Google Spiritually Commits To Multi-Cloud At GCN 2019

By Patrick Moorhead - May 10, 2019
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai kicks off Google Cloud Next

I recently attended the Google Cloud Next 2019 event in San Francisco and wanted to weigh in on what I consider the highlights. The annual GCN conference is a must-attend for anyone connected with Google Cloud and its enterprise capabilities, and this year’s event was a solid one with several announcements with new leader Thomas Kurian at the helm. I wanted to spend some time today talking about what I saw as the two biggest pieces of news: the launch of Google’s hybrid cloud solution, Anthos, and a slew of updates to G Suite. Cloud analyst Rhett Dillingham will be diving more deeply, especially on Anthos. 

The Thomas Kurian effect

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about new leader, Thomas Kurian, who hailed from Oracle Cloud, and his effect on the event. While Kurian had only been at Google five months, I felt the impact and I would expect attendees did, too. GCN felt more business and enterprise-focused versus other GCNs I had attended or watched. There were less “tech wizardry” and more “why it matters to the customers” talk. While we should expect tech wizardry at Google I/O in a few weeks, GCN was more “business” this go-around. 

Rearchitecting a division takes a long time, more than one leader, but I think directionally this is what Google needs to be more successful in the enterprise. I am interested to see over time how this impacts other Googlers required to make this work. My hunch is that if a Googler started at the consumer ad mother ship, it won’t be a great long-term environment, but if a Googler came from another enterprise company, it’s going to be great.  I know this is a gross over-simplification, but makes sense, particularly after talking with so many Googlers.

Introducing Anthos

As us at Moor Insights & Strategy have said for years, hybrid cloud and now multi-cloud is what enterprises would like if there were no downsides and simple.  To be clear, I’m not saying that it’s easy; it’s not, as security, management, resiliency and QoS needs to get figured out. The fact is, some workloads benefit most from public clouds (many times multiple especially when including SaaS), while others (latency-dependent) are better kept close to the chest on private infrastructure. Google has clearly come around to that idea, with the launch of Anthos—what the company is calling “an open, software-based platform” that will allow businesses to securely, easily run their apps anywhere, be it in the public cloud or on preexisting on-prem infrastructure. 

A rebranding of last year’s Cloud Services Platform, Anthos will be available both on Google Cloud Platform with Google’s managed Kubernetes service, GKE, and in customer’s datacenters, via GKE On-Prem. Anthos utilizes open APIs, which should give enterprises the flexibility to modernize at their own time, place, and pace- at least if they are on containers versus virtualized apps, which Google didn’t address.

Anthos partners to date

Google introduced Anthos with a boatload of partners who have already signed on—Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE, Intel, IBM, and Lenovo, just to scratch the surface. I have to say, I never thought I would see the Google Cloud Logo on the same slide as a bunch of these OEMs, but here it is. Google is giving the hardware OEMs a piece of the action. It’s important that it works with the OEMs than it did (and do) on its Chrome OS platforms—otherwise this will go absolutely nowhere. It’s also of note that neither AWS Cloud or Azure was included in this list which is the whole point of multi-cloud, but I understand why neither AWS or Azure would like to broadcast an easy way to move business out. Still, Google says Anthos will allow businesses to manage their workloads running on third party clouds, including AWS and Azure. 

You have to love the vision of Anthos, but then again, who wouldn’t? There’s so much to figure out about multi-cloud: 

  • security models between clouds
  • instance compute, storage and networking matching between clouds
  • moving workloads to the right kind of cloud instance
  • price arbitrage between clouds
  • resiliency differences between clouds and AZs
  • QoS between clouds

There are just to name a few. Also, what about 99% of the enterprises who have virtualized workloads? Anthos doesn’t support virtualized workloads. In Anthos, Google now has a fully-managed, broadly-supported, multi-cloud solution for containers and I’m interested to see what Azure and AWS do, if anything to respond. 

Updates to G Suite

Google also announced a raft of updates to its G Suite portfolio of productivity and collaboration apps. Perhaps the biggest news was the integration of G Suite (specifically, the calendar) with Google Assistant. Google Assistant will now be able to keep track of both your personal and business schedules, wherever you are. This is useful for sure—the lines between work/leisure and home/office continue to blur, and it will be great to be able to access G Suite on the go. Security on this will be interesting—I’ll keep an eye out for more info.

The company also announced several updates to Hangouts Meet, which looks to make meetings more productive. This includes automatic live captions for video meetings (making use of speech recognition technology), the ability for as many as 250 people to join one meeting (holy cow), and the ability to live-stream a Hangouts Meet to people outside the organization. Watch this space closely as once you are intelligently capturing text and meaning, there’s a ton of useful things that can be done like automatic meeting summaries. I’m wondering if we’ll have to sign privacy policies before every meeting. (That’s a joke- kind of).

Additionally, Google announced G Suite Add-Ons, which it says will allow customers to access their workplace apps in G Suite’s side panel rather than having to switch between multiple tabs and applications. This keeps users “in the flow” and in my opinion, a big deal.  Another new feature, Drive metadata, will allow administrators to organize and tweak metadata to make content more discoverable in Google Drive’s search function. Google also announced it was bringing 3rd party connectivity (such as SAP and Salesforce) in its Cloud Search solution to eligible G Suite customers. The more effort Google puts into a meta data plane, the better, as Microsoft is driving there hard and benefitting from ODI.

Another pragmatic new feature is “connected sheets,” which Google allow users to collaborate on as many as 10 billion rows of BigQuery data within Sheets—no SQL required. I really like G Suite leveraging the big GCP as only Google and Microsoft can do this versus, let’s say, a Salesforce, SAP or Slack.

Google also announced Office editing in Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Using this feature, customers can edit Office files within G Suite, without having to convert file types. This is useful and smart—Google clearly understands that enterprises employ a whole range of productivity tools from many different companies. It’s in its benefit to play nice with Microsoft Office as the file formats are really the industry’s standard. Google had forced file conversion into a Google format that, when reformatted into Microsoft’s formats, rarely looked the same.  Additionally, Google announced visitor sharing in Drive, which it says will allow people without a Google account to collaborate in G Suite via a pincode system. I like these efforts to open up G Suite to more collaborators—it acknowledges the reality of the collaborative landscape. It just makes sense when you see “gig workers” and teamwork exploding.

The last thing I wanted to touch on is a security-related announcement. Google shared at the event that Android 7+ phones can now be used as a 2FA security key for both personal Google accounts and Google Cloud accounts. This is exciting in that instead of carrying yet another FOB, all you need is an app on the phone. According to Google, there hasn’t been a single security breach from customers using its 2FA security key which is impressive. 

Wrapping up

The big story from GCN 2019 was that Google is continuing to aggressively pursue the enterprise by committing spiritually to multi-cloud and delivering a working service on launch day. There are a ton of questions I have, none answered yet by Google, but both Rhett Dillingham and I will be parsing this out for a while. Google also made some very nice improvements to G Suite, but none that I believe would sway customers into making a change from what they are already using. I came away from the event looking forward to seeing how Anthos and the G Suite enhancements land with customers.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.  

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.