For Google Cloud, It’s About Apps and Big Data

Google (s GOOG) launched Google Earth Builder Wednesday, a cloud-based service that allows app developers and companies to use Google’s computational resources to crunch geospatial data and other information that goes along with it. The new service, which will be commercially available in the third quarter of 2011, will allow those with large data sets, terabytes of imagery and other heavy computational needs to use Google platform for their own needs.

“It lets you upload, process and store your geospatial data in our cloud.  Your employees can use familiar tools — Google Maps and Google Earth — to easily and securely share and publish mapping data,” Google’s Director of North American Geo Sales Tarun Bhatnager wrote on the company blog. The announcement also is a microcosm of Google’s cloud strategy and how it views the cloud compared to its competitors such as Amazon (s AMZN) Web Services.

Dave Girouard, president of Google Enterprise, in a conversation earlier this week, outlined Google’s cloud strategy, its long-term plans, and how it’s different from other cloud providers. “Amazon is a great service and I don’t see it as threatening to us,” said Girouard, pointing out Google’s focus is going to be on productivity apps and on specific cloud-apps that require large computational resources.

His comments echo those of Urs Hölzle, Google’s SVP of operations, who succinctly said that with cloud, “You just actually do the work that your company was founded for, instead of focusing on the technology behind the tools that you’re using.”

Google Office Is Feeling App-tastic

Getting it done is why the company is focused on its Software-as-a-Service offerings, dubbed Google Apps. Girouard shared some stats that give you a snapshot of Google Apps progress.

  • There are more than 30 million active users of Google Apps.
  • The Google Apps business is growing 100 percent annually.
  • Every 14 seconds, a business user signs up for Google Apps.
  • Google Apps have a 90-percent renewal rate.
  • Seventy percent of Dow Jones VentureWire’s “Top 50 Start-Ups to Watch” run on Google Apps.

“Technology savvy companies like our products but we are trying to go more mainstream,” Girouard said. In order to do that, the company he said, is constantly rolling out new features that are making the software more useful. In 2011 alone, he said that Google Apps had seen 35 feature releases including Android security features, pagination in Docs discussions in Docs and Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office (s msft).

Beyond SaaS, Big Data

Looking beyond Google Apps, where is the Google’s equivalent of Amazon’s S3 storage and EC2 computational service? “We want to do something different when it comes to platform as a service,” Girouard said. He argued that otherwise, it’s a race to the bottom on price. He added that the company was working on enhancing its App Engine platform as a service product and also fine-tuning its yet-unnamed storage offering, which isn’t in general release. The company is also working on not only adding storage capabilities to its apps, but also on an S3-styled product.

However, when it comes to getting market traction, it wants to take a different tack compared to Amazon and others. “Our goal is to offer more focused offerings,” Girouard said. Security and data fidelity are two of Google’s unique selling points, he said.

Even though it doesn’t have a commercial offering at this time, Google is working with academic institutions and a select few businesses for a on-demand compute platform. The company recently announced Google Exacycle for Visiting Faculty program where 10 academics get up to 100 million core-hours each for their data-crunching needs.

Google, he said, was focused on providing cloud services for different types of apps that crunch large data sets and require between 10,000 to 100,000 CPU cores in short bursts of time and need to have a lot of data in memory. This includes scientific data, genome, trading applications and yes, geo-spatial applications, such as the one it announced this morning.