Business Cloud News

In the wake of the public release of Google Compute Engine, the internet giant’s highly anticipated public infrastructure as a service cloud offering, Business Cloud News speaks with Thomas Davies, country manager for UK and Ireland at Google Enterprise to discuss enterprises and the future of cloud adoption.

Thomas Davies is Google Enterprise's managing director for UK and Ireland

Thomas Davies is Google Enterprise’s UK & Ireland country manager

The Google Enterprise outfit sits apart from Google’s other core businesses like chrome, YouTube, advertising and Android. It is the arm of the internet giant that works hands-on with enterprise clients in order to help them adapt to new technologies and address business process evolution within these companies as they move to embrace cloud services. “If you ask me how much time I spend with customers, I’m with them pretty much every day,” Davies says.

Davies has been working at Google Enterprise for seven years and has in that time noticed a remarkable shift in the attitudes of businesses towards cloud computing. “If you wind back the clock to five or six years ago, the strongest sentiment was on economics; they needed to save money and reduce operating costs,” Davies says. “But in the past two or three years things have become much more interesting. The discussion has moved much more towards business and cultural change,” he says.

When most people speak about cultural change within the context of businesses adopting public cloud services for processes previously legacy-based, the discussion almost always comes back to security, which has become a hallmark of the debate over public adoption.

But Davies argues that this is not really the case anymore. “None of the enterprises we deal with really talk about security much anymore because they know we already have processes and technology in place to deal with that,” he says. “Take Roche, one of the largest pharmaceuticals companies in the world. They’ve signed up to use Gmail, Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine, and they’re really trusting us to handle all of their data – from corporate core data to other highly sensitive information types, HIV results and the like,” Davies says.

Instead, Davies says that “the core question enterprises are asking us nowadays is: are there certain business processes we have where we can apply cloud, big data or mobile to make us more efficient? Should we develop new processes to make use of these technologies?”

That’s where Google Compute Engine comes in. The company’s infrastructure as a service went public in mid-May and will compete with Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services, the latter leading the public IaaS pack. Like most public cloud offerings, Google Compute engine promises elastic compute and storage capability on a par with what any heavyweight could provide. But Google looks to be targeting Microsoft specifically, as the company plans some tight integration with Google App Engine, its platform as a service (PaaS).

“Right now we’re split between focusing on applications and focusing on the web because that’s where enterprises are,” Davies says. Google’s aim is to foster deep integration with the cloud through Google App Engine, the company’s platform as a service, not only by bringing a range of web programming languages to the platform, but also by allowing developers to do some fairly advanced things like partition applications into various components and enable separate scaling and performance settings within them. While it’s too early to tell how enterprises will react to this, Microsoft has yet to build this kind of capability within its rival services.

Big data is especially interesting for Google and the company’s enterprise customers, many of which are now looking for real time analytics to help them deliver more informed business decisions. The company helped pioneer Hadoop, a popular software framework designed to handle big data, by developing MapReduce, the underlying programming model for processing large data sets in parallel across distributed servers.

“From a business perspective, we have our SaaS, PaaS and now Google Compute Engine – our public infrastructure as a service offering, but we’re increasingly seeing customers move towards some combination of these and they want to be able to access all of these across a common platform. The browser is the lowest common denominator. This is where you should be able to access everything. Imagine everything being accessed from a simple browser, regardless of the device or operating system or platform. That’s where I think we’re heading,” he says.

In addition to highly scalable storage and compute capability, real time cloud-based big data analytics also requires extremely fast broadband, something Google is also making headway with in the US. In the spring of 2011 the company announced Google Fibre, a project which saw the rollout of superfast (up to 1 Gbps) broadband using fibre optic communications infrastructure. The 1 Gbps service costs around $70 per month, with the option of being bundled with a TV service for an extra $50 per month, and comes with 1TB of Google Drive storage and 2TB for DVR if one opts for the TV service (with a Nexus 7 thrown in as a TV remote).

“We’re not far off from living in a world where everyone and everything is connected. With Fibre the goal was to offer broadband to homes at ten times the speed of what you currently see in the market,” Davies says.

Google is trying to disrupt the fixed broadband sector and offer users a glimpse of the possible, with the intention of provoking a response from internet service providers in the process. “I think what you’ll see within three to nine months is an industry reaction to what we’re doing,” Davies says.

When the project was originally conceived in 2010, the company claimed that it was not intended to be a revenue generating. Indeed Davies seems to reaffirm the catalytic nature of Google Fibre rather than the start of something bigger. But at the end of May, Google’s vice president of access services Milo Medin told an assembly of engineers and city planners gathered at a Fiber-To-The-Home Council meeting in Kansas City: “We expect to make money from Google Fiber. This is a great business to be in.”

Whether this signals Google’s ambition to move into the communications infrastructure space globally, or how the company plans to make the service commercially viable, still remains to be seen, but the company has expanded the project to two other cities in Missouri and Utah, and will debut in Austin, Texas sometime this year.

Traditional ISPs are catching on more quickly than Davies suggests too, with AT&T announcing in April that it too intends to bring 1 Gbps broadband to Austin within the next year. It will be interesting to see whether Google steps up its activities with Fibre and how this might shape future cloud offerings, particularly as some now see latency to be one of the most significant issues confronting cloud service providers and enterprise users.

But for Davies, the future of cloud is not just about big data and fibre. He believes HMTL 5 will have the biggest impact on enterprise adoption of cloud services in the years to come. “If you look at the level Microsoft, SAP and Google are investing in HMTL 5, that should be a pretty big indication of how important this is,” Davies says.

“From a business perspective, we have our SaaS, PaaS and now Google Compute Engine – our public infrastructure as a service offering, but we’re increasingly seeing customers move towards some combination of these and they want to be able to access all of these across a common platform. The browser is the lowest common denominator. This is where you should be able to access everything. Imagine everything being accessed from a simple browser, regardless of the device or operating system or platform. That’s where I think we’re heading,” he says.

A true believer in the consumerisation of IT, Davies is quick to point out the centrality of the user in this shift away from applications to HTML 5. “And if you follow the user, eventually, you will win,” Davies says.

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