​Can Google create a channel in Australia?

Reputation counts for nothing as tech giant attempts to lure local partners onto cloud platform.
Sundar Pichai - CEO, Google

Sundar Pichai - CEO, Google

With one of the world’s most instantly recognisable logos, and a brand that has now become a verb, Google’s global reach and reputation is unparalleled.

Not many organisations generate the levels of interest or popularity as the internet search giant.

But in the channel, such a reputation counts for nothing.

Representing new market territory, the vendor is learning how to be a channel-friendly vendor, understanding how to engage with its partner community, while grappling with enterprise approval at the same time.

As outlined during its Google Cloud Next ’17 conference, the unveiling of a revamped partner program represents the cloud provider’s largest endorsement of the channel to date.

And perhaps ARN’s invitation to attend as the only Australian channel publication on the ground in San Francisco further highlights Google’s desire to seek new routes to market.

But conversing with the channel doesn’t come natural to an organisation famed for search engines rather than reseller rebates.

Unsurprisingly, it’ll take time for the 18-year-old multinational to learn the ropes and hit the ground running, such is the complex nature of the channel.

“Google are just building a channel and it’s very early days,” Gartner Research Vice President of Infrastructure Software, Michael Warrilow, observed.

Channel key

Speaking to ARN on the ground in San Francisco, Warrilow said that as cloud becomes front and centre across the industry, Google will be motivated by two core priorities in 2017.

“They are trying to woo the partner community while trying to prove their credentials within the enterprise,” he said. “They are doing a good job on both fronts and it’s a huge improvement from over a year ago.

“But there’s a long way to go. Google’s success to date has largely been non-enterprise, through Software-as-a-Service [SaaS] vendors and individual developers. Now they have to win the hearts and minds of the channel and the corporate executives.”

As reported by ARN, Google has worked hard to stake its claim as a serious cloud contender across the enterprise, backed up by an expansive list of heavy hitting customers migrating to the skies.

But despite a host of multinationals lining up to offer cloud endorsements, Warrilow acknowledged that the road ahead remained long in terms of securing widespread mainstream adoption.

“Enterprise usage for Google Cloud for enterprise workloads still remains very low,” he added. “AWS [Amazon Web Services] has had such a head start in the market and they are doing a great job of maintaining that lead and showing how Google need to do it.”

Google Cloud Next ’17 conference in San Francisco
Google Cloud Next ’17 conference in San Francisco

To claw back ground locally, plans are in place to launch the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in Australia this year, in a move designed to increase adoption across the country.

Yet as revealed on stage in San Francisco, the Sydney launch now looks set to be at the back end of 2017, behind deployments in Singapore and Northern Virginia which are set for within the next few months.

“The Sydney launch will absolutely help boost Google’s credentials locally,” Warrilow added. “Until last year the closest data centre to Australia was Taiwan, now it’s Tokyo so it’s gradually getting closer.

“Google are spending $30 billion over the next three years and that’s a lot to deploy but they have the resources that will accelerate this process compared to others in the market. It’s long overdue however, Sydney really should have been 18-24 months ago but when it does happen, it’ll make a huge difference.”

When Google Cloud officially arrives in Australia, the channel stands to benefit from tapping into three availability zones in Sydney, capable of delivering higher performance to customers nationwide.

Much like Microsoft in 2014 and AWS in 2012, the introduction of local data centres is widely expected to bolster uptake at a local level, creating new revenue streams for the channel as a result.

Currently however, Warrilow said Google remained “third in a two-horse race” in Australia, trailing AWS and Microsoft Azure on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) deployments.

Partner potential

Yet as displayed to a record crowd of 10,000 partners and customers, the vendor has the pedigree and technical engineering capabilities to offer services currently lacking from the competition, alongside better Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

“Google stands up well on their technical credibility but they are building a sales force from scratch,” Warrilow said. “They are building a marketing machine and are just learning how to talk to the enterprise which is crucial for the channel.

“Google needs to build an enterprise partner channel because they will need to understand industry verticals and specialisations, alongside talking the language of big business and government.”

Reflecting increased demand for specialist cloud experts in the Australian market, Google’s partner base is evolving through specialisation, as the channel creates value in providing tailored services and solutions.

“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,” Google Cloud Country Manager of Australia and New Zealand, Renee Gamble, stated in the December 2016 issue of ARN Magazine.

“And that’s the key, solving a problem for the customer is where a Google partner will be most valuable.”

Furthermore, and as reported by ARN, Google continues to change global opinion through the hiring of over 1,000 new cloud-focused jobs worldwide, with the vendor also on the hunt to build out its trans-Tasman capabilities.

Specifically, the local recruitment drive will see a new Google Cloud chief lead a team of Google Cloud Sales Executives, Inside Sales, Customer Engineers, Solutions Architects, and Partners within Google Cloud accounts.

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In addition, the company is hiring a Asia Pacific SMB Partner Manager for Google Cloud, with the key responsibilities of driving G Suite and GCP sales through partner channels and direct sales teams.

“Partners are critical to the growth, adoption and scale of Google Cloud products,” the local advertisement stated.

“You will work with key SMB-focused partners to develop their Google Cloud business via sales and marketing campaigns, trainings and enablement.”

Collectively, it helps paint a different picture for a vendor renowned for its internet search capabilities rather than channel cloud credentials, creating a new need for cloud partners as a result.

“Professional services is the first part of the play for the channel, partners can provide a fixed fee design for the customer," Warrilow explained. “Google can’t scale and nor do they necessarily want to in this space, much like AWS and Microsoft.

"For resellers of all sizes, whether they are new to the market as a born-in-the-cloud provider or through professional services and consulting, they are open to that dance.

“The ticket to the dance is equally available to them. Enterprise will work with anyone who has strong skills in design.

“But where it starts getting challenging for the channel is when transitioning away from migrate - which is project work - to operate which requires 24/7 skills and 100 members of staff waiting on call. That favours a more established partner for Google but there’s certainly room to play.”

As explained by Warrilow, opportunities exist for partners around design work and fixed fee consulting style services, with enterprise organisations open to rewarding those capable of “bringing the brains” to the cloud conversation.

Strengths and weaknesses

In examining the cloud provider market, Warrilow outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the top three players, advising partners to evaluate key capabilities around performance and capabilities such as machine learning and intelligent cloud plays.

“AWS is not as strong in the office productivity stakes with Office 365 clearly a market leader,” he said. “G Suite is definitely second in this space, while Google also has strong credentials around machine learning.

“But IBM is also trying to enter that market and Microsoft has a reasonable story to tell, although AWS is still trying to catch up.”

Warrilow’s observations demonstrate the advantages and disadvantages of the channel aligning with specific vendors in the cloud, with each having deploying different go-to-market strategies.

“Microsoft has too many partners while Google doesn’t have enough,” Warrilow observed. “Microsoft is still evolving in what they do through the cloud and have been for a number of numbers.

"Even though they more or less invented this kind of ecosystem, they still have to adjust to cloud as well. Today, the AWS partner ecosystem is the most mature in cloud by a country mile.”

Google Cloud Next ’17 conference in San Francisco
Google Cloud Next ’17 conference in San Francisco

It’s a statement backed up AWS’ ability to provide a platform capable of luring independent software vendors (ISVs) and developers, through a framework capable of fostering innovation on a global scale.

“ISVs are important because they consume our platform, but more importantly they provide innovative solutions to our end customers,” Amazon Web Services head of channels and alliances, Stefan Jansen, stated in the November 2016 issue of ARN Magazine.

Take Versent as a leading example in Australia, an IT consultancy firm that has stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight on a full-time basis, emphasising the power of the product in a cloud context.

In servicing more than half of the top 200 ASX-listed companies, the business recently launched its new flagship product, Stax, designed to help Australian organisations access the power of the cloud through AWS, providing simplified management of workloads.

Likewise through Microsoft Azure, with ISVs also taking centre stage in the cloud, including local players such as Janison, Objective Corporation, Capstone and MailGuard.

For Google, ISVs will also be crucial to achieve scale in the cloud.

Managed services

Meanwhile across Australia, Warrilow said enterprise architecture and technology innovation leaders can benefit from selecting a “high-quality” managed service provider when implementing and operating solutions on AWS, Microsoft Azure and GCP.

Through to 2018, the cloud managed service market will remain relatively immature, and more than 75 per cent of fully successful implementations will be delivered by “highly skilled, forward-looking, boutique” managed service providers with a cloud-native, DevOps-centric service delivery approach.

In the context of a recently released Gartner Magic Quadrant report, two Australian partners were globally recognised as industry leaders in the public cloud - Bulletproof and Melbourne IT.

Among 20 businesses named in the report, key players also included Accenture, Datapipe, CSC, Cognizant, HCL Technologies, Capgemini with Melbourne IT and Bulletproof specifically recognised as challengers and niche players respectively.

“All of the multi-cloud hyper-scale managed service providers are with AWS and around half will have Azure capabilities by the end of the year,” he added. “The main work now is around getting certified on Azure but AWS is continuing to raise the bar through a very high quality certification program.

“Google is going to go after niche markets which represents an opportunity for the reseller. Do you go with the bulk that have went with AWS and are also moving to Azure, or do you leapfrog around to Google and get yourself known that way?"

“That’s an appealing option for the Australian channel because Google is making all the right noises in terms of becoming a channel friendly vendor.”

Looking ahead, the onus now shifts to Google, and its ability to transform from an internet search giant into a viable channel-centric vendor.

James Henderson is attending Google Cloud Next ’17 conference in San Francisco as a guest of Google.