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Windows Server cloud support unlikely bedfellow for Google

Google's support of Windows Server mutually benefits both companies' platforms, but it may not be enough for a Microsoft shop.

The whole cloud space has developed on what seems like a breakneck pace. This week, Google announced its Compute Engine cloud platform will add support for Windows Server 2008 R2. And this is interesting for Microsoft watchers for a couple of reasons.

The program is enabled through Microsoft License Mobility, which lets organizations transfer already paid-for licenses from on-premises installations to the cloud -- without paying a reoccurring licensing fee. Google promises Windows Server cloud support for newer versions in the coming weeks and months.

This brings Google in line with the rest of the public cloud space in terms of compatibility and support. From Google's perspective, Microsoft is a dominant force in enterprise computing, any service that doesn't support Microsoft technologies could face extinction in the enterprise. The move also shows that Google is willing to open itself up to a competitor's technologies if it is in the best interests of mutual customers -- a trait Microsoft seems increasingly willing to manifest as well.
Running Windows on Google may increase the likelihood of further price-competition wars in the cloud space. Google does not have much of an edge or a differentiator against Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft, so it is primarily left to compete on price. While Amazon and Microsoft both have deep pockets, such a price war could drive midsize cloud providers like Rackspace out of business. Rackspace, for one, was looking for a buyer or some sort of strategic exit earlier this year, only to abandon that by remaining independent and later beefing up its managed cloud business.

Microsoft Azure supports most things enterprises want to do in the cloud, which puts into perspective the shortcomings other cloud services such as Google Compute Engine. It also shines a light on how progressive and forward-thinking Azure has become. Note that I said "most things." I find it particularly interesting that Google Compute Engine supports Exchange Server, but Microsoft Azure does not.

Azure has supported SharePoint for a while and offered prebuilt images in its virtual machine gallery. Google now supports SharePoint too. But Microsoft has shied away from supporting private Exchange Server installations because it cannot guarantee an acceptable level of performance and scaling. While the company has indicated it's working to rectify this, the popularity of Exchange Online and Office 365 probably push it further down the priority list. So organizations looking to run private instances of Exchange Server need to look at AWS or Google Compute Engine, not the company that developed Exchange.

Google must battle enterprise perceptions

Some administrators and CIOs simply don't trust Google -- full stop. At its core, Google is an advertising company, so many technology professionals assume it has a vested interest in reading their data and offering up ads or special offers based on what it learns. Even when Google promises not to engage in such activities, it's still in the company's corporate DNA to consider that sort of advertising mindset in almost everything it does. For many, the Google Compute Engine cloud is a nonstarter, regardless of the features or cost profile of the service.

Other companies -- heterogeneous shops, startups, and those that are really price-conscious -- might find the Google offering compelling now.

At the end of the day, this announcement does not do much to change my already formed opinion of the service. For Windows Server cloud shops, Google Compute Engine is the least interesting public cloud platform on which to build, and by a pretty wide margin, albeit thinning, if this announcement is any indication.

Microsoft Azure is the most relevant platform for Windows shops looking at the cloud, and AWS is pretty much the most mature of any platform. For mixed shops, Google became a little more centrist in its offering, but I think Google Compute Engine has a long way to go and a lot of work to do before it becomes a "must-consider" item for big organizations with large existing investments in Windows and Microsoft technologies.

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