Google already runs much of the digital lives of consumers through email, Internet searches and YouTube videos. Now it wants the corporations, too.
The search giant has for years been evasive about its plans for a so-called public cloud of computers and data storage that is rented to individuals and businesses. On Tuesday, however, it will announce pricing, features and performance guarantees aimed at companies ranging from start-ups to multinationals.
It is the latest salvo in an escalating battle among some of the most influential companies in technology to control corporate and government computing through public clouds. That battle, which is expected to last years and cost the competitors billions of dollars annually in material and talent, already includes Microsoft, IBM and Amazon.
As businesses move from owning their own computers to renting data-crunching power and software over the Internet, this resource-rich foursome is making big promises about computing clouds. Supercomputing-based research, for example, won’t be limited to organizations that can afford supercomputers. And tech companies with a hot idea will be able to get big fast because they won’t have to build their own computer networks.
Take Snapchat, the photo-swapping service that recently turned down a multibillion-dollar takeover offer from Facebook. It processes 4,000 pictures a second on Google’s servers but is just two years old and has fewer than 30 employees. The company started out working with a Google service that helps young companies create applications and was chosen by Google to be an early customer of its cloud.
Working with Google has allowed Snapchat to avoid spending a lot to support its users. “I’ve never owned a computer server,” said Bobby Murphy, a co-founder and the chief technical officer of Snapchat.
That is a big shift from the days when, for young companies, knowing how to build a complex data center was just as important as creating a popular service.
“These things are incredibly fast — setting up new servers in a minute, when it used to take several weeks to order, install and test,” said Chris Gaun, an analyst with Gartner. “Finance, product research, crunching supercomputing data like genomic information can all happen faster.”
Amazon’s cloud, called Amazon Web Services, was arguably the pioneer of the public cloud and for now is the largest player. Amazon says its cloud has “hundreds of thousands” of customers. Though most of these are individuals and small businesses, it also counts big names like Netflix, which stopped building its own data centers in 2008 and was completely on Amazon’s cloud by 2012. All of Amazon’s services are run inside that cloud, too.