The gloves are off: Getting serious with Google Cloud

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Google opened up its offices in London this week for the Google Cloud EMEA Analyst Summit. Although ostensibly ‘cloud’ in name, it was a chance for the company to show off advances in Android and Chromebooks, though it was the G-Suite (office and productivity tools) and Google Cloud Platform services which were of most interest to us at MWD Advisors. This article is co-authored by lead analysts Craig Wentworth and Angela Ashenden.

Google’s platform gamble

Craig Wentworth

The two-word summary of Google’s march into enterprise territory is “getting serious”. It’s a trajectory we’ve been following for a couple of years now, since VMware founder Diane Greene took the helm of the Cloud business in November 2015. Whilst a fair caricature of Google Cloud’s go-to-market strategy back then was “wait for the world to become more Googley”, as it sat somewhat off to the side as the achingly smart data-specialist’s cloud specialist (leaving AWS and Azure to fight over the mainstream, with IBM ploughing something of its own specialist furrow)… the message now is clear.

Where once Google might have taken the ground-breaking data services that power its internal organs (MapReduce, Dremmel, etc.), shared them with the world through academic research papers, and been content to have these see the light of day some years later as Apache open source projects (Hadoop, Drill, etc.) – like some sort of moonshot trickle-down programme – these days it has a far more direct approach to capitalising on its intellectual investments. Now, Google productises its own innovations itself, so the likes of Cloud Spanner (scalable relational database), Cloud BigTable (NoSQL database) join the toolkit of the Google Cloud Platform portfolio much more quickly.

Although it’s referred to as a platform, that word has blurry definitions nowadays. Yes, it’s designed to enable its customers to construct their own custom applications and services on top of it – but its constituent parts inhabit a world from ‘classic’ PaaS lower-level stack services; through ‘functional PaaS’ that offers more specialist capabilities around machine learning, IoT, etc.; up to development tools that border on SaaS territory.

However, Google seems happy with this model. It enables it to feed some best-in-class cloud services into an ecosystem that’s well liked by developers and the data-savviest of customer organisations. It’s also keen to show that it’s:

  • Putting more boots on the ground in terms of expanding its own enterprise-focused sales teams and partner relationships.
  • Expanding its regional coverage – to 13 regions, spanning 39 zones, and over 100 points of presence now; with 4 more regions and 11 more zones in the pipeline. This isn’t quite at the level of AWS’s 16 region / 41 zone map yet, and it has another 6 zones “coming soon”… but it’s not too far behind.
  • Able to benefit from the security and latency advantages of running its own network.
  • Able to help you transform your business through data (with AI / ML, hyperscale analytics, etc.) to transform your business – rather than simply lifting and shifting infrastructure to shave off some costs and cope better with elastic surges in demand.

But where it’s playing the most catch-up in the market, is in breaking out of a familiar IT / developer / data business realm… to bring that story of Google’s transformational possibilities to a more mainstream business audience. Luckily for Google, everybody’s being told “we’re all data businesses now”, so more (non-techie) leaders are becoming alive to the possibilities that a data-orientated cloud strategy (or indeed a cloud-orientated data strategy) could bring to the way they do business.

The trick is for Google to learn how to balance its new-found enterprise focus, with the culture that makes it innovative in the first place. This week’s summit featured customer and partner stories on-stage, and it’s clear they each value the relationship they have with Google – one that’s that’s helped them transform in their particular industry. But mainstream prospects (with eyes also on AWS and Azure) will be looking for more, transferable and translatable examples; more industries, more organisation types; to help them think themselves into a more Googley future.

Breathing new life into G Suite

Angela Ashenden

This week’s event was a great reminder that you should never forget the importance of Google in the collaboration software market. G Suite – which was previously known as Google Apps for Work – has been available for over ten years, but in recent years it had started to fall by the wayside when it came to defining the future direction of enterprise collaboration, largely because, for most of that time, its development was driven by (and hamstrung by) consumer priorities, rather than business needs. With the introduction of Diane Greene and Sundar Pichai at the helm, though, this has changed direction, with enterprise demand now driving the engineering investment and the roadmap prioritisation for G Suite (and Google Cloud as a whole, of course).

Bill Hippenmeyer, who leads Google’s Customer Engineering organisation in EMEA, highlighted a wealth of new features and capabilities in G Suite – there have been 500+ releases in the last six months. Many of these leverage AI and machine learning, or help to enable a more streamlined, connected collaboration experience across the different components of the suite. Examples of these include Gmail Smart Reply, which suggests possible responses to emails, based on how you (and others) have responded to similar messages previously, and the Explore feature in Sheets and Docs, which helps you interpret and create charts from your spreadsheet data in Sheets, and suggests topics, images and other references to include within Docs.

New tools added to the suite include the Hangouts Chat app, which provides persistent chat rooms (and looks a lot like a Slack alternative, with support for bots as well), and Jamboards, which are real-time, co-editing whiteboards, available as interactive screens for meeting areas, as well as via mobile apps. We also got to see some great new features coming down the pipe next year, which I can’t quite talk about yet.

While Microsoft Office 365 might be getting all the press these days, G Suite is certainly still in the game, with more than 3.5 million businesses using it, and more than 1.2 billion daily active Gmail users. It’s great to see the renewed investment here, and we’ll be digging into Google’s strategy in enterprise collaboration in more detail in the new year.

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