Google stamps its enterprise credentials with 4 new customers

  • HSBC, Verizon, Colgate Palmolive, eBay using various Google services
  • Good start, but still far from capturing more market share: Analysts

Google stamps its enterprise credentials with 4 new customers

AFTER helming Alphabet Inc’s cloud division for over a year, Google Cloud's chief Diane Greene (pic above) declared that the search giant is more ready to serve enterprises than before.

Speaking to developers, partners, analysts and the media at Google Cloud's Next 17 conference here in downtown San Francisco, Greene stressed the one key thing she hears nowadays in her conversations with her customers is that they want to move everything to the cloud – and to do it as soon as they can.

“The quality of the customer conversation is really changing,” she told delegates at the Moscone Centre. “In the past, customers speak to me about BigQuery (large data set analysis), data analytics or machine learning.

“But out of five customers I met last week, three told me they are ready to a full ‘lift and shift’ to the cloud,” she claimed.

This is Google’s second conference dedicated to the cloud. The Mountain View, California-based company usually hosts its annual I/O developers’ conference in May, which is more consumer centric in nature. Alphabet is the holding company of which Google Cloud is apart of.

But after her accession as senior vice president in charge of all things cloud within Google in 2015, the company began planning a dedicated conference for its cloud business. At its inaugural conference in March last year, Greene – in her own words – vowed that Google was “dead serious” about its cloud business, especially in serving large enterprises.

This year’s theme of burnishing its credentials amongst enterprises wasn’t unexpected. Many media outlets and industry analysts were already predicting that theme would be front and centre, including Digital News Asia (DNA).

In a short 15-minute press briefing following her keynote, Greene fielded a few questions about Google’s thrusts towards enterprises.

Asked how it’s going to catch up to the top cloud player – Amazon Web Services and to a lesser extent Microsoft Corp’s Azure – Greene was coy in answering, noting only that Google is seeing “unbelievable acceleration” in Google's cloud business.

“Already we’re winning more than half the deals [we go after] and I think our technology is what gives our customers the advantage. Matching this with flawless customer service is what really works,” she claimed.

To another charge that Google might be “deprecate” some of its services as it has done so in its consumer-based products and services – such as Google Reader, Google Search Appliance, and more recently Google Site Search – Greene was adamant that this would not happen to Google Cloud.

She was unabashedly forceful when said she wanted to “smash that perception,” and instead commit to providing “full support on the enterprise side.” Deprecate is tech parlance for killing off or discontinuing a product or service without a replacement in the pipeline.

“We did deprecate Site Search but did give notice and announced support for a year [following],” she countered. “And we won’t do that [deprecate] to Google Cloud, as we are a full-on enterprise company and that means we will always provide support for our customers,” she stressed.

Enterprise testimony

Greene’s opening remarks in her keynote were squarely designed to make a poignant point that Google is ready for prime time in the enterprise arena and not that its cloud is merely for start-ups and smaller companies.

As such, the majority of her keynote time on stage was spent trying to convince the crowd that Google had the chops to be a serious credible enterprise player.

How? By bringing out four new customers it had recently snared on to the stage and branding them as new marquee customers.

They are: financial giant HSBC Bank Plc; consumer retail giant Colgate Palmolive Company; telco operator Verizon Communications Inc; and online marketplace eBay Inc. Besides these new captures, existing ting customers that gave testimonies included Home Depot Inc and The Walt Disney Company.

Most of these executives spoke well of Google’s technical capabilities, commitment to customer service, its ability to adapt to their needs, and its feature sets in a range of its cloud services, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and advanced analytics, as well as the scale of its cloud infrastructure.

HSBC chief information officer (CIO) Darryl West said his team spent a fair amount of time evaluating all cloud providers and working out which was the best fit for them. He added that his bank needed tools to allow them to be productive.

“We’re still in pilot mode but so far, Google’s suite of products has been easy to use and the way they’re being configured has been positive,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, eBay’s chief product officer R.J. Pittman noted that cloud for his company is strategic now and not just a very powerful and compelling proposition.

“It’s not just about technology [execution] anymore; it’s about changing our experience for our customers – some 167 million of them – through the cloud,” he said, adding that Google has helped eBay do that.

To be clear, these companies may also use services provided by other cloud companies such as AWS and Microsoft as there isn't a monopoly of cloud services in today's world.

Besides these testimonials, another noteworthy development was the announcement that Google has formed a new strategic partnership with German enterprise giant, SAP SE, which will see the two companies integrate Google’s cloud solutions with SAP’s enterprise applications on HANA – its flagship business application platform – across Google Cloud and its productivity software, G Suite.

The alliance is expected offer customers more scope, scalability, and the exciting opportunity to create new products, company officials said. Bolstering this was the presence of SAP’s member of the executive board at SAP, Bernd Leukert, who on stage with Greene said he was excited about the collaboration and expects more to come in the future.

Google is however late to the table as SAP had already begun offering HANA on AWS as well as on Microsoft Azure, Google's main rivals in the cloud both in 2016.

Still the alliance does signal some enterprise endorsement for Google, as SAP is the quintessential representation of the traditional enterprise world.

What pundits say

Google stamps its enterprise credentials with 4 new customers

Gartner research director Michael Warrilow noted that this year’s Next 17 had a much bigger number of attendees at Next compared to 2016, a figure Google claimed to number 10,000 this year, up from only 2,000 at last year’s inaugural event.

“That is a good sign indeed. The announcements with SAP and examples from eBay help showcase the potential,” he told DNA on the sidelines of Next 17.

Ovum’s principal analyst Clement Teo concurred that Google is doing better as an enterprise cloud provider this year, arguing that Google seems more cohesive than before under Greene’s tutelage and created a tightly integrated team to drive the enterprise message through.

“The creation of the chief technology officer’s (CTO’s) office is one example,” he told DNA on the sidelines of Next 17. “Also, the consolidation of its Google for Work into G Suite and parking that under Google Cloud and offering it as a bundled package is what it needed to do.”

Naveen Chhabra, senior analyst at Forrester Research believes that Google’s inroads with HSBC might impact financial services industry (FSI) clients, as generally speaking, this sector has been wary of public cloud adoption.

Public cloud adoption by the FSI has somewhat risen in recent times worldwide,” he argued. “​Having said that, these provider [including Google] need to deliver the message correctly – that they can be trusted partners amongst the [highly regulated] FSIs.”

Naveen also felt that eBay’s use of ML and AI technologies to bring customers to the table is one of the more interesting highlights to the keynote.

“However, I felt that the other two customers’ – Colgate Palmolive and Verizon – business benefits of using Google Cloud weren’t articulated clearly enough.”

Gartner’s Warrilow however cautioned that for Google Cloud to succeed in Asia Pacific, it must complete its planned expansion of data centres into Mumbai, Singapore and Sydney. As such, 2017 will be a big year for Google, he added.

Quizzed as to what he thought the introduction of the four new customers at Next 17 meant to Google, Warrilow said for Google to succeed in business, and government, it must cultivate a range of enterprise-class customers.

“This is something competitors such as AWS already do well,” he argued. “For Google Cloud, such examples must be in both G suite as well as Google Cloud, and clearly identified as such.”

Ovum’s Teo’s concurred and added that in term of customer wins, they have a lot of company logos to show but he suspects that they are mostly in test and development and not live production mode, which is the pinnicle of what cloud providers strive for.

“They can argue that there have customers on G Suite but where is the real meat? Customers should run their apps on their entire stack [compute, network and storage],” Teo argued. “Right now, they’re not really there yet. I’m not saying they can’t get there but it’s still very early in the journey for them.”


Edwin Yapp reports from Google Next 2017 in San Francisco, at the invitation of Google Inc. All editorials are independent. He is contributing editor to Digital News Asia and Asean analyst at Tech Research Asia, an advisory firm that translates technology into business outcomes for executives in Asia Pacific.


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