Stratechery: How Google is Challenging AWS

ATN-300-300x300.jpgInsightaaS: This long but well-written post has garnered some attention over the past couple of days, and with reason: it provides an interesting perspective on how Google has been outflanked by both Microsoft and (especially) AWS in the enterprise cloud market, and draws some intriguing parallels between Google and Apple.

The source of the ‘challenge’ noted in the title is a bit less clear. The piece first describes Kubernetes as a possible avenue of attack, pointing out that a containerized approach to cloud could reduce AWS lock-in. The post then shifts gears, holding up machine learning as a technology that Google could use to unseat AWS and other competitors.

Candidly, I think this piece is stronger in its evaluation of the current state – where it offers some truly unique insights – than in its perspective on potential avenues of attack that Google can use to threaten AWS. Containers are certainly important to the cloud community, and Kubernetes is a well-recognized name in the container space – but it is a clear second (to Docker) in container mindshare, and there are at least a couple of other major competitors in this market (CoreOS and Apache Mesos) and, according to a market map developed by Codenvy and published by Betanews, the container market now spans more than 100 different projects/offerings. Google may well have a more distinct advantage with machine learning – but major cloud providers, including AWS, Microsoft and IBM, have signalled that they will focus here as well. These firms do not have the deep data insight that Google possesses, but they have a demonstrated ability to successfully bring B2B cloud offerings to market. As the Stratechery post shows, Google has some impressive technical resources – but it will need to find ways to sell and deliver to the business market before it can truly be seen as a challenger to AWS.


Big companies are often criticized for having “missed” the future — from the comfortable perch of a present where said future has come to pass, of course — but while the future is still the future incumbents are first more often than not. Probably the best example is Microsoft: the company didn’t “miss mobile” — Windows Mobile came out in 2000 — but rather was handicapped by its allegiance to its license-based modular business model and inability to envision a world where its core product (Windows) was a planet orbiting mobile’s sun; everything about Windows Mobile’s design presumed the exact opposite.

One could make the same argument about Google and the enterprise; both G Suite (née Google Apps for Your Domain) and Google Docs launched a decade ago and enjoyed modest success, particularly in smaller businesses and education; unsurprisingly, both markets share broadly similar characteristics to Google’s core consumer user base — limited configurability and a low price were good things. Traction was harder to come by in larger enterprises, though, and in fact over the last few years Office 365 has well out-paced G Suite, not only growing faster but winning back customers.

Still, for all the success Microsoft has had with Office 365, the real giant of cloud computing — which is to say the future of enterprise computing — is, as is so often the case, a company no one saw coming: the same year Google decided to take on Microsoft Amazon launched Amazon Web Services. What makes AWS so compelling is the way that it reflects Amazon itself: it is built for scale and with clearly-defined and hardened interfaces. Customers — first Amazon but also companies around the world — access “primitives” that can be mixed-and-matched to build a more efficient, scalable, and secure back-end than nearly any company could build on its own…

Read the entire post (recommended!):