services were built on the cloud. They are in a unique position to come into this space, guns blazing, and quickly carve out market share for themselves. Their brand has the trust of the public, developers and companies worldwide. According to Google, they plan to offer the Linux Operating System plus data storage. They say they will give customers 50% MORE POWER for the money when compared to other top cloud services like Amazon AWS, Azure and Rackspace. Yes, Google has declared war. One disadvantage might be the lack of the Windows Operating System as a choice. All the other providers give a wide array of operating system choices such as Windows and quite a few Linux OS flavors. Unless they offer Windows they would be excluded from this entire market segment. I have not seen details if they will allow Windows to run in a virtual machine or some other implementation, but its possible.
This new competitor will likely further commoditize the cloud computing space and force pricing pressure on the big players. Amazon's AWS has not kept up with Moore's Law in terms of performance increase and cost reduction. Amazon has likely pocketed the difference as their cost for storage and processing power has gone down much faster than their pricing has dropped. As the largest cloud player they could get away with it but perhaps Google's entrance into this space will change this and Amazon's margins in their cloud division will decline rapidly.
For Google this is the same play Amazon ran when they leveraged their own infrastructure to launch AWS. Google has massive computing infrastructure, so why not leverage that along with their extensive cloud know how? This is a great move for the big G and for consumers as we'll likely see much lower pricing here for a wide variety of cloud services. It will keep everyone honest.
One question I have is in regards to support. Rackspace is in my opinion the hands down leader in tech support for managed and cloud hosting. Microsoft and Amazon both have been beefing up their hosting support and doing a pretty good job. Google has not been known for the best support when things go wrong. When GMail or their other web apps break there is nobody to call. You just post in one of their support forums and hope they get to the issue soon and fix it. I've had hit or miss results here. When it comes to cloud hosting you need strong support and response times for mission critical deployments. If Google can provide solid support for end users I'm sure the new Compute Engine will be one of their big success stories of this decade.
For more of my analysis of stocks and finance check out my blog: www.oracleofjersey.com
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