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View from the airport: Google Cloud Next 2019

The company pivots in the right direction under Kurian's leadership

Google made a raft of announcements at this year's Next event in San Francisco this week. The most noteworthy of which was Anthos. Formerly Cloud Services Platform, it becomes the first, multi-cloud platform which will appeal heavily to its enterprise customers, marking a shift away from the developer focus in recent years towards business leaders.

It's a step in the right direction for Google as it's the C-suite that it needs to be targeting in order to accelerate the platform's adoption and most will probably agree that the focus has been on the developers for too long. With Anthos, Google has set its sights on the future, heeding the advice of analysts who say that 88% of businesses will undergo a multi-cloud transformation in the next few years. Google's new multi-cloud platform, "simply put, is the future of cloud", according to Urs Hölzle, Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructure.

But, if you look past all the marketing spiel, you stop seeing the innovative new platform and notice that by releasing Anthos as its flagship product, Google has essentially taken a step down and conceded that it's the second cloud provider in the market. If you can't beat them, use them to help you scale, though, perhaps?

"They've taken on a very interesting approach," said Sid Nag, research vice president at Gartner. "They want to be the second cloud which is kind of interesting because they don't want to compete with the 40-50 pound gorilla [AWS] so they're basically saying it's a multi-cloud world and they're pushing the multi-cloud narrative so they can come in as the second cloud... and then land and expand so I think that's a pretty smart strategy".

One area where Google seems to be leading the charge is in security. Some 30 new products and services were announced at this year's event which totals more than 100 in the past year alone. 

It's clear the company is taking security seriously - as it should - and is keen to show its customers that everything the company offers has security baked in from the start. The Cloud Security Command Centre looks like a nice piece of kit for any cloud platform admin to use and has the added benefit of Google's industry-leading machine learning (ML) capabilities. This, I'm sure, will prove an attractive selling point as it helps users detect malicious activity ahead of an attack. 

Building on the AI theme, the automated functions of all the new features - from AutoML advancements to intelligent event threat detection - continues to provide Google with a serious USP to draw in customers. Google has made it easier than ever to run an advanced cloud environment in a secure and intuitive way. It wants to leave the coding and app creation to the developers and let the admins do their job which is focusing on driving the business forward.

For example, using ML-driven Connected Sheets, businesses could oversee their distribution channels and see where operations were being halted. It would be easy to detect if warehouse stock wasn't leaving Brazil on time because major road works were taking place so the business could simply re-route the drivers' navigation systems to get things back on track.

The challenge Google will face in the next year is that of scale. The company has only just started to win over the hearts of business leaders though. Anthos garnered the biggest roar I heard all week, but it needs to take that and move on, proving to its customers that it's really serious about enterprise.

Google also faces the challenge of partnering with the smaller software vendors. Over the week, Google announced partnerships with the biggest bulls in the pen: Cisco, Salesforce, HSBC - I could go on. But, now, what it must do - given it has committed to this containerised and stateless approach with Anthos - is show that it can work with the smaller ISVs.

"The interesting part will be seeing how it can start working with smaller ISVs and convert those apps into Google containers and its containerised as that will be the challenge - that's how it will grow its business," said Nag. "Smaller apps are the ones that will be modernised in the future, so monetising these will be key to Google's success years down the line".

It seems as though the new CEO Thomas Kurian is continuing in the hugely successful footsteps of his predecessor Diane Greene - the woman that drove the company to be enterprise-ready in just two years instead of the forecasted 10. Conceding the second place spot to Amazon might be a good move for the company, filling the market gap enterprise customers so desperately needed.

Hybrid cloud is something that many organisations wrestle with and they finally have an answer to the headache they've faced for years. We're excited to see how the company scales in the next year - the first under Kurian's reign - and whether it's able to tackle the challenges that it faces.

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