Google's strategy for making a dent in the cloud wars hinges on making it easy for companies to use Amazon and Microsoft's clouds, too, and a top sales exec explains why that 'flexibility' is winning over customers

As Google races to catch up to Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud, the company is trying to set itself apart by highlighting the flexibility of its platform.

"I think one of our best differentiators in the market certainly comes to the fact that we're trying to meet our customers where they are on their journey," Google Cloud's president of North American sales, Kirsten Kliphouse, told Business Insider. 

Google has enthusiastically embraced multicloud products, which allow customers to combine services from several cloud providers, as well as a hybrid cloud strategy, wherein customers run some workloads in the cloud while retaining their own data centers as well. The flexibility of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud is helping Google to win-over customers, including those that are only beginning to experiment with cloud tools, according to Kliphouse.  

"It doesn't mean that they're all ready to go today: Some might have been there partially, some aren't there yet, some are mostly there," she said. "And so our strategy around leveraging our hybrid cloud, multi-cloud technology, is what's really seeing strong adoption."

Kirsten Kliphouse, Google Cloud president of North American sales
Kirsten Kliphouse, Google Cloud's president of North American sales
Google Cloud's emphasis on hybrid and multicloud attracts customers that "don't want to be locked into an environment that doesn't allow them to have this flexibility," Kliphouse said. 

Those strategies allows customers to buy Google Cloud services without completely switching all of their data over, which can be difficult and expensive. Analysts see hybrid and multicloud tools as one way for Google to catch up to AWS and Azure, which is still lags behind significantly in market share. 

"The reality is customers want choice," cloud analyst Maribel Lopez told Business Insider. "They're not going to put all their stuff in one cloud."

For all Kliphouse's enthusiasm about flexibility and multicloud, however, a recent Congressional antitrust report paints a different picture. The House antitrust committee published a 450-page report that cited Google Cloud, along with AWS and Azure, for creating a monopoly around the cloud. The report says that Google "acquired firms that were multi-cloud solutions but, after acquisition, Google made them compatible only with Google's cloud infrastructure." Google declined to comment on this apparent rebuke of its flexibility. 

Questions on Google's commitment to multicloud aside, the strategy still may not allow it to stand out for long, anyway. Cloud companies are often quick to adapt selling points from one company can turn into an across-the-board standard, according to Lopez: "What you will see happen is that somebody will be better at something for like three months, maybe six months, and then somebody else will catch on." 

For example, AWS — which has greater market share than any other cloud providers — once shunned hybrid cloud but has now embraced it.