Secrecy is Google's Achilles heel in battle for the cloud

Summary:Google is trying to position itself as a more reliable IaaS provider than Amazon Web Services. But given that its cloud technology is proprietary, can it meet enterprise demands for openness and transparency?

Google is trying to position itself as a more reliable version of Amazon Web Services, which already has the lion's share of the infrastructure-as-a-service cloud market.

The search engine giant reckons that it has a unique advantage : namely, that its cross-datacentre technology allows it to move compute and storage loads around, creating a multiply redundant infrastructure that adds reliability. And given that Google co-invented Hadoop, the leading big-data platform, it should understand how to make such complexity work.

The first question is: does Google's technology work?

Google's search engine went down in 2009 but, given the volume of traffic it handles, this is not a bad record over the last decade. So the company's technology is pretty robust.

The second question being asked by enterprise buyers of cloud services is: how does it work?

This is where we hit the sticking point. As highlighted in a previous blog , buyers of cloud services increasingly want to know what's going on under the bonnet. They want transparency as much as they want a good deal. Does Google give them that?

Google may be able to paper over the cracks in the answers it gives more than many, if not most, other cloud providers. This is because it can point to its record and its continuing position as the world's leading internet search engine, with 84 percent market share.

But potential customers will still want to know where their data is and what's happening to it. This Google cannot do, because it has never revealed the secrets of its technology and shows no sign of so doing.

There is an alternative: OpenStack, which Rackspace recently described as the Linux of the cloud world. It lets anyone create a cloud service, is backed by an open-source code base, and is already doing better in terms of contributions than Linux was at the same point in its history, according to Rackspace's chief executive Lanham Napier.

The obvious stay-aways from the OpenStack effort are Amazon and Google — proponents of proprietary technology both of them. When open-source software (OSS) first arrived, many pooh-poohed the idea. How could it make money? How could it be robust? How could it be trusted?

The OSS community has proven itself capable of developing technology that shoulders some the biggest loads out there, so there's no question that the model works. Now time for open-source cloud to step forward?

Topics: Cloud

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Editor, journalist, analyst, presenter and blogger. As well as blogging and writing news & features here on ZDNet, I work as a cloud analyst with STL Partners, and write for a number of other news and feature sites. I also provide research and analysis services, video and audio production, white papers, event photography, voiceo... Full Bio

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