In September last year, Google announced that it was re-branding its cloud business geared towards enterprises as Google Cloud. More importantly, it announced it will be bringing a data cloud region to Mumbai in 2017 and plans to make significant investments in its cloud enterprise business in India. Google’s Rick Harshman, managing director for Google Cloud Platform in JAPAC (Japan and Asia Pacific Region), spoke to Shruti Dhapola about the future of cloud and the upcoming data region in Mumbai. Edited excerpts.
On Google’s plans for the cloud business, especially in India:
Google has always been a cloud-level company, before cloud was a common word. We have seven consumer-based services that have a billion-plus users, the eighth is actually Google Cloud platform where we have over a billion people end users running applications, workloads on our platform. On the cloud side, we have clients such as InShorts, DBCorp and a division of Mahindra.
In the last year alone we have invested $9.9 billion in our infrastructure and a lot of that has been in Asia. We just launched our second cloud region in Asia which is in Japan, that was in November. We also pre-announced an additional three cloud regions, one of which will be in Mumbai in 2017. That will be important because there are millions of businesses here.
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On cloud region in Mumbai and how it works:
A region is in a geographic location and it is made up of multiple zones. In India, we pre-announced there will be three zones consisting of multiple data centres. You have to have multiple data centres if you want to create highly available, fall-tolerant applications. That’s a huge differentiator vis-a-vis running the infrastructure in a premise facility. If you have an incident whether it is a flood or a power disconnection, you will end up being offline. So you need multiple locations, that’s what we mean by region and then zones.
Mumbai will be the region, and there will be three zones, but not necessarily three data centres. It could be more than that. It’s already being worked on and the zones will go live sometime in 2017.
On Google’s investment in training people for cloud business:
We are making investments in ground training; in September we announced our training and certification programme. For upscaling in a market like India, what are the skills that people need as they evolve into their careers? It’s not too big a statement to say that cloud will be front and centre, and it will be important for people to have those cloud-specific skills. Certifications around Google Cloud is going to be a differentiator. We will provide Google-led training and work with Indian partners to provide training. We have a pretty large goal on the number of people that we look to train and enable over the next few years.
On Google’s machine-learning APIs for cloud segment:
When you think of our machine learning capabilities, it is already a restful API and we have already created the model. So if you (as a business) want to take advantage of the speech API or the vision API or natural language or translate, all of those are already pre-built. Now if you have your own machine learning staff on site, you can use your own data, you can create your own models using the technology that we developed called TensorFlow.
On the key differentiator for Google Cloud:
We are making a lot of investments to have engineering-to-engineering relationships with companies, which is a big differentiator. We also launched in September something called the Advanced Solution Lab. If you are a company and have identified business problems that you’re trying to solve, and you believe that machine learning can help address those business problems, Google engineers will work with you.
On challenges to the cloud business and future growth:
Cloud is so nascent here, but it is growing extremely fast. Cloud adoption is just 5% of IT spend across the board globally. Analysts say, by 2020, public cloud will be $85-100 billion globally. In India, public cloud is expected to grow by 30%. So there’s a fast growing market.
If you are medium-sized or a large enterprise in India, you will be running thousands of applications. Companies want to have options in cloud—they are already thinking about how to have a multi-cloud strategy. It’s not “am I going to go cloud”, it’s “how am I going to go cloud and who are the partners I want to work with”. I think Google will be one of those, but I am not naive enough to think we’ll be the only ones available.