Google Cloud's empty gesture

Today: Google Cloud fails to address the real complaints about cloud data transfer fees, OpenAI courts the Pentagon, and the quote of the week.

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian speaks at Cloud Next 2023. Credit: Google
Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian speaks at Cloud Next 2023. Credit: Google

Welcome to Runtime! Today: Google Cloud fails to address the real complaints about cloud data transfer fees, OpenAI courts the Pentagon, and the quote of the week.

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They even make you beg for it

Google Cloud made quite a splash this week announcing that it would waive data-transfer fees for customers that wanted to take their business elsewhere. While the move garnered a lot of positive attention, it was a competitive-marketing stunt that does very little to address the real-world concerns that cloud customers have about data transfer fees.

Google's Amit Zavery — who has been the point person for Google Cloud's competitive lobbying efforts over the last year — announced Thursday that "starting today, Google Cloud customers who wish to stop using Google Cloud and migrate their data to another cloud provider and/or on premises, can take advantage of free network data transfer to migrate their data out of Google Cloud." Bloomberg declared that Google was now "pressuring Amazon and Microsoft" to follow suit, and with all due respect to the many wonderful people I know at Bloomberg, that framing is overly generous.

  • In order to take advantage of this free offer, some terms and conditions apply.
  • It needs to be a salt-the-earth exit: Google Cloud customers must agree to terminate their agreement with the company in order to be eligible for a chargeback on their accounts when they actually follow through.
  • Only customers of certain services — BigQuery, Cloud Bigtable, Cloud SQL, Cloud Storage, Datastore, Filestore, Spanner, and Persistent Disk — are eligible, which excludes popular databases like the PostgreSQL-compatible AlloyDB and Memorystore, a managed Redis database.
  • And you have to do it on their schedule: Google Cloud Support "will review the request and notify you of when you may initiate the migration of all your workloads and data from Google Cloud to another cloud service provider or an on-premises data center for free in anticipation of terminating your Google Cloud agreement."

Thursday's announcement does nothing to eliminate the real obstacle that cloud providers have erected to keep customers on their servers: everyday data-egress fees.

  • "Does this program change my data transfer (formerly egress) usage or charges?" wonders Google's FAQ linked from the blog post, and there's a simple answer: no.
  • Moving data into a cloud provider is easy and free, while moving it out to basically any other destination — such as an on-premises storage server, or a content-delivery network — is painful and costly.
  • Cloud providers even charge customers to move data between their own internal servers, including Google, which charges you to move data between buckets in Cloud Storage, its version of AWS's S3.
  • Egress fees sound like extortion, but last year at Google Cloud Next Sachin Gupta, vice president and general manager of Google's Infrastructure Solutions group, very patiently (and convincingly!) explained to me how much engineering work is required to safely and quickly move data across private and public networks.

But if Google Cloud really wanted to put pressure on AWS and Microsoft, it would eliminate those egress (excuse me, data transfer) fees.

  • What it really did was just make it a little less expensive for Google Cloud customers to take their business elsewhere, which … great? They'll remember Google Cloud fondly as they spend millions with its rivals?
  • Zavery's involvement means this was really just the latest salvo in a anticompetitive campaign Google has been waging against its two larger rivals, which convinced U.K. regulators to take a closer look at the market.
  • While AWS and Microsoft customers definitely have their complaints, there aren't a lot who would be willing to completely destroy their relationship with either company to save a few hundred grand, which will make it very, very easy for the cloud leaders to duplicate Google's offer.

Google Cloud has long positioned itself at the vanguard of the multicloud movement, which makes sense given its market share. Why not follow Cloudflare's lead and make a real quality of life improvement for cloud storage customers by making it less expensive to operate across multiple clouds?

Tokens gathered in their masses

While we debate whether or not ChatGPT is ready for real business use, the Pentagon apparently has FOMO.

The Intercept reported Friday that OpenAI recently removed a provision from its terms of service prohibiting the use of ChatGPT for "military and warfare" applications. You're still not supposed to use ChatGPT to "develop or use weapons," according to the report, but there are a lot of military uses for AI that go beyond weaponry.

Google Cloud employees famously revolted against the idea of working on AI projects for the military, but Silicon Valley's stance on the issue seemed to have softened in recent years. If generative AI really is the game-changer that OpenAI and its acolytes insist it is, it would be hard for the startup to resist an organization with the biggest budget on the planet.

Quote of the week

"AI is kind of like home decor; what works for one company will not work for another." — Cushman & Wakefield CDIO Sal Companieh, on how her company is evaluating enterprise AI applications.

The Runtime roundup

Slack co-founder and CTO Cal Henderson is leaving the company just days after Salesforce threw his chief of staff under the bus.

Microsoft cloud customers in Europe are now able to store their personal data on servers located within the continent.

Thanks for reading — see you Tuesday!

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