Google Cloud is hosting its annual user conference next week - Next ‘21 (click to register here) - which will be held virtually again this year. Previous Next events have proven fruitful both in terms of insights into the cloud provider's roadmap, but more importantly, in showcasing a range of customer use cases.
It has been an interesting few years for Google Cloud, which joined the race for acquiring enterprise IaaS customers late and had plenty to prove in a space that was dominated by AWS and Microsoft Azure. However, when some big enterprise hitters joined the helm, including CEO Thomas Kurian and President of Cloud Sales Robert Enslin, confidence grew in the company's ability to gain traction.
But as we've delved into these use cases, and covered Google Cloud's product releases, it's become increasingly clear that the company isn't entirely focused on winning pure IaaS deals at scale. And that's probably smart, given AWS and Azure's lead on that front.
Instead, Google Cloud appears to be focusing on solving complex enterprise problems, in collaboration with its customers, that typically focus on its ability to solve complex data challenges in the cloud. This perhaps isn't wholly unsurprising, given Google Cloud's AI/ML capabilities and last year's BigQuery Omni launch.
For instance, just last week we spoke with HSBC about how it is using the Google Cloud platform to better manage credit risk for its trading teams. This wasn't an off the shelf IaaS purchase for HSBC, but was a collaborative project with Google Cloud that looked at solving a hugely complex financial data problem.
When I last spoke with Enslin, for example, he pointed to exactly this buying dynamic with enterprise customers, where he said that Google Cloud would seek to move away from technical solutions, towards business solutions.
I'd argue that this is where Google Cloud sees its sweet spot - building stronger relationships with customers that need help solving increasingly complex data problems, whilst giving them that enterprise ‘experience' that they're used to. Google Cloud has actively introduced tools - Anthos, for instance - that enable customers to adopt multiple cloud providers outside of its environment.
That's not to say infrastructure isn't key to the strategy - of course it is - but I'd argue that Google Cloud sees more value higher up the stack than pure IaaS and is using its global cloud footprint as an enabler.
With all of this in mind, here's what I expect to see coming out of Google Cloud Next ‘21 this year.
Customers, customers, customers
Google Cloud's best chance of gaining further traction in the enterprise is to publicly showcase the work it is doing with big names in the enterprise. It has been pretty successful in this approach to date, as noted above, and has a pretty good track record of putting buyers forward to talk about their projects. We expect more of this next week and it's a strong strategy for gaining further credibility.
Google Cloud has noted previously how it envisages a future where it pursues offering vertical-specific solutions. We covered the vendor's Digital Manufacturer Summit in recent weeks, which indicates its interest in going deep in certain sectors. I'd be surprised if we didn't see some momentum in this area, where Google Cloud has strong experience e.g. finance, retail and manufacturing.
Given the role Google Workspace has played during the COVID-19 pandemic, Next ‘21 is clearly a good opportunity to showcase the company's cloud-based collaboration capabilities. We've had a number of Workspace product updates in recent weeks, which we may see more of next week - but more importantly we need to hear examples of how Google is guiding customers through the world of hybrid work and into the Vaccine Economy. Customers will be looking to the company for guidance.
It's all about data
I have no doubt that we will see a number of data, analytics and AI/ML announcements from Google Cloud out of Next - as already stated, this is its sweet spot in the enterprise cloud wars. But more importantly than that, what I hope to see is plenty of customer use cases showing the art of the possible, but also providing practical advice for how buyers can overcome their data challenges. Over the past few months, in almost all the customer conversations I've had, this is an area of great difficulty for many. And buyers are looking for partnerships with companies that can lead the way. They want an understanding of the complexities that they're facing, but also a better understanding of how to get there and what benefits they should be targeting. Google Cloud has an opportunity to showcase a cogent data story next week and we will be looking closely to see how it ties all the pieces together.
We will be covering Google Cloud Next ‘21 throughout the event and you can access our rolling analysis in diginomica's dedicated virtual event hub, here. Ultimately what we want to see is a clear roadmap for the company's strategy, plenty of customer examples, and strong guidance and understanding from Google Cloud on the reality facing enterprise buyers today. Its challenge? Cutting through the noise and offering practical support. Interestingly, despite being a cloud provider, very little of what interests me heading into this event is on the IaaS front. And that's a good thing, in my mind.