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Google Cloud eyes big expansion in Asia, sharpens industry focus

Google Cloud’s new CEO, Thomas Kurian, unveils plans to turn his company into a bigger player in Asia’s booming cloud computing market

Google Cloud is paving the way for bigger expansion in Asia, with plans to bolster its sales force and technical expertise to close the market share gap with rival cloud suppliers in the region.

Speaking to a select group of Asian journalists on the sidelines of Next’19, Google Cloud’s new CEO, Thomas Kurian, said that to support growing demand from customers around the world, including in Asia, the company is expanding its go-to-market organisation, which is notably smaller than that of key rivals Amazon and Microsoft.

“You will also see us introducing a number of things that make Google extremely easy to do business with – simplified contracts, simplified pricing and easier ways to get customer support,” he added. “Given the demand we’re seeing from customers, we believe we’ll grow very quickly.”

Kurian declined to disclose hiring numbers in Asia, pointing to the recent roll-out of a new cloud region in South Korea, which will also see the addition of more salespeople. He noted that Google also has an engineering office in Seoul to train local developers on the use of its technology.

Asked about Google Cloud’s business in China, Kurian said the company has a number of customers using Google Cloud – through its Hong Kong cloud region – to expand their operations overseas. “We don’t yet offer a cloud offering inside of China,” he said.

On the second day of Next’19, Google executives also touted cloud offerings for the retail industry. Called Google Cloud for Retail, the portfolio of cloud services includes a visual product search tool that lets consumers photograph an item to get a list of similar products from a retailer’s catalogue.

Besides retail, Google Cloud offers cloud services aimed at healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, media and entertainment, as well as the public sector.

A lot of competitors say that if you put your data on Google Cloud, Google will use it for other purposes. Factually, that is 100% not true. We have never used a customer’s data on Google Cloud for any other purpose outside of delivering a service in Google Cloud.
Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud

“Google has great experience in those industries – nine of the top 10 media and entertainment companies and seven of the top 10 retailers in the world use Google Cloud, so we have a lot of technology and customers,” said Kurian.

“We have invested a lot in the industries and you’ll see us do a lot more. In all the industries that we’ve mentioned, we see the future of cloud computing not just in infrastructure, but in specific solutions for specific industries.”

Kurian also took the chance to address concerns on whether Google will use the data housed on Google Cloud, stressing that the company will not and has never done so.

“A lot of competitors say that if you put your data on Google Cloud, Google will use it for other purposes,” he said. “Factually, that is 100% not true. We have never used a customer’s data on Google Cloud for any other purpose outside of delivering a service in Google Cloud.”

Kurian pointed to three ways that customers can protect their data on Google Cloud – data on Google Cloud is always encrypted in transit and at rest, customers will hold the master encryption keys to their data, and providing customers with a real-time stream of what Google support operators are doing on their systems while troubleshooting issues.

“Lastly, even if we get a request from a government to hand over a customer’s data, we will never do that,” he said. “We will ask the company that owns the data for permission and tell the government to talk to the company.

“The same principle applies to AI models. If you build an AI model in our cloud, you own the model, we don’t look at the model – it’s your private software and you do whatever you want with it.”

Read more about cloud in APAC

Ultimately, Kurian believes the strengths of Google Cloud’s products will stand out, including a service uptime that Google executives have claimed is better than that of rivals.

“We are confident that if we expand our regional coverage and go-to-market organisation, the strengths of our products always speak for themselves,” he said.

According to IDC, spending on public cloud services and infrastructure in Asia-Pacific excluding Japan was forecast to reach $15bn in 2018, an increase of 35.7% over 2017.

Although annual spending growth is expected to slow over the 2016-2021 forecast period, the market is expected to hit a five-year compound annual growth of 32.6% in public cloud services spending, or a total of $32.3bn in 2021.

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