Google Cloud OnBoard San Francisco: Buried Alive by PR

Lynne and William Jolitz, Google Cloud Onboard, Hilton SF Union Square, July 2017. Image: Jolitz

There are times when a seminar or conference or training session induces trepidation because the expectations are high. One questions whether it was worth the time to travel to the destination, wait to park in the wreck-a-lot, find the coffee urn empty, and then find a chair in the back where you can barely hear the speaker. All the while, slack messages are building up at home base. Is it worth it?

I’ve always found a reason to make the trip worthwhile – a small tidbit of knowledge, an off-the-cuff experience, an interesting speaker. Sometimes I run into an old colleague and we chat over lunch. Maybe even something *new*.

Then there was Google Cloud OnBoard San Francisco. This conference did not meet expectations. And given the stakes in the battle for the cloud between Amazon, IBM and Google, Google must excel. It did not. 

Google advertised this conference as an all-day in-depth technical “training” session on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Anyone who has been to AWS conferences knows what that entails: a keynote on where the cloud is heading by an executive including *numbers* on pricing and trends, a set of overview talks on the technology, and then breakout sessions on specifics from hardware to apps so the attendee can focus on their specific expertise.

Google offered none of this.

Instead of an informative keynote by someone who matters on the trends and reasons for using Google Cloud, Google offered weak PR. Instead of analysis, Google offered bluster. Instead of technical expertise, Google offered mean jokes with a smattering of contempt for their audience.

And instead of “training”, Google offered a bait and switch “try and save” set of random slides presented by an obnoxious Henny Youngman wanna-be who would cut off the few good technical speakers with “Hey morons, even my wife can do this” remarks which were so annoying in their constant and disruptive repetition that the audience became more and more irritated and combative during the few times they were allowed to ask questions.

Of course, beyond insulting the men and women who just happen to be programmers, engineers and managers with the “my wife” spiel, the icing on the cake were the snarky responses to genuine audience questions comparing AWS issues to Google cloud, something any attendee would be hard-pressed to answer at the weekly engineering team meeting. “Yes, boss, I spent the entire day at the Hilton in SF, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” is not a satisfactory answer for any company engaged in serious work in the cloud.

The irony of this all this hand-waving by Google’s inept training staff is, if you can actually glimpse behind the curtain, there is some damned fine technology and thought put into Google Cloud.

You wouldn’t know that to hear the folks pitching it. Except for two competent people, a younger man and an older woman, who squeezed in a few technical discussions before they got shut down by the “host” of the event, it resembled nothing more than a mandatory cheer assembly for the losing high school football team at “More Science High”.

Two pluses. One: Since the training conference was a bust, we worked through the Qwiklabs “free” training kit (in record time I might add) of six hands-on “labs” on “GCP Fundamentals: Core Infrastructure” (Getting Started, GAE and Datastore, GCS, GKE, GCE, BigQuery). These were clearly ripped from a Spring bootcamp on Google Cloud and were rather haphazard, but far more informative than the actual training session. Two: If we passed Go (all the labs), they promised us $200 Google Cloud dollars.

We shall see if the GCP bucks are worthwhile or as useful as monopoly money.

Amazon is a company that decided to monetize their own product for other enterprise customers. In Microsoft parlance, they “eat their own dog food”. This means if their customer suffers, they suffer. It also means as an early adopter, their technology is arcane and hybridized. But they understand their customer, are willing to “buy in” to hold the customer, and constantly advance their reach.

Google can afford to learn from Amazon’s mistakes and make a *clean* Cloud – efficient, effective and reliable – at a cost-competitive advantage. But their attitude towards the very people they need to woo away from Amazon, to put it mildly, stinks. They’re arrogant, abusive and vulgar – even to their own technology staff.

And that is worrisome to any engineer or manager betting the company on a system that works all the time, every time. If you can’t trust Google to be serious about where you store and access your critical data, why invest the time and money in moving to their platform?

My compliments to the chef on the roast beef sandwich at the Hilton. It was definitely the high point of the day. The hotel staff were also quite pleasant. A hospitality business understands that the experience matters to a customer. A bad experience, and they may leave a bad review and never return.

Get your act together, Google.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.