Google Cloud reaction to the COVID-19 Crisis

teknowlogy Group recently had a briefing with Chris Ciauri, President EMEA at Google Cloud. Chris started off by explaining that during the current COVID-19 crisis, most Googlers have had to adapt to working from home, and he did not expect ways of working to return to a pre-COVID norm even in the medium term. While this could seem a fairly vanilla opening statement, for Google this is actually quite a big deal, since the company has been well-known in the UK for its preference for most staff to be office- rather than home-based.

Google Cloud has recognised that this is a critical period for UK business, and the way it responds to this crisis will impact its relationship with prospects and customers for years to come. The mantra that the Google Cloud team is trickling down within that organization is “serve, not sell”. The organization is clearly aware that some of its capabilities are in critical demand right now – especially its acknowledged competency in enabling remote working. At the same time the company is aware that many customers will be facing economic challenges, and Google has to tread gently about how it expands its footprint at this time.

The company has been leading with Google Meet – the enterprise version of Hangouts that provides a very straightforward desktop videoconferencing capability. According to Google Cloud, the solution provides enterprise-grade security features, and this has enabled deployment in regulated sectors such as insurance. Chris explained that for prospects, Meet contrasts well with “other” videoconferencing solutions, in our opinion a discreet reference the challenging publicity that Zoom has attracted recently.

Alongside strong uptake of Meet, the rest of G Suite has equally seen a very significant acceleration in take-up during the pandemic, with many requests to help move whole workforces to a remote office model. In several cases this involved on-boarding several thousands of staff to G Suite, often in only a matter of days.

Since many companies also rely on proprietary applications to deliver core functionality, the company has also released BeyondCorp Remote Access. This provides a much simpler alternative to the complexity and configuration work needed to enable a whole workforce to have VPNs access to corporate applications, and is based on Google’s own in-house solution for remote access.

Google Cloud expects to see other consequences from the corona virus crisis, as a much larger slice of the UK workforce comes to rely on home broadband just to be able to do their jobs. The company expects its work with the telco sector to increase, as carriers look for ways to better understand their traffic flows, enabling them to prioritise bandwidth towards customers that need it most. In fact Google Cloud has already done this with Vodafone, using Google’s expertise in Big Data analytics to identify opportunities to optimize the network.

Although much of the briefing focused on remote working, Google has also noticed a much greater openness from quite conservative organizations right across FS, retail, and CPG to the idea of getting out of in-house data centers entirely. Although that reaction is quite understandable right now, in teknowlogy’s opinion this will be tricky for most to execute in the short-medium term, but is certainly a conversation that Google will wish to continue.

Overall COVID-19 has created great opportunities for Google Cloud, and the company is adapting its position to ensure it maintains its focus on customer needs. Of course, this includes refocusing go-to-market initiatives, which now features the workplace much more prominently. It has already impacted roadmap priorities: consequently Google is now rolling out additional features for Meet including tiled layout for larger meetings, better video, and AI-enablement to handle background noise and poor lighting.

In summary, the Google Cloud team is helping many organizations get back on their feet, and at the same time helping dispel any last concerns around whether public cloud can really be trusted – an approach which is sure to serve the company well in the medium and longer term.