Analysis: Google drives the case for cloud adoption
By Edwin Yapp April 7, 2017
- A year on, Google Cloud still playing catch up in cloud game but gaining strength
- Artificial intelligence, machine learning, the field to play for as it’s still nascent
ANALYSIS THE world’s largest search giant, Google Inc, is in a hurry. A hurry to woo enterprises onto its cloud computing offering known as Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
For years now, Google has been the beacon of innovation and creativity by capitalising on its technology prowess and business acumen to bring a combination of free and paid products to the market. The company was hugely successful at doing this and has for years been the envy of many other technology companies.
Google’s success has been largely confined to the vast consumer-based realm. However, when it comes to the intricate enterprise business world, things may not be so simple as offering freemium products – free apps with limited feature sets, which can be upgraded to a paid model when a full suite of features are needed, industry observers argue.
While thriving as a consumer-driven company, Google has indeed catapulted itself into the technology hall of fame. But in a business-dominated world, where legacy thinking and processes dominate, relationships matter. And this is where the Mountain View, California-giant is facing its greatest challenge when compared with its competitors in the cloud computing game.
Traditional enterprise software giants the likes of Microsoft Corp, Oracle Corp, SAP SE, IBM, and even born-in-the-cloud players like Salesforce.com Inc, Workday Inc, Amazon Web Services Inc, have laboured long and hard to gain the confidence of large enterprises not only through their technology offerings but through partnerships that meet their utmost needs.
Still, there are signs things are changing for Google. At its recently concluded Google Next 2017 in San Francisco, its conference dedicated to GCP, Google showed signs that it was gaining momentum.
In trying to burnish its enterprise credentials, Google showed that it had the desire to follow up on its promise to be “dead serious” about the enterprise cloud game at its inaugural conference last year.
In the second iteration of its cloud conference held at the Moscone Centre in downtown San Francisco this year, Google tried its best to rally this momentum in a bid to demonstrate that it is a credible enterprise cloud player.
This year, Google claimed that the size of its conference had grown about five times from 2,000 in 2016 to about 10,000. The growth in the number of participants may seem trivial or anecdotal at best but is nonetheless a yardstick to gauge how, in particular, software developers are taking to GCP.
The growth also includes those in the Leaders’ Circle segment of the participants, indicating that more business executives are paying attention to the conference.
And in trying to bolster its commitment to the cloud, Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt noted in his keynote on day one of the conference that the company has collectively put US$30 billion into its cloud infrastructure in approximately the last three years.
“We put US$30 billion into this platform. I know this because I approved it,” he quipped while on stage. “Why replicate that? Just get to the cloud now,” he declared. “Just go there now,” he said, urging the crowd to believe in Google’s cloud offerings.
So how far has Google come since it declared itself to be a full-fledged, enterprise-ready cloud provider?
What kind of improvements has the top-notch hiring of Diane Greene (pic, above) brought to the fore for Google Cloud? What significant changes has the company seen in a little over one year? Has it gained more customers and grown its market share? Where can it make its mark as a provider that differentiates itself from the rest of the field?
One commitment Google had made last year was its promise to build more data centres globally, which it did make good.
At Next 2017, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure Urs Hölzle announced it will open three more regions of data centers around the world by the end of 2018 in the Netherlands, Canada, and California.
This comes on the back of Google announcing that it would open 11 new data centre regions. Google’s Asia-Northeast region in Tokyo went online in November last year, and the Oregon region came online four months before that. In all, Google now has 17 regions and 50 zones available through the GCP, Hölzle said.
However, its data centre in Tokyo is the only one operational in Asia today. Three other centres are expected to be operational by year-end: Sydney, Singapore and Mumbai.
These launches may be phased apart but are nonetheless important for Google. Cloud computing is about scale and presence, and having worldwide facilities, or regions as these players called them, display to the world not only its investments but the fact that it is trying to reach global markets.
As for customer wins, Google has notched several important customers in the past two years, following its initial announcements in 2015. It followed up in 2016 with higher-profile customers including Lloyds Banking Group Plc, Spotify Ltd, Home Depot Inc, The Walt Disney Company and even Apple Inc, widely regarded as one of Google’s stiffest competitors.
Just before Next 2017 got underway, it announced a US$2 billion deal (over five years) with social media giant Snapchat's parent Snap Inc, which just debuted successfully on the New York Stock Exchange.
It then announced consumer retail giant Colgate Palmolive Company; telco operator Verizon Communications Inc, online marketplace eBay Inc and HSBC Bank Plc at Next 2017, arguably its highest profile customer to date.
READ MORE: Culture shift imperative in cloud adoption: HSBC CIO
There were a variety of reasons why these customers chose GCP and each of them did so using different services provided by Google. For example Colgate-Palmolive and Verizon are migrating their communications and productivity software systems to G Suite.
Colgate-Palmolive, which has 38,000 employees in 223 countries, moved 28,000 employees to G Suite and at one point moved 20,000 employees in a weekend, said its CIO Mike Crowe. The consumer goods company is also said to be moving beyond email and calendar functions and utilising other Google apps such as Hangouts.
The company’s employees had used more than 57,000 hours of video hangouts in February 2017 and 90% of our G Suite users are active on Google Drive, said Crowe.
Meanwhile, Verizon is preparing to move more than 150,000 employees to G Suite during the coming weeks, said Alin D’Silva, vice president and chief technology officer of digital workforce at Verizon.
D’silva said there were hesitations around going to the cloud but these issues were alleviated after deep discussions between Google and Verizon in areas to do with security, data privacy and management.
Smaller customers who why they switched to GCP included Planet Labs Inc, Lush Cosmetics Ltd, and Evernote Corp.
READ MORE: Why these companies partially migrated to Google Cloud
Next page: Standing apart from the crowd