Google’s enterprise cloud play seems rather … cloudy: Page 2 of 3
By Edwin Yapp April 29, 2016
Enterprise cloud foray
So where does this all leave Google?
It is still acknowledged as the cloud pioneer, but only announced its public cloud service – Google Compute Engine – at its annual I/O conference in 2013. Since then, it has managed to make modest inroads.
But it has unequivocally stressed that it is “dead serious” about its cloud business, and any suggestion otherwise just isn’t true.
At its inaugural GCP Next 2016 cloud conference last month, Google’s top three executives came on stage to speak to the media, analysts, developers, partners and customers. These were chairman Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai, and newly-minted cloud chief Diane Greene.
The presence of Schmidt and Sundar was more a symbolic gesture and a show of support for Greene, who was making her first public appearance for Google since her appointment. She was also the cofounder of cloud and virtualisation giant VMware Inc.
Sundar (pic) said that Greene’s pedigree – she is an engineer at heart but also a seasoned business executive who understands what enterprises want – was what persuaded top management at Google to snare her via the US$380-million acquisition of her cloud applications startup Bebop.
That said, few have doubted that this appointment was indeed a good move by the Mountain View, California-based company, given that it wants to move seriously into the enterprise cloud business – to the point that it believes that its cloud revenue may eventually surpass its search advertising revenue.
But having a good leader is only the first of many things that must happen if Google’s enterprise cloud ambition is to be fully realised.
Broadly speaking, its enterprise cloud journey is going to hinge on four things:
- The ability to translate great engineering products and software into what enterprises need – not want – in the simplest way possible;
- Growing its IaaS features set and matching that with platform tools and application programming interfaces (APIs) to manage them;
- Capitalising on advanced capabilities such as machine learning, data analytics and visualisation, and making these features its differentiator; and
- Enhancing its on-ground presence, including increasing the number of data centre locations, as well as the number of local sales, marketing representatives and consultants with cloud-capable skillsets, and also building better brand awareness and ramping up customer wins.
Some of these issues are being addressed immediately. For instance, Google announced two new data centres at GCP Next 2016, with a total of 10 more to come throughout 2017.
At the event, Greene also announced that Google would be forming a professional services group – albeit unlike an IBM-styled consultancy group – with the sole aim of helping partners and customers learn how to use its cloud services.
“We mostly view our professional services as a mechanism for getting customer feedback and enabling partners,” she said at GCP Next 2016.
“We're not planning to make money with professional services; it’s really a vehicle for building solutions and training partners and customers.”
What bodes well is that Google has captured a few impressive brands as customers. These include Spotify, Snapchat, Home Depot, Best Buy, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Disney Consumer Products Interactive Media, and Coca Cola.
It also recorded two very high-profile wins recently: Apple Inc in March and Autodesk Inc on April 18.
‘Not about us versus them’
But all this would not be enough to move the needle when it comes to being a serious enterprise cloud provider.
Google may have the distinction of having ‘invented the cloud,’ and continues to develop innovative technologies such as machine learning and advanced data analytics, but the trouble is that it is not only about technology.
The fact is, it hasn’t quite focused enough on making its technologies compelling to traditional large enterprises.
Put simply, Google speaks well to developers and geeks, as well as middle-level IT personnel, but doesn’t necessarily do well with the C-suite.
“[Google] is probably the most advanced cloud operation on the planet. [But] it also doesn’t matter,” Carl Brooks, an analyst at The 451 Group, was quoted as saying on Bloomberg.
Google’s cloud product chief Greg DeMichillie had acknowledged this. During a pre-press briefing before GCP Next 2016, he had said that Google knows that its competitors have had the time-to-market advantage and a lot more name recognition.
“A lot of [enterprise] customers who want to use [our cloud] just want to know that we got all the right boxes ticked,” he said. “This year, we will spend our time showing the enterprises we are ready for them.”
Quizzed further, DeMichillie told Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of GCP Next 2016 that Google’s ongoing cloud awareness programmes not only comprise general marketing and advertising, but also being active in events like GCP Next 2016, which will have Asian and European chapters.
The company will also participate in other independent industry events, he added.
Asked whether such efforts would really reach the C-suite instead of just the tech and developer community, DeMichillie said the company also runs its Leaders Circle events, which specifically target such executives.
“Many enterprises don’t want to be first and want to see who else is on [the cloud] before going in,” he said. “It’s about getting more case studies out so that potential customers can see who else is using our cloud.”
Pressed further on whether or not Google can come from behind to take on leaders AWS and Microsoft, DeMichillie coyly argued that “it’s not about public cloud players competing with one another, but more about public cloud versus on-premises players.”
“People want to position it as us [Google] versus them [our competitors]. The truth is, all of us in the public cloud space only have a miniscule fraction of the total global IT spending potential.
“[So] it’s not about us versus another cloud, but about the public cloud as a whole, taking market share from the existing on-premises business,” he argued.
“IT is rapidly shifting from on-premises to the cloud, and we think we have a unique set of capabilities – this is where our focus is, and not so much on the tit-for-tat between cloud players,” he declared.
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