Executives at Google Cloud have said they are willing to meet large customers “where they are”—marketing-speak for their openness to extending Google cloud services into the private data centers of customers. As an example, Google in July announced a version of its Kubernetes software, which is used to manage large numbers of applications and servers, that runs in customers’ data centers. That was a nod to the reality that many big companies just aren’t ready to put all of their computing functions into the data centers of big cloud providers.
Now, Google is going a step further, by building custom-designed computers—which combine server, storage and networking functions—for a handful of large customers to run in private data centers, according to two people with knowledge of the project. The devices, the existence of which hasn’t been reported previously, are the latest sign of Google’s growing focus on cloud products that run under the direct control of corporate customers. It is not certain the company will go further and sell these devices to a broad range of customers. But if it does, it would signal a shift in Google’s cloud strategy for attracting Fortune 500 customers, in which the cloud unit would oversee hardware design for customers for the first time.