While Amazon and Microsoft are the undisputed first and second U.S. cloud vendors, IBM is disputing that Google is the company sitting in third place.
When Google reported its Q4 earnings, it also revealed Google Cloud’s earnings for the first time, coming it at $8.9 billion for 2019. In contrast, when IBM reported its Q4 results, its cloud business generated $6.8 billion, $21 billion for the year. On paper, that would seem to put it well ahead of Google Cloud, yet it consistently ranks fifth place. According to Bloomberg, Gartner analyst Ed Anderson says Google is still in third place.
“What IBM calls cloud is different to what Amazon and Google call cloud,” said Anderson. As Bloomberg highlights, “all companies have their own unique definition of cloud, and analysts like Anderson employ a process called ‘cloud washing’ to try to weed out the numbers that go beyond traditional descriptions.”
“You can see this posturing with IBM,” Anderson continued. “They are really nervous about reporting a number that is too small and nervous about reporting a number that is too big that no one will believe.”
IBM has been in the news recently, with critics wanting to see more results from the company’s cloud efforts. IBM is widely seen as having been too slow to react to the rise of cloud computing, relying on its legacy systems instead. This has seen it fall far behind Amazon and Microsoft.
Padding the numbers by playing fast and loose with the definition of cloud computing, however, may not be the best way to improve investor confidence.