This column originally appeared on March 8 on Real Money, our premium site for active traders. Click here to get great columns like this.
"We're here for real," Alphabet/Google (GOOGL - Get Report) chairman Eric Schmidt declared to current and would-be enterprise clients near the end of a lengthy Google Cloud Next conference keynote featuring several speakers and even more corporate guests.
"(Google) has...the money, the means and the commitment to pull off a new platform of computation globally, for everybody who needs it."
One has to wonder if Schmidt read a morning Wall Street Journal column raising doubts about the company's enterprise cloud bona fides. Or one published by The Information around the same time that claimed Google cloud chief Diane Greene (appointed in late 2015) is "in the hot seat" and that her unit has failed to "announce many big customers" since she took over.
That last claim was debatable prior to Google's event: Over the last 13 months, we've learned that Spotify, Evernote, Walt Disney (DIS - Get Report) , Home Depot (HD - Get Report) and (according to reports) Apple (AAPL - Get Report) are now using the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and that existing client Snap (SNAP - Get Report) has committed to spending at least $400 million per year on it over the next 5 years. But it became more questionable afterwards, as Google announced that HSBC (HSBC) and eBay (EBAY - Get Report) have joined the ranks of cloud infrastructure clients, and that Colgate-Palmolive (CL - Get Report) and Verizon (VZ - Get Report) have adopted the G Suite (formerly Google Apps) on a companywide scale.
Announcing these customer wins, along with some new technology partnerships and a smattering of new services, doesn't necessarily mean that GCP is set to displace Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) Azure as the #2 public cloud service provider in the near-term, never mind challenge 800-pound gorilla Amazon Web Services' (AWS) leadership position. But they did reinforce Google's message that it's a big-league public cloud player with some unique strengths that are resonating with a variety of companies.
HSBC, an AWS client, said it recently began using GCP for financial workloads involving large datasets and requiring a lot of processing power. Google's database and data warehousing services got shoutouts, as did its support for the popular Hadoop big data framework. eBay says it's using GCP's AI/machine learning services to power its Shopbot shopping assistant service. A Disney exec also indicated his company is using Google's AI offerings.
Verizon and Colgate are respectively migrating 150,000 and 28,000 employees to the G Suite. Bloomberg reports Verizon, like most other Fortune 500 firms, has been a Microsoft Office shop. Thanks to strong Office 365 uptake, Microsoft's commercial Office revenue has been up 5% annually in the last two quarters.
Colgate also suggested it's upbeat about the partnership that Google announced with enterprise software giant SAP (SAP - Get Report) . SAP's widely-used Hana in-memory database, already available on AWS and Azure, will now run on GCP, and its cloud app development platform will eventually do so. SAP also plans to resell the G Suite, and to work with Google on integrating its apps with the G Suite and Google's machine learning services.
When it came to unveiling new services, Google's event was fairly tame relative to what Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) showed off at last fall's AWS re:Invent conference. But there were a couple of notable announcements.
Google is launching a "video intelligence" machine learning service to complement its image, speech and text analysis services. In a demo, the service was able to show which of a client's videos contained baseball footage through a simple search, as well as show exactly where in a video baseball footage could be found. Conceivably, a service like this could also have a lot of value for YouTube.
The company also confirmed it has acquired Kaggle, an online community used by about 500,000 data science and machine learning pros. In a blog post, Kaggle says making Google's cloud offerings available to its community "will allow us to offer access to powerful infrastructure, scalable training and deployment services and the ability to store and query large data sets." TechCrunch observes it could also help Google with AI talent recruiting.
When not making announcements, Google tried hard to reiterate its message that certain GCP offerings, such as its machine learning and big data/analytics services, can't be matched by any rival (Gartner seemed to concur last year). It also highlighted the progress it has made in making cloud migrations faster, and the relative ease with which many workloads can be moved to and from GCP, thanks to its support for app containers and a popular open-source software platform (Kubernetes) for managing them.
These talking points, together with the limited number of new service launches and the fact that some of the clients it brought on stage are known to be Amazon and/or Microsoft clients, give the impression that Google at this point is comfortable being just one of multiple cloud providers relied upon by major enterprises, even if it would prefer to be the only one. Given Amazon's incredible scale, feature set and ecosystem, as well as how many enterprises (judging by survey data) are now relying on multiple cloud providers, that's not as much an admission of defeat as it is basic pragmatism.
Keep using Amazon if you want, but check us out as well, seems to be Google's unstated message. We're better than them in some ways, and now just as good in some others.
Judging by the estimated triple-digit sales growth GCP is seeing, and the platform's growing rolodex of enterprise clients, that message is starting to resonate.