What we learned at the Google Cloud EMEA Analyst Summit 2019

Earlier this week teknowlogy Group attended Google’s now annual cloud analyst event for EMEA. The venue (Google’s London Academy) of course reflected the famously light-hearted character of Google’s offices – surfboards and beach-huts decorated an office that featured the now-standard collaborative spaces and diner seating booths. At the same time, the venue was also fairly conventional – nothing here would shock an archbishop – certainly much more so than many digital marketing agencies. And this reflects Google’s focus: this is a place for Business (preferably Big Enterprise Business) – rather than for wild-eyed creatives.

Google remains focused on supporting its customers with their digital transformations, with a foundation of hybrid and multiple cloud solutions, but differentiating on data driven innovations, security, speed and innovation. Google positions its digital transformation capability to the market around three capabilities: how Google’s clients can provide new experiences for their end-customers (as Google is providing to IKEA with its Vision Search capability); help Google’s customers become agile ( as the company is doing with HSBC and Ocado); and helping enterprises transform their industry through deeper insight into their data (as Google is doing for global manufacturer Sandvik).

Google cloud achieved a run-rate revenue of $8bn in the second quarter of this year, and within the Google Cloud universe, Europe is the fastest growing region. While Google is limited on the specifics that can be shared, the company highlighted the 12,000 new partner applications for GCP in the last 6 months alone. This is no accident: while Dianne Greene brought a VMware veteran’s enterprise focus to Google Cloud (which until then was focused on GSuite), her successor Thomas Kurian brings an equally enterprise-focused Oracle veteran’s perspective, with major investment in sales and GTM, and a plan to triple its global cloud sales teams “in the next few years”.  Google is renewing its focus on specific vertical sectors, developing repeatable sector propositions for its targets in Financial Services, Healthcare, Retail, Manufacturing, Telco, Media & Entertainment, and Public Sector. These vertical solutions revolve around, for instance, building AI for crime-anti money laundering and data warehouses (financial data exchange), whilst horizontal solutions focus on high performance computing (bare metal servers).

Google believes that their new Anthos service (live since April) is going to be a game-changer for them, and for their customers. The service builds on many of the cloud technologies that Google has open-sourced and continues to contributed to: Kubernetes (the “winner” of the container cluster management wars); Istio (capabilities to secure, connect and manage microservices) and Knative (a set of functions that makes it easier to use Kubernetes to deliver serverless functions and applications). Combining these open-source capabilities with pre-existing Google-specific services (Google Cloud Console UI, Google Kubernetes Engine to manage Kubernetes deployments) GKE On-Prem (for customer-dedicated deployments), this reduces the technical barriers to deploying modern cloud native applications built on containers and microservices.

This in itself would be interesting, but the attention-grabbing aspect is that customers can deploy and manage applications on environments from Google, AWS, Azure, HPE, Cisco, VMware and more, in a consistent way. This abstracts away all the underlying complexity, enabling customers to choose to interact with Anthos, instead of with multiple different API sets. With tools for every role - platform engineers, developers, service operators, security and compliance and more - Anthos essentially eliminates the need to train people on each cloud they are using, while also automating policies and security at scale across Anthos environments. This speaks to a key theme at Google Cloud – the need to dramatically lower the level of expertise needed to enable users to take advantage of Google Cloud’s advanced features.

Along with simplifying multicloud and hybrid cloud deployment and operations, Anthos also addresses the customer need for easier application modernization. Anthos is designed for container-ready applications, but realistically today that will only be true of net new projects. Since many organizations want to move legacy workloads to cloud native environments, Anthos includes capabilities inherited from Velostrata (a Google acquisition from 2018) to convert traditional VMs to cloud VMs, or to convert VMs to containers. 

The BigQuery database is another capability that has been further developed to make Google’s advanced services more accessible to less expert users. Embedded with machine learning capabilities, BigQuery is able to automate segmentation analysis in large data sets to identity outliers, reducing both processing time and infrastructure required. Cloud AutoML also seeks to make machine learning more widely accessible, providing a suite of products designed to enable users with limited ML expertise to develop their own custom machine learning models. One concrete example is Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which used Google Cloud AutoML Vision without prior ML or coding experience, to develop models that accurately detect common diseases from medical images.

Finally, Google is well aware how keen many enterprises are to bring some of the Google “magic” – what the company refers to as “the best of Google” into their own operations.  While it’s still a little unclear how easily business cultures can be shared, Google is happy to work with clients to share how Google likes to operate, with a clear focus on their organizational constructs, empowerment and rapid development, and data driven decision-making.

Overall, Google is successfully transitioning from a cloud laggard (which it still is in terms of pure market share) into a strong cloud innovator. Its current focus on lowering the technical barriers to use can only make it stronger, broadening Googles addressable market. Historically many organizations have suffered the plight of offering the best technology that few individuals could use – and Google seems very assured in side-stepping this challenge.