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Google Cloud to offer support as a service: Is accidental IT provider the new Microsoft?

Won't use GCP? What about now? And now? And...

“We don’t use Google,” the CIO of a fairly major enterprise with a very recognizable brand told me some time ago. He runs the cloud component of his corporate IT on AWS and Microsoft’s Azure.

“If there’s a problem, I don’t want to be on the phone to California and told everybody’s in a meeting.”

Google is not a new tech firm, but it is relatively new to enterprise IT, and it has attempted to address the shortcomings in support with a trio of new offerings.

Last week Google seemed to recognise this as a problem and announced that from spring, Google will offer support-as-a-service.

The Engineering Support option comes in three flavours: for devs and QA, $100 per user per month with a response time for four to eight business hours. In production engineering, it’s $250 per user a month for a one-hour response time on “critical” issues, and for on-call engineering support you get a Google engineer within 15 minutes 24x7 at a price of $1,500 per user a month.

This will replace Google’s silver, gold and platinum support tiers, with priced starting at $150 and $400 per month with platinum charged on a custom basis. Prices are fixed and you can mix and match support levels as a project matures – according to Google, “no more buying the highest tier for the whole company just because one project needs a 15-minute response time.”

According to Google, here:

With this new model, you pay for only the roles your team needs and can decide what time-frame of support responses best suits the lifecycle stages of your applications and who in your organization needs to interact with support.

Founded in 1997 on the back of a search algorithm, the internet’s biggest ads-slinger more or less stumbled into enterprise technology by accident courtesy of its browser, Chrome, which it built to displace Microsoft’s one-time sumo Internet Explorer. Chrome was aimed at consumers, but the data says Google’s browser is now bigger than IE while industry sources report it’s a close number-two browser in the enterprise – after IE – having become an unofficial standard.

Microsoft has been the go-to provider of technology and services to the enterprise for so many years, it’s just not worth counting. What started with Windows on PCs morphed into Windows on servers and saw Microsoft consolidate with the expansion into business applications.

Corporations are conservative beasts: they dislike sudden roadmap changes and blanket rollouts of new product features. Microsoft gave technology with stability. Equally, companies do not like being alone, and for a product to succeed in the enterprise there must be somebody who can be called in the event of an emergency.

Sure, Microsoft’s tech support lines can be a pain and have had their problems, but they exist and that’s helped keep big IT shops very happy over the years.

Now, Microsoft has shifted that model to the cloud.

In November 2015, Google got serious on cloud: it named former VMware CEO Diane Greene as vice president of Google cloud in a concerted attempt to close the gap on AWS and Microsoft as an enterprise infrastructure provider with cloud.

But there’s that residual problem of support, something Microsoft – and increasingly AWS – have nailed.

Google’s support trio came at an important time. It is clearly targeting engineering-level support: this is the coalface of where apps are built and where acceptance of your platform lives or dies.

It was the engineers, and ISV ecosystem buy-in, that got Microsoft off to such a healthy start and turned Windows into a self-sustaining machine.

For various reasons, Google missed the first wave of infrastructure-as-a-service adoption. Now, however, it’s talking of building apps on Google Cloud Platform that are “smart.”

Brian Stevens, Google’s vice president of Cloud Platform, reckoned there now exist no capability gaps between GCP and AWS and Azure.

The next phase in Google’s work will be to “show enterprise capabilities [that] they never knew existed, to show them a level of telemetry in their infrastructure, show them the results of using machine learning in their infrastructure.”

That’s going to require a little more handholding than might have been acceptable, or even permissible, for Google in the first years of the cloud platform scramble. ®

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