Google Cloud Next OnAir analysed: Customers, confidentiality, and competing above the compute stack

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.

Google’s Cloud Next event has moved ‘on-air’ – and with it has come big enterprise customer wins, products aimed at regulated industries, and a sense of maturation.

The event, originally scheduled for San Francisco back in April, was moved online-only before being postponed in March. Google promised at the time the event would take place ‘when the timing was right.’ Yesterday, the first of nine weeks’ worth of announcement, learning sessions and content was unveiled.

Among the higlights of the keynote, featuring Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, were:

  • The beta launch of Google Cloud Confidential Computing with Confidential VMs, targeting regulated industries, as well as government-specific workloads
  • The launch of BigQuery Omni, which enables the BigQuery data warehouse services to query data in other clouds
  • New customer wins in the form of FOX Sports, Goldman Sachs, and Verizon

“We recognise when you move workloads to Google Cloud that security and privacy are important areas of risk, and a concern for customers,” said Kurian, introducing Confidential Computing. The product, he added, “allows you as a customer to run workloads in Google Cloud and to ensure that data is not only encrypted at rest and in transit, but is even encrypted while it’s being processed.

“This gives you the ability to ensure that all your data is protected all the time when it is being processed with Google,” Kurian added.

Regarding BigQuery Omni, Kurian described it as ‘a representation of Google’s continued innovation and commitment to multi-cloud.’ “From just BigQuery’s user interface, you can now query data in Amazon and Azure without having to move that data to Google Cloud,” he said.

“You can bring the power of BigQuery analytics to where your data sits without having to pay expensive egress fees in moving that data from other cloud providers to Google.”

Other areas were not entirely new, having been drip-fed in the weeks prior to Next OnAir. Sticking with the multi-cloud theme, application platform Anthos now has a bare metal option, as well as broadened support for AWS and Microsoft. This was news first revealed in April, albeit with a question mark over the date for Azure support.

On the same subject, of the new customer wins, Deutsche Bank, Renault and Telefonica would already be known to readers of this publication over the past month. Yet there were more where they came from.

Goldman Sachs was a particular standout. The financial services company was where Kurian gave his debut speech as Google Cloud CEO last February, keynoting again this year, so the two companies have a familial relationship. George Lee, co-CIO at Goldman Sachs, said Google was an ‘obvious choice’ as the company looked about scaling and enhancing its risk management services.

While that focuses squarely on Google’s three known customer segments, of retail, healthcare and financial services, Verizon has come on board, like Telefonica, as part of an emerging telco industry target. This is exemplified by the recent moves to make Anthos more telecom-friendly. Verizon, a solid Amazon Web Services customer, is using Google Cloud specifically for its contact centre, leaning on Google’s AI services. FOX Sports, meanwhile, is working with Google to automate its video logging, discovery, and storage processes.


If Kurian came to the role of Google Cloud CEO with three priorities, they would most likely have been education, education, and education. At Goldman Sachs last year, he naturally emphasised the importance of a greater enterprise sales strategy – something a former exec had previously criticised the company for. Underpinning this, however, is a need for the market to understand what Google does in the cloud arena – or perhaps doesn’t do.

Nick McQuire, VP enterprise at CCS Insight, explains why this education is more important than ever, and how it relates to the renewed push for security and privacy on the product side.

“It’s certainly a pattern of investment that Google is doubling down on, without question,” McQuire tells CloudTech. “The combination of the Confidential Computing and the assured workloads are part of an ongoing push within Google Cloud around building out a transparency-driven and trust-driven approach to the marketplace to gain favour with large businesses from across the world, in many geographies, who have a conflicted relationship with Google.

“On the regulatory side, there is obviously a lot of pressure on anti-trust and overall pressure not only on the wider Alphabet business but in search [and] YouTube,” he adds. “Certainly, that has always been a struggle Google Cloud has had to face.

“Part of what Google has had to do is become super-aggressive around a lot of these security and privacy features, as well as the communications around them, and the level of access and transparency that they offer to customers,” says McQuire. “It goes without saying that Google Cloud is completely disconnected from the ads business, but actually that isn’t fully yet understood in the marketplace.”

Nevertheless, these updates are all pointing in the right direction, as Google Cloud continues to make strides to becoming more enterprise-friendly. McQuire notes customer wins such as Verizon show how Google is ‘getting a foothold into blue-chip accounts in certain areas’, but it is also indicative of a more nuanced strategy befitting an aggressive market challenger.

Microsoft’s acquisitions of Affirmed and Metaswitch Networks earlier this year showed the importance of 5G – and telco – as an enabler to the hyperscalers. Google’s wooing of Verizon and Telefonica equally exemplifies this, as McQuire explains.

“It’s almost like Google is competing on a layer above the compute stack, even though the compute stack is still very core to what they’re doing in the infrastructure side,” he says. “It’s less about specific high volume workloads and more about solutions.

“When you shift into industries, you then have the ability to go further down into the compute stack whereby you can say, for example, to a telco, ‘we can become your preferred telco cloud because we have optimised our cloud for 5G networks’,” McQuire adds. “I think over time, Google will probably build out more capability around its cloud for the telco stack – particularly the 5G telco stack.

“The bottom line is we’re seeing two things. Firstly we’re seeing a shift to the verticalisation of cloud – so what matters more are solutions for customers as opposed to heavy workloads – and then Anthos is the core to giving them the ability on the management plane and compete at that layer, as opposed to the pure infrastructure level.”

As a swath of customers arrive, one appears to have departed. Amazon Web Services (AWS), with spanner-in-works timing aforethought, announced this morning that HSBC had signed a ‘long-term strategic’ migration agreement. The bank had long been a big-name Google Cloud client under Diane Greene’s tenure, regularly appearing at Next.

What this means for Google is unclear. The company still has its HSBC case study live on its testimonial page (screenshot July 15), while AWS’ use of ‘strategic’ rather than ‘preferred’ may indicate it is not an exclusive win, much as Major League Baseball was for Google Cloud.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.

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