Winning Hearts and Minds in Cloud with Brian Hall

Episode Summary

Brian Hall, VP of Product Marketing at Google Cloud, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss the true meaning of digital transformation, where he sees us being in that process, and the approach Google Cloud is taking to cloud services. Listen in as Brian explains why he still sees cloud as being in its early days, and the approach Google Cloud has taken to unexpectedly delight its customers and gain its customers’ enthusiastic recommendation. Brian also reveals why calculating a Target Addressable Market for Google Cloud is nearly impossible, as the possible applications for cloud have barely scratched the surface.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About Brian

Brian leads the Google Cloud Product and Industry Marketing team. This team is focused on accelerating the growth of Google Cloud by establishing thought leadership, increasing demand and usage, enabling their sales teams and partners to tell their product stories with excellence, and helping their customers be the best advocates for them.

Before joining Google, Brian spent over 25 years in product marketing or engineering in different forms. He started his career at Microsoft and had a very non-traditional path for 20 years. Brian worked in every product division except for cloud. He did marketing, product management, and engineering roles. And, early on, he was the first speech writer for Steve Ballmer and worked on Bill Gates’ speeches too. His last role was building up the Microsoft Surface business from scratch as VP of the hardware businesses. After Microsoft, Brian spent a year as CEO at a hardware startup called Doppler Labs, where they made a run at transforming hearing, and then spent two years as VP at Amazon Web Services leading product marketing, developer advocacy, and a bunch more marketing teams.

Brian has three kids still at home, Barty, Noli, and Alder, who are all named after trees in different ways. His wife Edie and him met right at the beginning of their first year at Yale University, where Brian studied math, econ, and philosophy and was the captain of the Swim and Dive team his senior year. Edie has a PhD in forestry and runs a sustainability and forestry consulting firm she started, that is aptly named “Three Trees Consulting”. As a family they love the outdoors, tennis, running, and adventures in Brian’s 1986 Volkswagen Van, which is his first and only car, that he can’t bring himself to get rid of.

Links Referenced:

Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.

Corey: This episode is brought to us by our friends at Pinecone. They believe that all anyone really wants is to be understood, and that includes your users. AI models combined with the Pinecone vector database let your applications understand and act on what your users want… without making them spell it out. Make your search application find results by meaning instead of just keywords, your personalization system make picks based on relevance instead of just tags, and your security applications match threats by resemblance instead of just regular expressions. Pinecone provides the cloud infrastructure that makes this easy, fast, and scalable. Thanks to my friends at Pinecone for sponsoring this episode. Visit to understand more.

Corey: This episode is brought to you in part by our friends at Veeam. Do you care about backups? Of course you don’t. Nobody cares about backups. Stop lying to yourselves! You care about restores, usually right after you didn’t care enough about backups. If you’re tired of the vulnerabilities, costs, and slow recoveries when using snapshots to restore your data, assuming you even have them at all living in AWS-land, there is an alternative for you. Check out Veeam, that's V-E-E-A-M for secure, zero-fuss AWS backup that won’t leave you high and dry when it’s time to restore. Stop taking chances with your data. Talk to Veeam. My thanks to them for sponsoring this ridiculous podcast.

Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. This episode is brought to us by our friends at Google Cloud and, as a part of that, they have given me someone to, basically, harass for the next half hour. Brian Hall is the VP of Product Marketing over at Google Cloud. Brian, welcome back.

Brian: Hello, Corey. It’s good to be here, and technically, we’ve given you time to harass me by speaking with me because you never don’t have the time to harass me on Twitter and other places, and you’re very good at it.

Corey: Well, thank you. Again, we first met back when you were doing, effectively, the same role over at AWS. And before that, you spent only 20 years or so at Microsoft. So, you’ve now worked at all three of the large hyperscale cloud providers. You probably have some interesting perspectives on how the industry has evolved over that time. So, at the time of this recording, it is after Google Next and before re:Invent. There was also a Microsoft event there that I didn’t pay much attention to. Where are we as a culture, as an industry, when it comes to cloud?

Brian: Well, I’ll start with it is amazing how early days it still is. I don’t want to be put on my former Amazon cap too much, and I think it’d be pushing it a little bit to say it’s complete and total day one with the cloud. But there’s no question that there is a ton of evolution still to come. I mean, if you look at it, you can kind of break it into three eras so far. And roll with me here, and happy to take any dissent from you.

But there was kind of a first era that was very much led by Amazon. We can call it the VM era or the component era, but being able to get compute on-demand, get nearly unlimited or actually unlimited storage with S3 was just remarkable. And it happened pretty quickly that startups, new tech companies, had to—like, it would be just wild to not start with AWS and actually start ordering servers and all that kind of stuff. And so, I look at that as kind of the first phase. And it was remarkable how long Amazon had a run really as the only player there. And maybe eight years ago—six years ago—we could argue on timeframes, things shifted a little bit because the enterprises, the big companies, and the governments finally realized, “Holy crow. This thing has gotten far enough that it’s not just for these startups.”

Corey: Yeah. There was a real change. There was an eye-opening moment there where it isn’t just, “I want to go and sell things online.” It’s, “And I also want to be a bank. Can we do that with you?” And, “Huh.”

Brian: My SAP—like I don’t know big that darn thing is going to get. Could I put it in your cloud? And, “Oh, by the way, CapEx forecasting stinks. Can you get me out of that?” And so, it became like the traditional IT infrastructure. All of the sudden, the IT guys showed up at the party, which I know is—it sounds fun to me, but that doesn’t sound like the best addition to a party for many people. And so essentially, old-school IT infrastructure finally came to the cloud and Microsoft couldn’t miss that happening when it did. But it was a major boon for AWS just because of the position that they had already.

Corey: And even Google as well. All three of you now are pivoting in a lot of the messaging to talk to the big E enterprises out there. And I’ve noticed for the last few years, and I’m not entirely alone. When I go to re:Invent, and I look at announcements they’re making, sure they have for the serverless stuff and how to run websites and EC2 nonsense. And then they’re talking about IOT things and other things that just seem very oriented on a persona I don’t understand. Everyone’s doing stuff with mainframes now for example. And it feels like, “Oh, those of us who came here for the web services like it says on the name of the company aren’t really feeling like it’s for us anymore.” It’s the problem of trying to be for everyone and pivoting to where the money is going, but Google’s done this at least as much as anyone has in recent years. Are those of us who don’t have corporate IT-like problems no longer the target market for folks or what’s changed?

Brian: It’s still the target market, so like, you take the corporate IT, they’re obviously still moving to the cloud. And there’s a ton of opportunity. Just take existing IT spending and see a number over $1 trillion per year, and if you take the run rates of Microsoft, Amazon, Google Cloud, it’s certainly over $100 billion, but that means it’s still less than ten percent of what is existing IT spending. There are many people that think that existing IT spend number is significantly higher than that. But to your point on what’s changing, there’s actually a third wave that’s happening.

So, if the first wave was you start a company. You’re a tech company, of course, you start it on AWS or on the Cloud. Second wave is all the IT people, IT departments, the central organizations that run technology for all the people that are not technology people come to the cloud. This third wave is everybody has to become a technology person. If you’re a business leader, like you’re at a fast-food restaurant and you’re responsible for the franchisee relations, before, like, you needed to get an EDI system running or something, and so you told your IT department to figure out.

Now, you have to actually think about what apps do we want to provide to our customers. How do I get the right data to my franchisees so that they can make business decisions? How can I automate all that? And you know, whereas before I was a guy wearing a suit or a gal wearing a suit who didn’t need to know technology, I now have to. And that’s what’s changing the most. And it’s why the Target Addressable Market—or the TAM as business folk sometimes say—it’s really hard to estimate looking forward if every business is really needing to become a technology business in many ways. And it didn’t dawn on me, honestly, and you can give me all the ribbing that I probably deserve for this—but it didn’t really dawn on me until I came to Google and kept hearing the transformation word, “Digital transformation, digital transformation,” and honestly, having been in software for so long, I didn’t really know what digital transformation meant until I started seeing all of these folks, like every company have to become a tech company effectively.

Corey: Yeah. And it turns out there aren’t enough technologists to go around, so it’s very challenging to wind up getting the expertise in-house. It’s natural to start looking at, “Well, how do we effectively outsource this?” And well, you can absolutely have a compression algorithm for experience. It’s called, “Buying products and services and hiring people who have that experience already baked in either to the product or they show up knowing how to do something because they’ve done this before.”

Brian: That’s right. The thing I think we have to—for those of us that come from the technology side, this transformation is scary for the people who all of the sudden have to get tech and be like—Corey, if you or I—actually, you’re very artistic, so maybe this wouldn’t do it for you—but if I were told, “Hey, Brian, for your livelihood, you now need to incorporate painting,” like…

Corey: [laugh]. I can’t even write legibly let alone draw or paint. That is not my skill set. [laugh].

Brian: I’d be like, “Wait, what? I’m not good at painting. I’ve never been a painting person, like I’m not creative.” “Okay. Great. Then we’re going to fire you, or we’re going to bring someone in who can.” Like, that’d be scary. And so, having more services, more people that can help as every company goes through a transition like that—and it’s interesting, it’s why during Covid, the cloud did really well, and some people kind of said, “Well, it’s because they—people didn’t want to send their people into their data centers.” No. That wasn’t it. It was really because it just forced the change to digital. Like the person to, maybe, batter the analogy a little bit—the person who was previously responsible for all of the physical banks, which are—a bank has, you know, that are retail locations—the branches—they have those in order to service the retail customers.

Corey: Yeah.

Brian: That person, all of the sudden, had to figure out, “How do I do all that service via phone, via agents, via an app, via our website.” And that person, that entire organization, was forced digital in many ways. And that certainly had a lot of impact on the cloud, too.

Corey: Yeah. I think that some wit observed a few years back that Covid has had more impact on your digital transformation than your last ten CIOs combined.

Brian: Yeah.

Corey: And—yeah, suddenly, you’re forcing people into a position where there really is no other safe option. And some of that has unwound but not a lot of it. There’s still seem to be those same structures and ability to do things from remote locations then there were before 2020.

Brian: Yeah. Since you asked, kind of, where we are in the industry, to bring all of that to an endpoint, now what this means is people are looking for cloud providers, not just to have the primitives, not just to have the IT that they—their central IT needed, but they need people who can help them build the things that will help their business transform. It makes it a fun, new stage, new era, a transformation era for companies like Google to be able to say, “Hey, here’s how we build things. Here’s what we’ve learned over a period of time. Here’s what we’ve most importantly learned from other customers, and we want to help be your strategic partner in that transformation.” And like I said, it’d be almost impossible to estimate what the TAM is for that. The real question is how quickly can we help customers and innovate in our Cloud solutions in order to make more of the stuff more powerful and faster to help people build.

Corey: I want to say as well that—to be clear—you folks can buy my attention but not my opinion. I will not say things if I do not believe them. That’s the way the world works here. But every time I use Google Cloud for something, I am taken aback yet again by the developer experience, how polished it is. And increasingly lately, it’s not just that you’re offering those low-lying primitives that composed together to build things higher up the stack, you’re offering those things as well across a wide variety of different tooling options. And they just tend to all make sense and solve a need rather than requiring me to build it together myself from popsicle sticks.

And I can’t shake the feeling that that’s where the industry is going. I’m going to want someone to sell me an app to do expense reports. I’m not going to want—well, I want a database and a front-end system, and how I wind up storing all the assets on the backend. No. I just want someone to give me something that solves that problem for me. That’s what customers across the board are looking for as best I can see.

Brian: Well, it certainly expands the number of customers that you can serve. I’ll give you an example. We have an AI agent product called Call Center AI which allows you to either build a complete new call center solution, or more often it augments an existing call center platform. And we could sell that on an API call basis or a number of agent seats basis or anything like that. But that’s not actually how call center leaders want to buy. Imagine we come in and say, “This many API calls or $4 per seat or per month,” or something like that. There’s a whole bunch of work for that call center leader to go figure out, “Well, do I want to do this? Do I not? How should I evaluate it versus others?” It’s quite complex. Whereas, if we come in and say, “Hey, we have a deal for you. We will guarantee higher customer satisfaction. We will guarantee higher agent retention. And we will save you money. And we will only charge you some percentage of the amount of money that you’re saved.”

Corey: It’s a compelling pitch.

Brian: Which is an easier one for a business decision-maker to decide to take?

Corey: It’s no contest. I will say it’s a little odd that—one thing—since you brought it up, one thing that struck me as a bit strange about Contact Center AI, compared to most of the services I would consider to be Google Cloud, instead of, “Click here to get started,” it’s, “Click here to get a demo. Reach out to contact us.” It feels—

Brian: Yeah.

Corey: —very much like the deals for these things are going to get signed on a golf course.

Brian: [laugh]. They—I don’t know about signed on a golf course. I do know that there is implementation work that needs to be done in order to build the models because it’s the model for the AI, figuring out how your particular customers are served in your particular context that takes the work. And we need to bring in a partner or bring in our expertise to help build that out. But it sounds to me like you’re looking to go golfing since you’ve looked into this situation.

Corey: Just like painting, I’m no good at golfing either.

Brian: [laugh].

Corey: Honestly, it’s—it just doesn’t have the—the appeal isn’t there for me for whatever reason. I smile; I nod; I tend to assume that, “Yeah, that’s okay. I’ll leave some areas for other people to go exploring in.”

Brian: I see. I see.

Corey: So, two weeks before Google Cloud Next occurred, you folks wound up canceling Stadia, which had been rumored for a while. People had been predicting it since it was first announced because, “Just wait. They’re going to Google Reader it.” And yeah, it was consumer-side, and I do understand that that was not Cloud. But it did raise the specter of—for people to start talking once again about, “Oh, well, Google doesn’t have any ability to focus on things long-term. They’re going to turn off Cloud soon, too. So, we shouldn’t be using it at all.” I do not agree with that assessment.

But I want to get your take on it because I do have some challenges with the way that your products and services go to market in some ways. But I don’t have the concern that you’re going to turn it all off and decide, “Yeah, that was a fun experiment. We’re done.” Not with Cloud, not at this point.

Brian: Yeah. So, I’d start with at Google Cloud, it is our job to be a trusted enterprise platform. And I can’t speak to before I was here. I can’t speak to before Thomas Kurian, who’s our CEO, was here before. But I can say that we are very, very focused on that. And deprecating products in a surprising way or in a way that doesn’t take into account what customers are on it, how can we help those customers is certainly not going to help us do that. And so, we don’t do that anymore.

Stadia you brought up, and I wasn’t part of starting Stadia. I wasn’t part of ending Stadia. I honestly don’t know anything about Stadia that any average tech-head might not know. But it is a different part of Google. And just like Amazon has deprecated plenty of services and devices and other things in their consumer world—and Microsoft has certainly deprecated many, many, many consumer and other products—like, that’s a different model. And I won’t say whether it’s good, bad, or righteous, or not.

But I can say at Google Cloud, we’re doing a really good job right now. Can we get better? Of course. Always. We can get better at communicating, engaging customers in advance. But we now have a clean deprecation policy with a set of enterprise APIs that we commit to for stated periods of time. We also—like people should take a look. We’re doing ten-year deals with companies like Deutsche Bank. And it’s a sign that Google is here to last and Google Cloud in particular. It’s also at a market level, just worth recognizing.

We are a $27 billion run rate business now. And you earn trust in drips. You lose it in buckets. And we’re—we recognize that we need to just keep every single day earning trust. And it’s because we’ve been able to do that—it’s part of the reason that we’ve gotten as large and as successful as we have—and when you get large and successful, you also tend to invest more and make it even more clear that we’re going to continue on that path. And so, I’m glad that the market is seeing that we are enterprise-ready and can be trusted much, much more. But we’re going to keep earning every single day.

Corey: Yeah. I think it’s pretty fair to say that you have definitely gotten yourselves into a place where you’ve done the things that I would’ve done if I wanted to shore up trust that the platform was not going to go away. Because these ten-year deals are with the kinds of companies that, shall we say, do not embark on signing contracts lightly. They very clearly, have asked you the difficult, pointed questions that I’m basically asking you now as cheap shots. And they ask it in very serious ways through multiple layers of attorneys. And if the answers aren’t the right answers, they don’t sign the contract. That is pretty clearly how the world works.

The fact that companies are willing to move things like core trading systems over to you on a ten-year time horizon, tells me that I can observe whatever I want from the outside, but they have actual existential risk questions tied to what they’re doing. And they are in some ways betting their future on your folks. You clearly know what those right answers are and how to articulate them. I think that’s the side of things that the world does not get to see or think about very much. Because it is easy to point at all the consumer failings and the hundreds of messaging products that you continually replenish just in order to kill.

Brian: [laugh].

Corey: It’s—like, what is it? The tree of liberty must be watered periodically from time to time, but the blood of patriots? Yeah. The logo of Google must be watered by the blood of canceled messaging products.

Brian: Oh, come on. [laugh].

Corey: Yeah. I’m going to be really scared if there’s an actual, like, Pub/Sub service. I don’t know. That counts as messaging, sort of. I don’t know.

Brian: [laugh]. Well, thank you. Thank you for the recognition of how far we’ve come in our trust from enterprises and trust from customers.

Corey: I think it’s the right path. There’s also reputational issues, too. Because in the absence of new data, people don’t tend to change their opinion on things very easily. And okay, there was a thing I was using. It got turned off. There was a big kerfuffle. That sticks in people’s minds. But I’ve never seen an article about a Google service saying, “Oh, yeah. It hasn’t been turned off or materially changed. In fact, it’s gotten better with time. And it’s just there working reliably.” You’re either invisible, or you’re getting yelled at.

It feels like it’s a microcosm of my early career stage of being a systems administrator. I’m either invisible or the mail system’s broke, and everyone wants my head. I don’t know what the right answer is—

Brian: That was about right to me.

Corey: —in this thing. Yeah. I don’t know what the right answer on these things is, but you’re definitely getting it right. I think the enterprise API endeavors that you’ve gone through over the past year or two are not broadly known. And frankly, you’ve definitely are ex-AWS because enterprise APIs is a terrible name for what these things are.

Brian: [laugh].

Corey: I’ll let you explain it. Go ahead. And bonus points if you can do it without sounding like a press release. Take it away.

Brian: There are a set of APIs that developers and companies should be able to know are going to be supported for the period of time that they need in order to run their applications and truly bet on them. And that’s what we’ve done.

Corey: Yeah. It’s effectively a commitment that there will not be meaningful deprecations or changes to the API that are breaking changes without significant notice periods.

Brian: Correct.

Corey: And to be clear, that is exactly what all of the cloud providers have in their enterprise contracts. They’re always notice periods around those things. There are always, at least, certain amounts of time and significant breach penalties in the event that, “Yeah, today, I decided that we were just not going to spin up VMs in that same way as we always have before. Sorry. Sucks to be you.” I don’t see that happening on the Google Cloud side of the world very often, not like it once did. And again, we do want to talk about reputations.

There are at least four services that I’m aware of that AWS has outright deprecated. One, Sumerian has said we’re sunsetting the service in public. But on the other end of the spectrum, RDS on VMWare has been completely memory-holed. There’s a blog post or two but nothing else remains in any of the AWS stuff, I’m sure, because that’s an, “Enterprise-y” service, they wound up having one on one conversations with customers or there would have been a hue and cry. But every cloud provider does, in the fullness of time, turn some things off as they learn from their customers.

Brian: Hmm. I hadn’t heard anything about AWS Infinidash for a while either.

Corey: No, no. It seems to be one of those great services that we made up on the internet one day for fun. And I love that just from a product marketing perspective. I mean, you know way more about that field than I do given that it’s your job, and I’m just sitting here in this cheap seats throwing peanuts at you. But I love the idea of customers just come up and make up a product one day in your space and then the storytelling that immediately happens thereafter. Most companies would kill for something like that just because you would expect on some level to learn so much about how your reputation actually works. When there’s a platonic ideal of a service that isn’t bothered by pesky things like, “It has to exist,” what do people say about it? And how does that work?

And I’m sort of surprised there wasn’t more engagement from Amazon on that. It always seems like they’re scared to say anything. Which brings me to a marketing question I have for you. You and Amazing have similar challenges—you being Google in this context, not you personally—in that your customers take themselves deadly seriously. And as a result, you have to take yourselves with at least that same level of seriousness. You can’t go on Twitter and be the Wendy’s Twitter account when you’re dealing with enterprise buyers of cloud platforms. I’m kind of amazed, and I’d love to know. How can you manage to say anything at all? Because it just seems like you are so constrained, and there’s no possible thing you can say that someone won’t take issue with. And yes, some of the time, that someone is me.

Brian: Well, let’s start with going back to Infinidash a little bit. Yes, you identified one interesting thing about that episode, if I can call it an episode. The thing that I tell you though that didn’t surprise me is it shows how much of cloud is actually learned from other people, not from the cloud provider itself. I—you’re going to be going to re:Invent. You were at Google Cloud Next. Best thing about the industry conferences is not what the provider does. It’s the other people that are there that you learn from. The folks that have done something that you’ve been trying to do and couldn’t figure out how to do, and then they explained it to you, just the relationships that you get that help you understand what’s going on in this industry that’s changing so fast and has so much going on.

And so,   And so, that part didn’t surprise me. And that gets a little bit to the second part of your—that we’re talking about. “How do you say anything?” As long as you’re helping a customer say it. As long as you’re helping someone who has been a fan of a product and has done interesting things with it say it, that’s how you communicate for the most part, putting a megaphone in front of the people who already understand what’s going on and helping their voice be heard, which is a lot more fun, honestly, than creating TV ads and banner ads and all of the stuff that a lot of consumer and traditional companies. We get to celebrate our customers and our creators much, much more.

Corey: This episode is sponsored in part by our friends at Uptycs, because they believe that many of you are looking to bolster your security posture with CNAPP and XDR solutions. They offer both cloud and endpoint security in a single UI and data model. Listeners can get Uptycs for up to 1,000 assets through the end of 2023 (that is next year) for $1. But this offer is only available for a limited time on That’s U-P-T-Y-C-S Secret Menu dot com.

Corey: I think that it’s not super well understood by a lot of folks out there that the official documentation that any cloud provider puts out there is kind of a last resort. Or I’m looking for the specific flag to a specific parameter of a specific command. Great. Sure. But what I really want to do whenever I’m googling how to do something—and yes, that—we’re going to be googling—welcome. You’ve successfully owned that space to the point where it’s become common parlance. Good work is I want to see what other people had said. I want to find blog posts, ideally recent ones, talking about how to do the thing that I’m trying to do. If I’m trying to do something relatively not that hard or not that uncommon, if I spin up three web servers behind a load-balancer, and I can’t find any community references on how to do that thing, either I’m trying to do something absolutely bizarre and I should re-think it, or there is no community/customer base for the product talking about how to do things with it.

And I have noticed a borderline Cambrian explosion over the last few years of the Google Cloud community. I’m seeing folks who do not work at Google, and also who have never worked at Google, and sometimes still think they work at Google in some cases. It’s not those folks. It is people who are just building things as a customer. And they, in turn, become very passionate advocates for the platform. And they start creating content on these things.

Brian: Yeah. We’ve been blessed to have, not only, the customer base grow, but essentially the passion among that customer base, and we’ve certainly tried to help building community and catalyzing the community, but it’s been fun to watch how our customers’ success turns into our success which turns into customer success. And it’s interesting, in particular, to see too how much of that passion comes from people seeing that there is another way to do things.

It’s clear that many people in our industry knew cloud through the lens of Amazon, knew tech in general through the lenses of Microsoft and Oracle and a lot of other companies. And Google, which we try and respect specifically what people are trying to accomplish and how they know how to do it, we also many ways have taken a more opinionated approach, if you will, to say, “Hey, here’s how this could be done in a different way.” And when people find something that’s unexpectedly different and also delightful, it’s more likely that they’re going to be strong advocates and share that passion with the world.

Corey: It’s a virtuous cycle that leads to the continued growth and success of a platform. Something I’ve been wondering about in the broader sense, is what happens after this? Because if, let’s say for the sake of argument, that one of the major cloud providers decided, “Okay. You know, we’re going to turn this stuff off. We’ve decided we don’t really want to be in the cloud business.” It turns out that high-margin businesses that wind up turning into cash monsters as soon as you stop investing heavily in growing them, just kind of throw off so much that, “We don’t know what to do with. And we’re running out of spaces to store it. So, we’re getting out of it.” I don’t know how that would even be possible at some point. Because given the amount of time and energy some customers take to migrate in, it would be a decade-long project for them to migrate back out again.

So, it feels on some level like on the scale of a human lifetime, that we will be seeing the large public cloud providers, in more or less their current form, for the rest of our lives. Is that hopelessly naïve? Am I missing—am I overestimating how little change happens in the sweep of a human lifetime in technology?

Brian: Well, I’ve been in the tech industry for 27 years now. And I’ve just seen a continual moving up the stack. Where, you know, there are fundamental changes. I think the PC becoming widespread, fundamental change; mobile, certainly becoming primary computing experience—what I know you call a toilet computer, I call my mobile; that’s certainly been a change. Cloud has certainly been a change. And so, there are step functions for sure. But in general, what has been happening is things just keep moving up the stack. And as things move up the stack, there are companies that evolve and learn to do that and provide more value and more value to new folks. Like I talked about how businesspeople are leaders in technology now in a way that they never were before. And you need to give them the value in a way that they can understand it, and they can consume it, and they can trust it. And it’s going to continue to move in that direction.

And so, what happens then as things move up the stack, the abstractions start happening. And so, there are companies that were just major players in the ‘90s, whether it’s Novell or Sun Microsystems or—I was actually getting a tour of the Sunnyvale/Mountain View Google Campuses yesterday. And the tour guide said, “This used to be the site of a company that was called Silicon Graphics. They did something around, like, making things for Avatar.” I felt a little aged at that point.

But my point is, there are these companies that were amazing in their time. They didn’t move up the stack in a way that met the net set of needs. And it’s not like that crater the industry or anything, it’s just people were able to move off of it and move up. And I do think that’s what we’ll see happening.

Corey: In some cases, it seems to slip below the waterline and become, effectively, plumbing, where everyone uses it, but no one knows who they are or what they do. The Tier 1 backbone providers these days tend to be in that bucket. Sure, some of them have other businesses, like Verizon. People know who Verizon is, but they’re one of the major Tier 1 carriers in the United States just of the internet backbone.

Brian: That’s right. And that doesn’t mean it’s not still a great business.

Corey: Yeah.

Brian: It just means it’s not front of mind for maybe the problems you’re trying to solve or the opportunities we’re trying to capture at that point in time.

Corey: So, my last question for you goes circling back to Google Cloud Next. You folks announced an awful lot of things. And most of them, from my perspective, were actually pretty decent. What do you think is the most impactful announcement that you made that the industry largely overlooked?

Brian: Most impactful that the industry—well, overlooked might be the wrong way to put this. But there’s this really interesting thing happening in the cloud world right now where whereas before companies, kind of, chose their primary cloud writ large, today because multi-cloud is actually happening in the vast majority of companies have things in multiple places, people make—are making also the decision of, “What is going to be my strategic data provider?” And I don’t mean data in the sense of the actual data and meta-data and the like, but my data cloud.

Corey: Mm-hmm.

Brian: How do I choose my data cloud specifically? And there’s been this amazing profusion of new data companies that do better ETL or ELT, better data cleaning, better packaging for AI, new techniques for scaling up/scaling down at cost. A lot of really interesting stuff happening in the dataspace. But it’s also created almost more silos. And so, the most important announcement that we made probably didn’t seem like a really big announcement to a lot of people, but it really was about how we’re connecting together more of our data cloud with BigQuery, with unstructured and structured data support, with support for data lakes, including new formats, including Iceberg and Delta and Hudi to come how—Looker is increasingly working with BigQuery in order to make it, so that if you put data into Google Cloud, you not only have these super first-class services that you can use, ranging from databases like Spanner to BigQuery to Looker to AI services, like Vertex AI, but it’s also now supporting all these different formats so you can bring third-party applications into that one place. And so, at the big cloud events, it’s a new service that is the biggest deal. For us, the biggest deal is how this data cloud is coming together in an open way to let you use the tool that you want to use, whether it’s from Google or a third party, all by betting on Google’s data cloud.

Corey: I’m really impressed by how Google is rather clearly thinking about this from the perspective of the data has to be accessible by a bunch of different things, even though it may take wildly different forms. It is making the data more fluid in that it can go to where the customer needs it to be rather than expecting the customer to come to it where it lives. That, I think, is a trend that we have not seen before in this iteration of the tech industry.

Brian: I think you got that—you picked that up very well. And to some degree, if you step back and look at it, it maybe shouldn’t be that surprising that Google is adept at that. When you think of what Google search is, how YouTube is essentially another search engine producing videos that deliver on what you’re asking for, how information is used with Google Maps, with Google Lens, how it is all about taking information and making it as universally accessible and helpful as possible. And if we can do that for the internet’s information, why can’t we help businesses do it for their business information? And that’s a lot of where Google certainly has a unique approach with Google Cloud.

Corey: I really want to thank you for being so generous with your time. If people want to learn more about what you’re up to, where’s the best place for them to find you?

Brian: for Google Cloud information of course. And if it’s still running when this podcast goes, @isforat, I-S-F-O-R-A-T, on Twitter.

Corey: And we will put links to both of those in the show notes. Thank you so much for you time. I appreciate it.

Brian: Thank you, Corey. It’s been good talking with you.

Corey: Brian Hall, VP of Product Marketing at Google Cloud. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice. Whereas, if you’ve hated this podcast, please, leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice along with an insulting angry comment dictating that, “No. Large companies make ten-year-long commitments casually all the time.”

Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit to get started.

Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.

Newsletter Footer

Get the Newsletter

Reach over 30,000 discerning engineers, managers, enthusiasts who actually care about the state of Amazon’s cloud ecosystems.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Sponsor Icon Footer

Sponsor an Episode

Get your message in front of people who care enough to keep current about the cloud phenomenon and its business impacts.