For the first time in its seven-year existence, car-hailing app Uber is outsourcing some of its server infrastructure beyond its own four walls, reports The Information.
Uber is apparently soliciting bids from the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — the leading players in cloud computing, where companies can punch in their credit card and get access to fundamentally unlimited supercomputing power.
With a global footprint across 69 countries, Uber needs to make sure that its servers and the software that makes the magic happen are as high-performance and available as possible.
That means Uber wants to make sure that its server facilities are as geographically close to customers as possible. In this business, milliseconds count.
Building close to worldwide customers is tough for any company, though, even one with Uber's $9 billion in funding. By tapping into vast cloud computing infrastructure like Amazon's, Microsoft's, and Google's, Uber would be able to bolster its global reach.
And while Uber is reportedly only looking to move relatively small chunks of its code into the cloud, just getting the company's business would be an incredible feather in any cloud provider's cap. A sales war may well be brewing as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, and other cloud providers trip over themselves to win Uber's business.
Race to growth
Cloud computing vendors are currently in a heated race to win ever-larger businesses.
While the Amazon Web Services cloud started off as a niche service for small developers and startups, it's turned into a major $7 billion industry force. Microsoft and IBM have the edge that they already work with big business. And Google Cloud Platform, under industry vet Diane Greene, has made a redoubled effort to build out their enterprise platform.
If nothing else, with Uber's massive scale, it would be a huge PR win for Microsoft, Amazon, Google, or whoever wins this deal. Their salespeople could point at Uber and show what's possible, especially since the startup has become such a household name.
Complicating matters is the fact that Uber's technology, according to that report, is "vendor-neutral," meaning that they're not predisposed to preferring one vendor over another.
In fact, hypothetically, they could partner with different cloud providers in different regions, depending on who's got data centers where. For instance, Microsoft was the first cloud player to open its doors in India. The tools do exist to run one bit of infrastructure across multiple clouds. And the report suggests that in China, Uber may be looking at regional superpowers like Alibaba and Baidu.
On a final note, while Apple moved some of its infrastructure to Google Cloud Platform, it seems markedly unlikely that Uber will follow suit. Uber is working on driverless car technology, and it may end up competing with Google in that same market. Google has also been reported to be exploring launching its own ride-sharing service, which would put it in even more direct competition with Uber, and might make Uber hesitant to store valuable business data on Google's computers.
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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