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What’s Next For Google Cloud at Google Next 2018?

Years ago, a friend attending medical school decided to forego being a clinical physician. His reason? “Medicine would be great if it weren’t for the patients,” he told me.

Many of today’s technology companies – especially cloud-based outfits – seem to possess a similar concern. Based on their go-to market strategies, one could easily infer that they believe that the cloud business would be great if it weren’t for customers.

While the rational typically is cost-based – why invest in an expensive marketing, sales, and support organization if everything can be shared and made self-service? – the base assumptions are that (1) we serve consumers; (2) enterprises are aggregates of consumers; and (3) we can serve aggregates of consumers just like we serve consumers.

But an enterprise is not just an aggregate of consumers. Among many other features, an enterprise exists precisely because it provides a governance regime that economically facilitates and sustains the social interactions of a business. At the least, every enterprise is a network of individuals that share, at some level, a common mission. In that regard, an enterprise is a community. Serving an enterprise means serving that community. And that can only be done with the kind of serious professional dedication found in great marketing, service, and support organizations.

Some cloud companies have recognized this. Salesforce, Azure, and AWS are to varying degrees taking on the challenge of engaging enterprises as entities. Others seem further behind, notably Google Cloud.

On so many levels, Google is a leading cloud company. It coined the phrase “cloud computing.” It’s massive search marketing cloud business arguably makes it the largest cloud company in the world. It’s been a leading source of the open technologies that power the cloud today. It’s been at the vanguard of the effort to diffuse knowledge about conceiving, building, and running cloud-scale applications.

Google is a great cloud business.

But Google Cloud’s approach to the enterprise has been second-best, at best. While G Suite has emerged as the industry’s main alternative to MSFT Office and Kubernetes continues to powerfully attract the coolest, most interesting new application technologies, the company hasn’t established itself unambiguously as a leading enterprise cloud company. Why? Google Cloud’s enterprise engagement needs an upgrade.

Wikibon is here at Google Next 2018 to learn more about Google Cloud’s burgeoning commitment to the enterprise. In a few days, I’ll be drafting Wikibon’s Google Next 2018 Trip Report, but here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Google Cloud enterprise engagement V3.0. What started as a packaging exercise (V1.0: throw some cloud-based office stuff around Gmail and sell enterprise subscriptions) and morphed into an organizational exercise (V2.0: hire a CEO, reorganize some people, and promise the market a competent enterprise cloud business) now has to get serious – or not. The Big Three “As” of cloud platform (AWS, Azure, and Alibaba) are off and running. Google Cloud absolutely remains a major cloud technology force. It needs to commit to a real enterprise engagement strategy that works for enterprise customers, and not just some abstract notion of future cloud competition. That means real a real engagement distinction and a partner ecosystem that can help generate billions in global enterprise revenue.
  • Great AI tech delivered as great AI cloud services. Google has great technology, including a lot of the exciting new AI and ML stuff that enterprises want. In areas like pattern recognition, language processing, and machine automation, Google’s technology is second to none. While Alphabet forges ahead with other businesses intended to commercialize these technologies (e.g., Waymo self-driving vehicles), Google Cloud should find a way to bring Google’s knowledge, experience, and capabilities in AI/ML to enterprise customers.
  • Programs for catalyzing an enterprise developer groundswell. The cloud changes everything – except the reality that enterprise developers still strongly influence IT industry directions. While this powerful community hasn’t sat on the sideline, Google’s unparalleled affinity for the open source movement makes Google Cloud a natural enterprise developer ally. Can Google Cloud translate that relationship into business with the same ease that it can translate English into Sanskrit? The next big battle in the cloud business will be for the hearts and minds of enterprise developers, and Google Cloud has to be in the thick of the mix to succeed.
  • Partnerships that extend Google Cloud’s capacity to specialize. Cloud-based storage and compute infrastructure services can be positioned as commodities. Advanced application services like AI and ML and next-generation edge infrastructure? Not so much. The big names certainly will partner with Google; they have the resources to partner with anybody in the hunt for G2000 enterprise spend. The real question is can Google Cloud establish an ecosystem that truly can match its technologies and services to deep enterprise challenges.
  • Advancing the cause of cloud security and trust. Google has been a leading voice and provider of cloud security technology for a while. But it’s core business is ads: Turning your information into ad revenue. That is anathema to the enterprise business. In an increasingly digital economy, an enterprise’s data is its differentiating asset. As long as Google is powered by an ad-based business model, Google Cloud will be asked to earn enterprise trust. After all, an enterprise isn’t an aggregate of consumers – unless its treated as such.

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