Once Focused On Pricing, Google's Cloud Message Is Now About Enterprise-Readiness

Eighteen months ago, Google looked hell-bent on joining a pricing war with Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud infrastructure-as-a-service market.

But since then, Google's cloud message has shifted to security, reliability and other things enterprises look at when shopping for cloud services.

The latest evidence came during Thursday's fourth-quarter earnings call when Nikesh Arora, senior vice president and chief business officer at Google, downplayed the significance of pricing for Compute Engine, its cloud IaaS offering.

"People will make a decision based on robustness, based on security, based on availability, based on the breadth of services we can offer in that platform," Arora said, according to Seeking Alpha's transcript of the event.

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When Google first unveiled Compute Engine in May of 2012, it vowed to undercut Amazon Web Services' pricing. Google also introduced per-minute cloud IaaS pricing last May as an alternative to Amazon's hourly pricing.

AWS has cut pricing for its cloud services 40 times since 2006 and seems to almost consider it a sport. Last month, Microsoft followed through on an earlier pledge to match Amazon's pricing by cutting pricing for Windows Azure storage.

While Google certainly has the scale and capacity to compete on pricing, it's much more concerned with giving developers the tools and services they need to build advanced apps, David Hoff, co-founder and senior vice president of operations and technology of Cloud Sherpas, an Atlanta-based Google partner, said in an interview.

"Google has a lot of cachet in the tech community because of the reputation for innovation that they've earned," Hoff told CRN. "That's one of the things that drew people to Microsoft in the past."

Google uses a lot of artificial intelligence to run its core business, with technologies like Prediction API (cloud-based machine learning) and BigQuery (cloud-based data analysis) leading the way, Tony Safoian, president of SADA Systems, a North Hollywood, Calif.-based Google cloud partner, told CRN.

"Every key revenue-generating part of Google depends on extremely robust cloud infrastructure," Safoian said. "They're playing a completely different game than other cloud vendors."

While Google's enterprise cloud business overall is doing "really well," Arora acknowledged on the earnings call that "we have more room to work harder over there."

Arora didn't elaborate on this, but Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Westborough, Mass.-based Google partner, said a common management console for Google Apps and other cloud services would be a welcome addition.

Google doesn't talk much about its enterprise cloud business, but with Compute Engine now in the game, in the future, its executives will no doubt be fielding questions about its progress -- and how it's stacking up against the competition.