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Sustaining Google Cloud: How Covid-19 and green issues are shaping enterprise take-up across Europe

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian marks the start of the firm’s five-week EMEA-focused user conference by discussing how the coronavirus is affecting enterprises’ digital transformation priorities

Google continues to talk up the sustainability of its operations as being a major point of competitive difference for enterprises weighing up which public cloud to entrust their applications and workloads to.

The company used the first day of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA)-focused edition of the Google Cloud Next OnAir virtual user conference, which is set to run for the next five weeks, to talk about its sustainability track record as well as the customer momentum it is seeing across EMEA.

During the event’s opening remarks, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian also shared some observations the company has seen in recent months with regard to how the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is shaping the pace of cloud adoption across EMEA and the wider world.

The pandemic has served to speed up the pace of digital transformation across every industry, and prompted enterprises to come up with new digitally enabled ways of engaging with their customers and employees, which the company continues to support by championing the creation of an “open ecosystem” of cloud technologies, he said.

“Our general view is that large customers want to be able to use cloud technology from multiple providers,” said Kurian. “They also want to run their organisations and train their engineers on fewer tools and solutions, and they would like those solutions and tools to work across multiple cloud providers.

“We introduced last year the first capability set to support multicloud with our Anthos technology, and we’ve seen huge interest in the uptake of that. We’ve added, earlier this year, capabilities to use our machine learning tools on top of other clouds and in a hybrid environment inside your datacentre. We’ve also added support with a Big Query analytics technology to run across multiple clouds.”

Kurian said these are all shows of Google’s “deep commitment” to supporting enterprises that want to embrace multicloud deployments, but also run their IT infrastructure in a hybrid fashion.

These are all reasons why the company is seeing strong customer momentum across EMEA and the rest of the world too, he said, but sustainability is also often cited by Google as a reason why certain enterprise customers have opted for its public cloud platform over that of its rivals.

The Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is frequently called out by analysts as being the third-largest of the public cloud platforms, with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) occupying second and first places, respectively.

All three firms are locked in a battle to secure an increasingly large amount of the total enterprise IT spend that analysts predict will shift from on-premise to the cloud in years to come, with each one backing a slightly different strategy to win CIOs over.

For AWS, the focus tends to be on the pace of innovation the company operates at, which is exemplified by the number of new features and services it adds to its product portfolio each year.

The company has made sustainability-focused statements of intent around its plans in recent years, but has come in for criticism in the past for not being transparent enough about how it chooses to power its datacentres, or for moving quickly enough to cut its carbon emissions.

Even so, AWS has set itself a long-term goal to have all its datacentres powered entirely by renewable energy by 2030, and to have achieved a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040.

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Microsoft has its enterprise legacy to draw on as a point of competitive difference, as well as the fact that it has a productivity play – in the form of Office 365 – to bundle in with its Azure cloud infrastructure and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings.

It has also gone public with some sizeable sustainability-focused statements of intent this year, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella setting out the company’s plan in January 2020 to reverse the entire carbon footprint of the company since its inception in 1975, and for it to become carbon negative by 2030.

In the meantime, Chris Ciauri, president of EMEA at Google Cloud, used a pre-show press briefing to declare its platform as the “cleanest and greenest” place for enterprises to run their applications and workloads, before reiterating the company’s stance that its growth should not come at the expense of future generations.

“Google and Google Cloud are committed to growing in a sustainable manner,” said Ciauri.

“Climate change, and the necessity to reduce our carbon footprint, is a topic that Google has been addressing since 2007, having been carbon neutral since then. And then, in 2017, we became the first major company to buy enough clean energy to match 100% of our yearly electricity usage.

“We’ve now done that three years in a row. We operate the cleanest and greenest cloud in the world, but we want to do more.”

On this point, Ciauri restated a commitment the company made earlier this month, setting out its plans to power all of its datacentres and campuses worldwide on carbon-free energy sources by 2030.

“This is a really ambitious energy goal, and we’re the first cloud provider and major company to make an announcement like this,” he said.

“All of these investments, across infrastructure, across our leadership teams, across sustainability, will continue to drive customer success and growth.”

This announcement also coincided with a related commitment by Google to focus on eliminating its entire carbon legacy, backdated to the year 2007, which is when the company reportedly became carbon neutral.

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