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Renewed ambition for Google in enterprise cloud market

Based on its partner network investment, skills demand, new strategy and growing overall market, Google Cloud is still a viable competitor in the enterprise cloud market.
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The enterprise cloud market is dominated by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, but Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian is hoping to make it a three-horse race in the rapidly-growing market.

He has doubled investment in the partner ecosystem and is talking up a new strategy to enable process optimisation with artificial intelligence (AI)-driven tools. But increasing demand is also exposing the skills gap in organisations looking to migrate to the cloud − especially in professional certifications.

The company’s 45% year-on-year revenue growth and 50% reduction in operating losses led Kurian to make a few bold statements at Google Cloud’s Next ’21 conference. During a segment on the efficacy of Google Cloud’s data analytics, he said: “We help organisations unify their data across multiple clouds and silos, combining structured and unstructured data and making data every employee‘s superpower.”

Google Cloud is better known for handling consumer workloads like Google Search, Google Ads and YouTube. However, enterprise customers are still not convinced “run like Google” is suitable for their requirements.

This perception of its “underdog” status makes it difficult to compete with AWS and Azure, which can point to prominent “lighthouse customers” that are all-in on their popular cloud services. The two even dominate multi-cloud strategies, with clients like BP and Sainsbury’s choosing to work with both providers.

In spite of that, a new suite of tools for automation and AI-driven business process improvement could signal a comeback for Google. Aimed at helping executives streamline core business processes, Kurian believes this shift will stimulate demand for Google’s data-centric cloud-based services.

But even if Google Cloud can differentiate on architecture and help speed up time to value, it may not be enough to make a significant shift in its market share. AWS and Azure sales teams are 10 times the size of Google Cloud’s and clients have complained of a lack of support and industry knowledge that doesn’t live up to the sales promise.

This perception of its “underdog” status makes it difficult to compete with AWS and Azure.

Now, more than 13 000 Google Cloud partners play an important role in bridging this gap. Google has committed to double its spend on this ecosystem to boost the role of these partners in helping clients with skills, migration and consulting.

One of its standout partners, Teraflow.ai, has a strong track record in helping enterprises modernise their cloud infrastructure to support AI workloads. Its clients include Comair, which operates the British Airways brand in South Africa and the Kulula low-cost carrier.

During the lockdowns of 2020, Teraflow fast-tracked cloud migration and modernised Comair’s architecture, which has since become a foundation for improved customer experience, financial sustainability and regulatory compliance.

Teraflow.ai co-founder and CEO Brett St Clair is doubling down on the continued growth of Google Cloud in the enterprise market, but believes the skills gap is a critical bottleneck, noting: “90% of IT leaders are looking to grow their cloud environments over the coming years, yet more than 80% of those same leaders have identified a lack of skills and knowledge within their workforce as a barrier to this growth.”

While the skills shortage is the key constraint to growth in the short-term, this isn’t unique to Google or cloud adoption.

However, equipping people with these skills will be vital to unlocking Google Cloud’s anticipated growth − otherwise expectations will continue to outpace migration benefits. Meeting this demand with high-quality educational content from trusted and experienced instructors has become a top priority and this trend will increase in 2022.

Google Cloud recently announced an ambitious programme to train more than 40 million new people to meet the demand for skills required to implement and maintain large-scale cloud deployments.

Udemy, the world’s largest online learning platform, analysed demand for skills from its 9 000 enterprise customers. Its Workplace Learning Report for 2022 tracked a range of workplace skills, including “power skills” and technical skills such as cloud, cyber security and data science.

Based on course consumption from 2020 to 2021, Google Cloud certification is the top surging cloud computing skill with 645% growth, beating Azure (264%) and AWS (155%).

This is one major area where Google Cloud remains ahead of Azure and AWS. Kurian, however, is hoping for further growth in market share. With new momentum in his partner network, bolder product strategies and millions more learning his company’s offerings, his optimism is certainly justifiable.

* Peter Alkema helps lead digital transformation at FNB. This article is written in his personal capacity.

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