Mark Russinovich, Microsoft’s CTO of its Azure cloud computing platform, claims not to have “had time to even digest” Google’s decision to create a new holding company called Alphabet. He has noticed, however, that Google is way behind his company and Amazon in the business of providing on-demand compute capacity to other businesses. In an interview with Fortune on Tuesday, the day after Google’s surprise announcement, Russinovich called Google a “wild card” compared to Microsoft and Amazon, adding that he’s “unclear what their strategy is.”
While small compared to Google’s massive advertising business, Google has been investing heavily into its cloud computing business, hoping to create an eventual cash cow. Despite being a fundamentally business-focused effort, Google decided to keep its data center infrastructure properties as part of the Google brand, and the company made no indication that it’s going to spin out its cloud computing business into a separate entity.
The move to not spin out Google’s cloud business may have been a missed opportunity, considering that Amazon (AMZN) , Microsoft (MSFT) , and Google (GOOG) are typically mentioned in the same breath when it comes to public cloud computing. (A private cloud, a strength of Microsoft’s, entails operating dedicated servers in a data center for individual corporate customers; A public cloud is shared servers.) Spinning out the company’s cloud business might have been a symbolic gesture that Google is willing to have the business stand on its own.
Then again, perhaps the move is just a sign that Google’s cloud business is not yet mature enough to be an independent entity, like Google’s Fiber broadband business and Nest, the thermostat business it acquired. Perhaps the cloud business just needs some more time under the Google brand where Google CEO Sundar Pichai can nurture it into the profit machine Google desires it to be.
In the interview, Russinovich said he considers Google to be one of the largest public cloud providers, behind Microsoft and Amazon. “It’s clear that they’ve got great infrastructure,” he said. “It’s very clear that they’ve got all the deep pockets. (It’s) not clear what their intentions are.”
According to Russinovich, Microsoft’s strength has been its long history as an enterprise company serving the needs of businesses, an area he believes is not “what Google’s strength is.”
“To be honest, when customers come in, they talk about us and Amazon,” said Russinovich. “We don’t hear Google show up in the conversations.”
Google has landed some big cloud clients, including SunGard Financial Systems, Coca-Cola Company, and Best Buy. But it’s not clear how much of a business that is generating because Google doesn’t break out its numbers. Analysts typically rank Google’s cloud business No. 3 behind Amazon and Microsoft.
At press time, Google had not responded to a request for comment.
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