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​Google - Climbing the cloud ladder in A/NZ

As businesses increasingly migrate to the skies, Google Cloud aims to capitalise on its standing as a cloud contender.
Renee Gamble - Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Google Cloud (Photo by Maria Stefina)

Renee Gamble - Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Google Cloud (Photo by Maria Stefina)

With trillions of dollars up for grabs, a catalogue of vendors remain lured by the lucrative riches seemingly on offer.

Yet as the public clouds part and the industry settles - in Australia, New Zealand and overseas - a core group of frontrunners remain.

While statistics vary slightly, Amazon Web Services’ lead appears unassailable in light of 31 per cent global market share, followed by Microsoft, Google and IBM with 11 per cent, eight per cent and five per cent respectively.

Combined, the four powerhouses control over half of the worldwide cloud infrastructure service industry, yet for Google, Australia represents a new battle ground to claw back market share.

“We think there’s plenty of headroom left in the market,” Google Cloud country manager of Australia and New Zealand, Renee Gamble, said.

“We’ve invested early in Australia in terms of our Google Cloud business and as a country we’ve been part of the first wave of adoption in terms of the overall cloud offerings.”

Such a statement of intent is backed up by plans to launch the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in Australia in 2017, a move which will see the introduction of three availability zones in Sydney.

In taking the local fight to AWS and Microsoft in particular, the launch is designed to deliver new levels of value to customers around products and services, with the GCP now serving over one billion end-users across the world.

“We’re already seeing momentum pick up locally following the announcement, which is benefitting both customers and channel partners,” Gamble observed.

“Australia is one of our strongest markets and that’s why we are serious about investing locally given the growth potential we see.”

New-look cloud

Australia aside however, Google continues to change global opinion through the hiring of over 1,000 new cloud-focused jobs worldwide, in addition to opening new Google Cloud Regions in Mumbai, Singapore, Northern Virginia, São Paulo, London, Finland and Frankfurt.

Renee Gamble - Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Google Cloud
Renee Gamble - Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Google Cloud

Furthermore, some of the world’s most innovative organisations are choosing Google Cloud Platform, including Coca-Cola, Spotify, Philips, Heathrow Airport and HTC.

Collectively, it paints a different picture for a vendor renowned for its internet search capabilities.

But it doesn’t stop there, with the recent rebranding of Google Apps for Work emphasising yet another shift in focus, with the newly named G Suite illustrating a unified collection of tools, rather than merely a set of individual offerings.

“We have thousands of customers in Australia already using G Suite and there’s lots of appetite from the channel also,” Gamble said.

Spanning productivity and collaboration tools, more than five million organisations use the Microsoft Office 365 competitor worldwide, including 60 per cent of Fortune 500 companies.

Yet for Gamble, the smaller end of town provides equal amounts of potential for cloud adoption across Australia.

“We play really well in the start up space because we are easy to acquire and easy to onboard,” Gamble explained. “We don’t lock customers into contracts which is appealing to smaller organisations, while also allowing larger businesses to start testing and playing with our services.

“We’re strong among small businesses for G Suite because these companies are already comfortable moving to the cloud. It’s a natural evolution to start moving applications and increase investment around infrastructure platforms.”

Intelligent cloud

With businesses at both ends of the market increasingly interested in creating intelligent applications, there's an arms race among public cloud providers to provide the best machine learning capabilities.

Google fired its latest salvo in November through enhancements to its existing suite of cloud machine learning capabilities.

The first was a new Jobs API aimed at helping match job applicants with the right openings, alongside slashing the prices on its Cloud Vision API and launching an enhanced version of its translation API.

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On top of that, Google is offering GPUs in its cloud both through the vendor’s managed services and its infrastructure-as-a-service product.

As a result, organisations intent on rolling out machine learning systems and algorithms can now take advantage of the new hardware.

“It’s definitely a strong play locally also,” Gamble added. “We are definitely looking at the core infrastructure workloads but analytics and intelligence is a differentiation that we do have.

“We have strong and unique capabilities in the analytics and the machine learning space. Because we offer these as managed services, it’s easier for customers and allows them to do some really intelligent and sophisticated things in the cloud without needing to invest in that talent themselves.

“They can focus on their core business and utilise our investment in building that capability.”

For Gamble, the local market is “no longer restricted” by the early mentality around cloud, allowing innovation to arise through data analytics, machine learning and the business intelligence.

“It opens up a whole new different set of opportunities for customers so they don’t need to necessarily have such a binary view,” Gamble observed.

“I think the market is really maturing and is really open to this new way of thought.”

New world order

Across the board, Australian and New Zealand enterprises are boosting usage and increasing spending on cloud services, with CIOs at a national level planning to increase investment within the next 12 months.

Consequently, the expanding channel ecosystem now plays host to the new breed of “born-in-the-cloud” partners, revolving around cloud-based delivery rather than traditional methods of the past.

Renee Gamble - Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Google Cloud
Renee Gamble - Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Google Cloud

While overlap can occur, the change is creating a new world order in cloud, driven by a trailblazing group of partners disrupting the status quo of on-premises hardware and licensed software players.

“We have a different channel focus compared to some of the traditional vendors,” Gamble acknowledged. “We are looking for partners that can help provide unique value to the customer.

“And that’s around the service piece of the puzzle they are providing, whether that be through GCP, specific development services they offer or how they’re going to manage those services.

“That’s our core play in the channel for the year ahead because we want to develop deeper relationships with core partners, not so much a deep breadth of community partnerships.”

Specific to fostering deeper relations with a core group of partners, Gamble’s approach to the channel seems to align with that of the market’s largest player, following AWS CEO Andy Jassy’s comments at AWS re:Invent in November.

For Jassy craves a fully committed ecosystem of partners and consultants, believing that the “strategy of hedging is the wrong one for this time”.

Spanning the states of Australia and New Zealand, Gamble acknowledged that Google still relies on a “long trail of community partners” serving the G Suite business, partners that “play an important role in the mid-market and enterprise spaces”.

But in response to calls to hone skill sets and expertise, Google’s partner base is growing through specialised players building out tailored capabilities.

“They are building out the kinds of capabilities and service offerings that can be monetised and scaled across either a vertical or a specific problem,” Gamble said. “And that’s the key, solving a problem for the customer is where a Google partner will be most valuable.

“We work in partnership with the customer and the partner to offer a deeper connection around what the business is trying to achieve through our technology.

“This includes deeper engagement with our engineering team and with the partners creating custom-built applications for the cloud.”