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Google Cloud Summit Malaysia Running Hard To Catch The Big Boys

DSA and Big Community attended the Google Cloud Summit in Kuala Lumpur today. Google leads the way in many areas but in the race to dominate the enterprise-class public cloud space, they trail AWS, Azure and IBM in terms of market share. We were interested in understanding how they stack up in terms of the strength and breadth of the enterprise public cloud offering.
 
During the keynote session, we learned some impressive stats. Google has invested $30billion in building out its cloud globally, nearly 1/5th of the world’s processers are implemented in Google data centres each year, 9 tonnes of disks are added into Google’s data centres every day and the tech giant has its dedicated global network, connecting Google’s data centres which can transport 25% of the world’s internet traffic.
 
Perhaps most interesting was the investment Google has made in their own CPU, or rather, TPU – Tensor Processing Unit – a processor explicitly developed to power machine learning (ML) driven computing.
 

Google’s TPU – Tensor Processing Unit

AI is not just in the cloud. These tiny AI processors can fit on a 10 sen coin and provide edge-based learning and intelligence.

We liked the keynote; it was delivered by a team of Googlers that handed the “baton" between each other as they covered different aspects of Google Cloud Platform’s capability. The presenters oozed enthusiasm. It's important to note because any company's journey with a cloud provider is one of partnership and working with enthusiastic, motivated people can go a long way to securing a successful cloud engagement.
 
This point was hit home in a customer presentation given by Celcom’s Colin Isitor. He referred to smart partnering as being possibly the most critical part of his working relationship with Google Cloud.
 
If we come down to nuts and bolts, Google is behind the likes of AWS and Azure in terms of breadth of functions, but in our opinion, they score big in two key areas.  The first is openness; the other is ML and AI.
 
When it comes to ML and AI, Google is clearly a leader in this space, and much of their talk about cloud leans on this strength. As an example, with Auto ML (an "as-a-Service” offering from Google), even the smallest company with no ability to code can leverage ML for their own applications. It’s powerful, yet simple, and this one "product" alone will be a driver for many companies to jump into the Google Cloud Platform.
 
As for "openness", Google spent time explaining the importance of its Kubernetes Engine and open source approach in general. We can save a deep dive on this for another day, but the way in which they position these technologies in their presentations seems more in the true “spirit” of cloud computing than any of their competitors. Cloud should be about choice, mobility and flexibility, and providing open source platforms for containerisation of applications is in the spirit of making it easy to move in and out of their cloud.  All cloud providers "talk" choice, but not all cloud providers work so hard to make customer choice a reality. In a media roundtable after the keynote, Tim Synan, the Head of Southeast Asia for Google Cloud, reinforced this point. He also highlighted how Google has introduced per second billing, again in the spirit of the cloud idea of “you only pay for what you use, when you use it”.
 
Every cloud provider exec we have ever spoken to has always espoused that cloud should free you from the days of vendor lock-in, yet when you delve deeper, you find that technically and commercially, they make it quite difficult to move away from their platforms. In the case of Tim, like any exec with a sales target on their back, we know he wants customers to stay, but we also felt he wants them to stay not because it’s commercially expensive to leave, but instead, because they are benefitting from partnering with Google Cloud.
 
Google brought two of its largest Malaysian enterprise customers to the media roundtable. Aireen Omar, Deputy Group CEO of AirAsia and Colin Isitor, Head of IT Digital Enablement at Celcom.  

Aireen Omar, Deputy Group CEO of AirAsia and Colin Isitor, Head of IT Digital Enablement at Celcom – in the thick of dialogue with the assembled journalists.

It is clear that the relationship between Google and their customers is strong. Both Aireen and Colin were passionate in showing their support for Google. We can’t underplay the importance of having good working relationships with your cloud provider. However, when we delved into the level of maturity of these relationships, we would classify them as "early stage".
 
Neither company has done a wholesale infrastructure migration into Google Cloud, and both companies are developing and evolving their own multi-cloud strategies. In the case of Celcom, they are utilising Google’s machine learning capabilities to analyse and streamline IT operations, but their data lake used for crunching customer data remains on systems they built for themselves.

So where does this leave the Google Cloud Platform in Southeast Asia? Google is committed and continues to grow the team. They are building good relationships with solid customers. G-Suite looks to be a good door opener, and they are already winning tactical cloud projects in enterprise accounts. Their power in ML and AI is sure to mean that large and small companies alike will be drawn into Google Cloud. In addition, when we see the closeness of the customer relationships, see that Google has invested so much in building their global connectivity, we wonder if one day the partnerships with Telco’s like Celcom might turn into acquisitions?
 
From here on in, it will be up to Tim and his team to build the trust for these companies to migrate more of their on-premise infrastructure over to Google. Today, the other major cloud players are winning more of that big-ticket business. The reason for that may be time as much as it is technical capability; Google Cloud Platform is playing catch up more so on its "go to market" activities than it is on the cloud offerings themselves.

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