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Google’s secret weapon in cloud computing: people

David Needle | March 13, 2017
While the company touted technology and service at Google Cloud Next this week, customers had other reasons for switching

Google had several big tech and service announcements at this week's second annual Google Cloud Next conference here. But the company is also leveraging a surprising resource to win enterprise customers - people.

It's surprising because Google's biggest successes have come from technology that pretty much sells itself, such as search and related advertising services like AdWords and AdSense.

But in those areas, Google succeeded because it was able to adroitly exploit its first mover advantage. In cloud computing, it trails the clear leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) and second-place Microsoft Azure. So at Cloud Next, the company did what smart competitors do: it unveiled new features and pricing designed to better position the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) as a worthy alternative.

Customers, in general, praised the announcements, but then also shared an overlooked aspect of Google's enterprise marketing.

When Jack Constantine, chief digital officer of beauty products retailer Lush, was asked why his company switched from Amazon to GCP, he didn't focus on tech features.

"It's the engineer-to-engineer relationship we have with Google," Constantine said. "It feels like a partnership where we can take on challenges together. We're big in retail, but we're a small technology organization that's passionate about what we do. We're like a startup in some ways and I don't think we could achieve what we've done with GCP in another environment."

That comfort level with Google was key because Lush was under pressure to transition to GCP. The retailer had grown frustrated by certain aspects of AWS and decided -- with just 22 days left on its annual contract -- not to renew the deal.

"We realized it was now or never and we committed to taking a high-risk perspective," he said. That meant a fast-paced move to GCP in three weeks' time, something Constantine likened to an intense training period. "There was a cultural shift for us going to the Google cloud platform, learning how to containerize and use other languages, but everyone was really up for it."

Technology Business Research analyst Meaghan McGrath said Google is pursuing the enterprise market in a unique way. "The things they are doing with customer reliability engineers and site reliability engineers have been proven to help Google products, and transforming that to a customer-facing program is smart," McGrath said.

She recalled that at last year's inaugural Google Cloud Next customers like Spotify and Snap said the amount of attention they received from Google was invaluable. "My reaction to that was that it's easier to target a few use cases, but can this scale? I think Google is showing it's committed to supporting customers and they augmented that with the announcement that they've signed Pivotal and Rackspace for managed support."


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