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Convergence of the Clouds

How Google and Microsoft take similar routes

Recently, I’ve been involved with the Clouds. Not so much everybody’s darling AWS, but more the runner-ups in the race: Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. Both cool kids, but everyone with his its very different style and philosophy of what it considers “cool”.

Google Cloud is representing the muster child from a family of teacher parents, with a more academic approach, focused on latency, performance, essence and quality.

Azure is more like the rich kid with all the stuff you can buy in its room loaded with toys, amazing a lot of friends, which don’t mind that some tools are broken.

A detailed comparison of the features of both offerings would be the subject of one or more separate articles.

So Microsoft and Google follow two very unique approaches to Cloud, both approaches representing the respective companies’ style of creating products. On the other hand, suprisingly, both have over the past months made a number of steps which are kind of contradicting the companies’ cultures and similar when compared to each other.

Maybe let’s phrase it like that: Two worlds approaching themselves in a peaceful way, embracing the best from the other one’s world, isn’t that good news in itself?

Approaches, Anecdotally

So in case you missed it, let’s recap the news, with every headline in itself a mild suprise (at least for me):

Two quite different businesses…

Microsoft’s revenue has been dependent on licensing fees for Windows, Office and other products. However, consumers and enterprises were becoming increasingly hesistant to upgrade Windows until Windows 10 came basically free for everyone. The Windows Server market has been under pressure from Linux being deployed more and more in data centers around the world.

Google, on the other hand, has been dependent on money from its advertising broker business. Since they have had special needs running their own infrastructure in terms of technology and scale, they build their own in-house tools based on Linux. Not Microsoft. For years now they are even working on their own cloud-based Office suite, which is in competition to Microsoft’s classic turf.

…Converging in Cloud

Now, both companies start getting substantial revenue from cloud business. In order to generate more revenue from cloud, what can you do? Sure, open up the datacenter doors wide, wide, wide like drift nets to pull in as many customers as possible. Just like the increased and eased trade relationships in the whole world over the past decades opened the opportunity for more revenue for the lucky ones, which where able to attract more customers. If you make good business with everyone else on the planet, why should you be hostile with them?

That’s exactly what’s happening in Cloud land. Both, Microsoft and Google embrace each other’s favorite technology. But embracement might be only the first step to grapping someone in headlock.

What Does That Mean For Customers?

In the short term, this means: More options and more choice. Both companies paint a huge “No vendor lock-in here!” on their cloud’s store fronts. But this convergence in features and supported technologies makes both choices, Google Cloud vs. Microsoft Azure, less a technical one. Or at least the focus shifts from basic features to the very basic properties of a cloud offering:

  • What is the pricing?
  • How is usage metered (by minute, by hour)?
  • And for enterprises: How can I integrate with my on-premise systems.

I’m expecting a race to the bottom here, while openness of both Clouds converges.