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Despite Pandemic Adoption, Google Cloud Platform Still in 3rd Place

Azure gave Microsoft superstar earnings. Now the question is, where will AWS’ numbers land? They’re gonna be big.

Kelly Teal

April 28, 2021

3 Min Read
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Digital transformation fueled by COVID-19 continues to give the two smaller public cloud providers big sales boosts. This week, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure both showed gains in first-quarter revenue; each reported their latest earnings on Tuesday.

The key trend underpinning the growth is, of course, the pandemic. Organizations keep adopting cloud infrastructure and services as employees work from home and the future of in-office activity remains in question.

Despite that traction, GCP hasn’t budged from the No. 3 slot against Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Clearly that’s not what GCP wants, as Futurum Research’s Daniel Newman noted in a blog. However, he added, “that is where the company sits today and for the foreseeable future.”

That’s because GCP’s revenue “still lags the big two,” as Newman put it, and its cloud business losses are “substantial.” Newman envisions GCP spending the coming few quarters emphasizing investments and the top line, “with the bottom line being sacrificed until the long-term growth objectives are achieved.”

Along those lines, Ruth Porat, CFO of Google and Alphabet (Google’s parent company), told analysts that the approach to building the GCP business “has not changed.”

“We remain focused on revenue growth and we will continue to invest aggressively in products and our go-to-market organization, given the opportunity we see,” she said, adding, “Operating results should benefit from increased scale over time. However, at this point, we do remain focused on continuing to invest to build the cloud organization for long-term performance.”

Notably, though, GCP narrowed its quarterly losses this time around. Analysts and investors will be looking for an ongoing downward trajectory around those numbers. Surely, so will Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google. He cited three customer trends shaping GCP: adoption of infrastructure, real-time data and analytics and multicloud.

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Google’s Sundar Pichai

“We’ve continued our focus on delivering trusted services to help people around the world,” Pichai told analysts. “Our cloud services are helping businesses, big and small, accelerate their digital transformations.”

Azure Is Microsoft’s Superstar. But Can It Maintain the Momentum?

Azure, meanwhile, proved Microsoft’s most valuable asset in the first quarter. The division reported 50% more revenue and actually pushed Redmond’s market cap close to $2 trillion. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella attributed the demand to none other than COVID-19.

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Microsoft’s Satya Nadella

“Over a year into the pandemic, digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down. They’re accelerating, and it’s just the beginning,” he said on Tuesday’s earnings call. “We are building the cloud for the next decade, expanding our addressable market and innovating across every layer of the tech stack to help our customers be resilient and transform.”

For Azure, the issue now becomes one of sustainability: Can the second-largest public cloud provider retain or even surpass its current standing?

“There have been some question marks over the past several quarters as to whether Microsoft could maintain this level of cloud demand as the pandemic continues, and now moreover as we exit the pandemic, but as I see it there is a strong correlation between the economic rebound numbers and investments in cloud technology,” Newman wrote in an April 27 blog. “Furthermore, there are industries that have been in contraction that are starting to bounce back that will be turning to tech investment to future proof their business.  Microsoft stands to benefit from these rebounding industries.”

Now to the elephant in the room.

AWS, the world’s largest public cloud provider, will release its earnings Thursday. There’s little doubt the numbers will be impressive. Indeed, the company already has told investors to expect revenue of $100 billion to $106 billion. Presumably AWS will show significant contributions to those numbers. Wherever the figures land, there’s no reason to expect AWS will have lost its top ranking among the public cloud vendors.

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Channel Research

About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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