SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Cloud Next '17 -- Google trotted out a rogues' gallery of well-known international brands for the opening keynote of its user and partner conference this week, looking to convince Wall Street and Main Street that its cloud platform is ready for the enterprise. Though the endorsements were compelling, it was obvious that the relationships were still very new, underscoring that Google has not been an enterprise player for long.
But Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is still new to the enterprise game. It brought in Diane Greene, founder and former CEO of VMware Inc., to build its enterprise cloud business in late 2015; this was Greene's second Google Next confab.
Google's enterprise growing pains were apparent at the conference. Google said 10,000 people were in attendance, obviously much, much bigger than last year's event (although Google didn't provide statistics on last year's attendance). The venue was far bigger this year. And yet people were crowded in, with long lines for sessions, restrooms and a crisis as coffee ran out in the morning. (See Google: 'Dead Serious' About Enterprise Cloud)
Google's newness to the enterprise market was clear on the keynote stage as well. Greene was an awkward speaker, reading from a teleprompter and occasionally losing her place.
The brands providing testimonials were ones you want to see at an enterprise conference -- Colgate-Palmolive, Verizon Communications Grp. Plc., Home Depot, and HSBC, in addition to more bleeding-edge businesses: Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) and eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY).
Most enterprise vendors have customers that have been using them for years or even decades. The relationships Google touted were new, measured in months. In at least two cases, the transition to Google was just starting.
So Google doesn't have years of history with the enterprise that Amazon has, let alone the decades that Microsoft and IBM can bring to relationships.
But Google does have its success stories. Greene bragged about how Google helped Niantic Labs manage unexpected, explosive growth for its Pokemon Go game.
Greene described how Google Cloud helped scale Niantic Labs through the Pokemon Go explosion over the summer, when traffic increased 50-fold, completely unanticipated by Niantic, the company that developed the game. "They were running on Google Cloud. Our high reliability engineers were with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Greene said. The game ran "flawlessly," despite the demand.
Greene didn't mention that Niantic was a Google spinoff. (See Pokémon Go Is Just the Beginning: Wait Until VR's on 5G!)
Following the Niantic experience, Google started a Customer Reliability Engineering Team, to help enterprises keep their Google Cloud installations running, in conjunction with partners Pivotal and Rackspace.
And Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt boasted how Snap used Google Cloud Platform for success with its Snapchat service -- not mentioning that Snap also uses Amazon. (See Snap Pays $2B for Google Cloud Services and Snap Commits $1B to AWS.)
Disney was the first marquee customer to take the stage. It moved about 500 projects to the Google Cloud, many of them customer-facing -- or, in Disney's terminology, "guest-facing," Michael White, chief technology officer and senior vice president of Disney's consumer products and interactive media, said.
The cloud transition frees up developers and other resources from the work of running infrastructure. They can focus on "telling great stories" using technology, which "has been our legacy since Walt," White said.
Disney is looking into using Google machine learning and AI to help in its retail operation, as well as in operations and customer services. It's using image recognition to classify visual assets, including 8,000 Marvel characters, and strengthening connection with consumers through personalization and optimization.
"We use technology to empower and really create the magic. We are excited what machine learning and AI can do for us," White said.
Of course, most companies aren't in the business of making magic, which might make it difficult for their IT staff to relate to Disney's case.
But how about selling toothpaste?
Colgate-Palmolive, which provides oral care, personal care, home care, and pet nutrition, talked about how it transitioned its business to Google's G Suite productivity suite in November. The consumer packaged goods company launched G Suite in its global IT organization in three months, as a test. As the next step, it recruited a few thousand volunteers in the company's business units as G Suite early adopters, from which ranks they recruited 900 "Google guides," to lead their peers in the transition. One weekend in November, Colgate-Palmolive threw the switch and transferred more than 20,000 users live, for 28,000 total migrated in a year.
For Verizon, the transition is just beginning. Alin D'Silva, vice president and CTO of digital workplace at Verizon, plans to move 150,000 Verizon workers to the G Suite platform over a few weeks.
Home Depot is looking to Google Cloud to ensure stability for its 2,000 stores and 400,000 customer-facing staff, as well as its e-commerce site. Home Depot senior vice president Paul Gaffney said the company's Google Cloud-based infrastructure stayed up even through Black Friday. "One of the fantastic things about an elastic environment is you don't have to attempt to provision in advance and pay in advance for all that spike," he said.
Home finance company HSBC turned to Google Cloud for big data analytics, for risk and compliance, anti-money laundering, financial liquidity reporting, and other financial applications.
As with Verizon, the HSBC example isn't mature -- they're just in pilot phase, and haven't rolled it out fully yet.
Similarly, eBay described moving its e-commerce operation, including 1 billion live listings, to Google Cloud Platform in seven to eight months. However, it hasn't pulled the plug on its existing on-premises infrastructure; both are being run in parallel, R.J. Pittman, eBay chief product officer, said.
Pittman finished up with a flashy demo, showing an eBay shopping assistant with a demo of Google's Home voice-activated personal assistant -- Google's competitor to the Amazon Echo. Pittman used voice to ask Google Home how much he could get for selling his Canon camera; Google Home asked a couple of questions and then quoted him a price.
"It helps to bring more sellers into the marketplace," Pittman said. "You have lots of cool things sitting around the house that you don't know had real value."
— Mitch Wagner, , Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud
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