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Why Amazon's most important cloud customer, Netflix, is speaking at Google's big cloud conference

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos

(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Google trotted out some big new cloud customers as evidence that it's ready to challenge the big kahuna in cloud computing, Amazon Web Services.

For instance, Google announced both Disney and Coke as new Google Cloud customers on Wednesday during its Cloud Platform tech conference taking place in San Francisco.

Google has been making news lately about nabbing contracts with big Amazon customers including Spotify (who will be speaking at the conference) and Apple.

Netflix on deck

Even more interesting, a representative from Netflix, Amazon's biggest, most high-profile cloud customer, is speaking at Google's cloud conference.

This does not mean that Netflix is abandoning Amazon for Google, given that only last month, it finished a massive decade-long project to shut down its own data centers and use Amazon's cloud exclusively to run its business. (Netflix's move to go all-in on Amazon has encouraged others to do the same, including tech companies like Juniper and Intuit.)

Still, Netflix worked with Google to create a software program called Spinnaker, which allows companies to easily use Google's cloud, as well as Amazon's and Microsoft's.

Netflix made Spinnaker available as a free and open-source project in November so anyone else can use it or contribute to it, and ideally, help Netflix maintain it. And Spinnaker is the topic of the talk that will be given by Netflix engineer Andrew Glover.

Spinnaker allows a company to use multiple clouds, like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, at the same time. While Netflix is currently only using Spinnaker with its cloud provider of choice, Amazon, Wired reports, the threat is not subtle. Netflix isn't stuck with Amazon. Nor is anyone else that uses the tool.

Diane Greene
Diane Greene

Diane Greene

Google needs to showcase big enterprise customers and offer them ways to easily try its cloud if it hopes to be a major presence in cloud computing.

Right now, it's considered a distant third behind Amazon and Microsoft, but Google dreams of it being huge. Top Google cloud executive Urs Hölzle says that, by 2020, Google could be making more money from cloud-computing services than it does from advertising.

To that end, Google recently hired Valley legend Diane Greene (buying out her startup in the process) to lead its cloud computing unit. Greene founded VMware and is known as a major angel investor in the Valley. She's helping Google create the culture and partnerships it needs to win big enterprise customers like Disney.

In the meantime, Google is also investing big time in its cloud business, planning a massive expansion of its data centers to 12 more regions between now and the end of 2017. This is important because government regulations in various countries often do not allow companies to use cloud services across borders. Amazon currently has 12 regions, and Microsoft Azure has 22.

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