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Google admits an inconvenient truth about the cloud wars with Amazon and Microsoft

Sundar PichaiJustin SullivanGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai

With a new service called “Stackdriver,” Google is acknowleding an uncomfortable truth about the cloud computing market — customers aren’t married to any one platform.

Stackdriver, announced today at a Google cloud event, is a way to let developers and IT departments monitor and track their cloud applications. Pretty straightforward, except for one distinguishing detail:

Stackdriver, based on technology it got when it bought a startup of the same name in 2014, works whether those applications live on Google’s own cloud platform, a customer’s own data center, or even the rival Amazon Web Services cloud.

It seems counterintuitive that Google would provide a tool that works with Amazon Web Services, given the search giant’s race to supplant it as the leading provider of cloud services. But it’s how the cloud market works.

For every customer like Spotify that’s moving their entire IT infrastructure to Google’s cloud, there are thousands more doing it bit by bit, and many companies are turning to multiple clouds on the way.

One team within a company might like Amazon Web Services for its database product; another team might need Google Cloud Platform’s freaky vision services; yet another team might need to keep their apps on local servers. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

A real-world example is HTC, which as of mid-2o15 used Amazon Web Services for some stuff, Google Cloud Platform for a lot of its image processing, and Microsoft Azure in China where Google doesn’t do business.

Meanwhile, tech like Netflix’s Spinnaker and the hot Docker containerization technology is making it easier than ever for IT departments to pack up their applications and bring them to whatever cloud provider or data center they want.

Google cloud vision marathonGoogleGoogle Cloud Vision can identify this as a marathon.

This is a big reason why it’s critical to take big-time company wins, like Apple reportedly going to Google Cloud Platform, with a grain of salt. Just because a Fortune 500 company is using a cloud platform, there’s no guarantee of how much they’re using it, or for what.

All of which is to say, it’s not that hard for a customer to ditch one vendor for another. And so, Google is moving to reflect this reality. The clear hope is that developers will value the tool enough to make Google a big part of their cloud mix, whatever it turns out to be.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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