Amid the hubbub about Amazon and Google lowering their cloud pricing, Google also announced that it was adding Windows Server 2008 R2 support to the list of virtual machines that can run on Google Compute Engine. No, that doesn't mean Google is getting into desktop virtualization -- but if you were competing with Microsoft and Amazon, wouldn't you at least think to do it?
Though, before we get that deep, let's back up a step. Hands down, the biggest challenge to adopting any cloud service is trust. Philosophically, your IT department, security team, and ultimately the executives have to buy into placing your corporate IT services in someone else's hands and in some remote data center. It doesn't matter if it's SQL, email, your CRM or desktops.
I've written before that I think Amazon Web Services (AWS) is in a particularly good spot compared to other Desktop as a Service (DaaS) providers. It has already secured the trust of many companies for services other than desktops, especially when you count companies that buy products that use AWS. For example, Dropbox uses Amazon Simple Storage Service and Amazon has the ability to hold hands with a company while it migrates to the cloud.
If it's possible, Microsoft is probably doing that hand-holding even better than Amazon. It's taken Office, Exchange and systems management to Azure, and is expected to take desktops there very soon. Microsoft has also integrated cloud into on-premises environments with Azure Active Directory Premium. Companies that wouldn't normally be racing to buy into cloud architecture are now more or less entitled to one. The best part is that they can adopt as quickly or as slowly as they want.
That's where Google's Windows Server support comes in. Today, Google is waiting for you to be ready to forklift yourself over to the cloud, but companies aren't doing that. Just like you didn't forklift yourself over to virtual desktop infrastructure, you're probably not moving your IT services -- especially desktops -- off to the cloud without having other services out there first. Adding Windows Server support -- as well as Suse and Red Hat support -- is a step in the right direction, however. The more flexible the cloud, the more people will consider it.
Eye on Google DaaS
Taking a minute to daydream about Google DaaS -- should it ever materialize -- there are a few interesting things to consider.
First, Google could acquire a company that had a cloud presence already. For example, dinCloud already uses KVM, the same hypervisor as Google Cloud Engine and dinCloud heavily uses Google Chrome Apps for the client. It's a match made in heaven for an enterprise Chromebook play, especially for companies that are deploying traditional desktops for a few straggler applications.
The other thing to consider is the number of people and organizations that already use Google Drive and Gmail. Some of those companies are trying to get away from Windows, consciously deciding to abandon what they had been using -- but that doesn't mean that they've gotten rid of Windows altogether. A browser-based product that can deliver one-off Windows apps would be an excellent feature that could expand the number of companies that could benefit from using Google's cloud platform.
Granted, this isn't all about desktops. If you're thinking about desktops in the cloud, you've got some other things to take care of first, like selling the entire cloud concept to your organization, picking a partner, aligning with a platform and so on. But this market is new and if you're a desktop person looking with interest at all of the stuff happening with the major Infrastructure as a Service platforms, you'll need to keep the big picture in mind. Now you can add Google to the list.