Why one Aussie partner went all-in on Google Cloud

From Sydney to the streets of the UK and Asia Pacific, OniGroup is reaping the rewards of striking a global Google Cloud alliance
Team OniGroup – Martin Tiekle and Darragh Murphy

Team OniGroup – Martin Tiekle and Darragh Murphy

For those that read the press, listen to the hype and drink the Kool-Aid, the cloud race is already over, before it even began.

Because there’s two market leaders out in front, so far ahead that a duopoly is in place.

In truth, statistics don’t lie and the early dominance of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure should be acknowledged.

Yet a third horse is emerging from the chasing pack, galloping up the outside with style of attack. Backed by an expanding channel, Google Cloud is gaining ground.

“We made a decision about 10 years ago to focus purely on Google which has paid off well for us as a business,” OniGroup managing director Darragh Murphy said.

“It was a very different proposition over a decade ago and we initially focused on maps and search, but now we have evolved our offerings as the portfolio has expanded."

Established as a Premier Partner of choice for Google Geo, G Suite, search, cloud and analytics solutions, OniGroup operates as a 100 per cent provider of Google technologies, leveraging a solid track record spanning more than a decade.

“There’s a lot of solutions on offer through Google but we’ve made our key strategic bets,” OniGroup head of Google Cloud APAC Martin Tiekle added. “Much like the decision we made 10 years ago, today we’re taking the same approach through our specialised offerings.

“We have a laser focus on our investments and opportunities, alongside delivering innovative technical solutions that help our customers.”

Darragh Murphy (OniGroup)
Darragh Murphy (OniGroup)

Founded in 2006, the Sydney- based business works together with customers to identify, integrate and leverage cutting edge tools and technologies, designed to improve organisational efficiency, collaboration and knowledge management.

“It’s on a customer by customer basis, but our focus is very much around providing consultation and advisory services,” Tiekle explained.

“We provide guidance on best practice for customers to consider, whether that’s when implementing new technologies, the key challenges to watch out for and crucially, how to build returns to the business which is our biggest strength.

“Through leveraging our technical team, we’re also examining code all day long and coming back to the table with better ways of doing business. This approach helps us solve customer problems and deliver the outcomes they require.”

Going global

In starting out as a Google Maps focused partner, OniGroup was afforded an orientation exercise in disguise.

Through offering expertise via the web mapping service, the technology provider subsequently started scanning the globe for extra opportunities, leveraging a burgeoning cloud platform to enter new countries.

“We came across an opportunity to expand globally around four years ago,” Murphy recalled. “Google approached us to expand into Europe and to replicate what we do in Australia.

“This represented our first venture overseas and we set up an office in the UK, which is going from strength to strength. We’ve just recently hired two new staff members and it’s going strongly for us.

“Because we are 100 per cent aligned to Google, I believe that’s a huge differentiator compared to any other provider. We find partners offer a little bit of everything whereas we come into the customer with one story and that story is the Google Cloud Platform [GCP].”

Martin Tiekle (OniGroup)
Martin Tiekle (OniGroup)

Through the continued success of brand, coupled with growth as a Premier Google Cloud Partner, OniGroup has morphed into a global entity, with a presence also across the Asia Pacific region.

“The approach is the same as we work off a globalised formula,” Tiekle added. “Of course, there are different idiosyncrasies between doing business in the UK compared to New Zealand, or perhaps Australia compared to Singapore.

“But the services we provide and how we position ourselves within the market remains the same globally.”

Despite market demand and a tech giant endorsing the move, Tiekle said OniGroup adopted a concerted approach to expanding globally, undertaking a SWOT analysis to assess strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities and threats.

“We assessed the global market to see which industry played to our strengths specifically,” Tiekle explained. “We leveraged Google enormously along the way and examined which market we would most likely see success.

“For example, Asia Pacific is a large market to enter. It’s different because rather than monopolies in every country, you have big players that work across 7/8 nations. From a Google standpoint, we wouldn’t be where we are today without their partnership.

“It’s a two-way street and we feed off each other from both a partner and Google perspective. But crucially, the customer receives a single perspective which is a very powerful offering to provide.”

In some ways, OniGroup was a little ahead of its time, going global before the idea became fashionable across the channel.

Yet today, the idea of partners leveraging vendor cloud platforms to reach new countries - and crucially, new customers - across the world is commonplace, as Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure offer golden tickets to global markets.

“We’ve definitely been in complete alliance with Google every step of the way,” Murphy explained.

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“We have leveraged their expertise and their brand and we understand and recognise the importance they provide to our business.”

Second wave

Specific to customer buying habits, GCP is increasingly being chosen as a strategic alternative to AWS by customers whose businesses compete with Amazon, and that are more open-source-centric or DevOps-centric, and thus are less well-aligned to Microsoft Azure.

The move comes as the tech giant positions itself as an ‘open’ provider — according to Gartner research — through an increased emphasis on portability, alongside involvement in many open-source ecosystems, including that of Kubernetes, its open-source container cluster management software.

“It’s a very different story that partners and Google are coming to customers with today,” Murphy said. “It’s about providing a multi- cloud environment through a hybrid approach, whereas other vendors are simply saying, choose us only.

“We say take the best of Google and leverage that to a full extent because they have a range of different platforms and strong capabilities in other areas. Especially across data, analytics and machine learning, Google is streets ahead.”

And Murphy’s assessment of the market is playing out in the numbers.

Locally speaking, Australian organisations are strongly moving in the direction of hybrid cloud, with a range of businesses currently utilising one or two small applications or workloads.

But despite 67 per cent of all companies embracing cloud in the form of either public or private across the country, only 13 per cent have an "optimised" cloud strategy in place.

According to local findings from research analyst firm IDC, Australia is continuing to adopt cloud solutions with “no bias” towards either public or private cloud, with many moving in the direction of a hybrid cloud future.

“Whether it be at the high end of town or low end start-ups, hybrid cloud is very much the play,” Tiekle said.

“Cloud is a big investment to make as a business and it doesn’t make sense to go all in on one particular platform. Why not instead take the best of both worlds and create something innovative?

“Google has done a fantastic job of branding themselves as being advocates of multi-cloud — here are our strengths, this is where we will play and this is why you should back us.”

With a customer base predominantly housed across the enterprise, Tiekle acknowledged the changing dynamics of the industry, as fledging businesses divert attention from traditional players.

“The enterprise is changing fast,” he observed. “It’s different with start- ups from around the world because some start-ups in Indonesia are only five years old but are worth more than Australian businesses that have been around for more than 100 years.

Team OniGroup – Martin Tiekle and Darragh Murphy
Team OniGroup – Martin Tiekle and Darragh Murphy

“So yes, enterprise is our play but we’re now getting two forms of business.”

Maturing market

Through developing a multi-cloud marketplace, Google is also accelerating efforts to bring more channel partners into play, particularly independent software vendors (ISVs) innovating on the platform.

As a result, the GCP division has been making aggressive efforts to build an ecosystem of management tools through actively recruiting partners.

While prospective partner interest is high, it will take time for such partners to build out capabilities.

“It’s a different story from our perspective because we’ve been there for the long haul,” Murphy added. “We’ve gone through the different stages of how Google’s partner program has evolved over time and we’ve evolved and grown with the business.

“But you can definitely see during the past 12-18 months that they are taking a massive leap ahead.

“We’ve always leveraged a strong Google partnership during the past 10 years and we work very closely together but they have made an astronomical investment recently which has been great for the channel.”

Today, a Google Cloud partner is specialised, collaborative, a developer of applications and a builder of code. But crucially, on occasions, cut from a different cloth.

“There’s a massive focus on partners, more so than before,” Tiekle acknowledged. “Google has invested billions of dollars into infrastructure, technology and the channel and we’re seeing that play out.

“Lots of large vendors say they are increasing investment but as an industry, we rarely see it play out. But in my experience, Google is putting in the effort and the dollars to help partners succeed, which is evident through improvements to training, enablement and services.”

Looking ahead, Murphy said plans are in place to leverage the GCP platform further, with OniGroup remaining on track for a year of strong revenue growth.

“We’re also looking to build out our capabilities across key areas and expand further to provide expertise across the different regions we operate in,” Murphy added.

“We need to focus on this carefully because we have a high standard of delivery and consultancy that we provide. We can’t let that level drop because as soon as it drops, everything falls by the wayside. While we have strong ambitions, we’re growing responsibly.”