Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, who recently discussed why proprietary clouds pose danger
Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, who recently discussed why proprietary clouds pose danger

Proprietary Clouds Pose Huge Danger, Says Google Cloud CEO Kurian

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Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian staked out some high ground in the Cloud Wars this week by raising the specter that proprietary clouds will not be able to meet the “survivability requirements” for life in today’s hybrid-cloud and multicloud world.

(On my weekly Cloud Wars Top 10 rankings, Google Cloud is #4.) 

In a blog post laying out Google Cloud’s broad commitment to open-source technologies and policies, Kurian sounded a warning call to business customers about the constrained set of choices offered by proprietary vendors. Those limitations, Kurian wrote, will become increasingly troublesome as those businesses choose to deploy multiple types of clouds to meet specific needs.

Now, I’m no technologist, but the term “survivability requirements” surely got my attention. And with Google Cloud having established itself throughout 2020 as the fastest-growing cloud vendor among the Cloud Wars Top 10, this seemed like an issue that needs to be explored.

Here’s how Kurian framed it in his Nov. 19 post, putting it in the context of open-source technologies:

Open source plays a critical role in an open cloud. Many companies have mission-critical workloads or sensitive data that have “survivability requirements” in the event that a provider is forced to suspend or terminate cloud services due to country or region policy changes. To move workloads to other clouds, it’s important to develop them using open source and open standards.

At Google Cloud, we don’t think it’s possible to fully address survivability requirements with a proprietary solution. Instead, solutions based on open source tools and open standards are the route to addressing customer and policymaker concerns. More importantly, open source gives customers the flexibility to deploy—and, if necessary, migrate—critical workloads across or off public cloud platforms.

In the first paragraph of that excerpt, the in-line link to “survivability requirements” goes to another Kurian blog post, this one from a couple of months ago and headlined Engaging in a European dialogue on customer controls and open cloud solutions. In that Sept. 29 post, here’s how Kurian described the ominous-sounding “survivability requirements”:

In our engagement with European customers and policymakers about their sovereignty needs, they describe several core requirements: control over all access to their data by the provider, including what type of personnel can access and from which region; inspectability of changes to cloud infrastructure and services that impact access to or the security of their data, ensuring the provider is unable to circumvent controls or move their data out of the region; and survivability of their workloads for an extended period of time in the event that they are unable to receive software updates from the provider.

So this whole “survivability” thing appears to be driven by increasing regulatory issues around data sovereignty and privacy—and those are two concerns that will only become more intense as time goes by.

All in all, a nice effort by Kurian and Google Cloud to raise a forward-looking idea that will surely become more strategic as (a) those issues of data sovereignty and privacy move to the top of corporate priority lists and (b) as the cloud continues to soar in popularity for all manner of corporate workloads.

However, I wish Google Cloud would have been more forthcoming about what exactly a “proprietary” cloud is. Because that’s the whole hook for the warning about “survivability requirements”: Google Cloud believes proprietary clouds won’t be able to meet them, and therefore, what—workloads on proprietary clouds will not survive?

As I said, I am surely no technologist, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard the term “survivability requirements.” And because that term very clearly has as its very essence a life-or-death tone, Google Cloud should go into more detail about what’s proprietary cloud and what isn’t, and how to tell if you’ve got proprietary clouds hidden away somewhere without knowing it.

Because I’m probably a fairly good proxy for the legions of non-technical business executives rapidly becoming more involved in making decisions about which cloud vendors to select—and whether those vendors do or don’t meet the survivability requirements that are probably poorly understood now but will likely become quite prominent in the near future.

Disclosure: at the time of this writing, Google Cloud was among the many clients of Cloud Wars Media LLC and/or Evans Strategic Communications LLC.


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