Earnings calls for Google parent group Alphabet have taken on a familiar ring. The company’s mammoth advertising and search businesses take center stage as the main bread winners, but analysts want to hear more about Google’s “other” businesses—especially cloud computing.
For the fourth quarter ending December 31, 2016, the non-advertising business—which includes Google Cloud Platform along with Google’s popular G Suite software as well as hardware like the Pixel phone—hit $3.4 billion in sales, up 62% from the year-ago period. That business represents a bigger piece of total Google (GOOG) revenue—13% compared to 10% from last year’s quarter.
Analysts want specifics on just how well the cloud business is doing, but no one outside Google knows how much of that sales total comes from Google Cloud. During Thursday night’s call, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai boasted Google Cloud Platform is on a “terrific upswing” and has “moved beyond table stakes,” according to trade publication CRN.
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More specifics would be helpful because cloud computing is a fast-growing market. More businesses are putting new applications onto shared data center infrastructure run by an outside cloud provider rather than building more of their own facilities, which is, to say the least, expensive. And they usually end up buying computing capacity that they may use once or twice a year. The public cloud model that Amazon (AMZN) Web Services started to popularize in 2006 lets them ramp up computing power when needed and then shut it down—and stop paying for it as needed.
Market research firm IDC estimates that public cloud spending worldwide—now just under $100 billion—will double by 2020. Granted, that’s a tiny piece of the estimated $2.4 trillion spent on IT worldwide as of 2016. But public cloud outlays are expected to eclipse spending on hardware and software that companies run on-site.
After the earnings call, market analyst firm TBRI said it expects the Google Cloud group to keep pushing its advantage in data analytics and machine learning to compete with rivals AWS, Microsoft (MSFT) Azure. and IBM (IBM) Bluemix.
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Bottom line: Google has work to do. For its last quarter, AWS sold $3.2 billion worth of cloud services. Microsoft Azure, while it lags AWS by quite a bit, is tapping into a big pool of existing Windows-and-Office business customers.
Google Cloud has a few Fortune 500 accounts including Whirlpool (WHR) and Airbus (AIRBUS-GROUP-N-V) but has thus far struggled to gain more traction in big businesses. Alphabet and Google executives—including Pichai, senior vice president Diane Greene, vice president Brian Stevens, and Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt—will headline a Google Cloud Next event in March. Expectations are that they will announce more corporate accounts for Google Cloud Platform at that time.
Date (01/27/2017 7:01 p.m.) This story was updated to add the names of some large Google Cloud customers