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Google Cloud partners in the spotlight at tech conference

Partners stood out at the Google Cloud Next conference, showcasing offerings that incorporate Google's cloud services and getting a plug from Eric Schmidt.

Google Cloud partners were name-checked in Eric Schmidt's address at the Google Cloud Next conference this week in San Francisco, underscoring the channel's growing role in the company's cloud platform and associated technologies such as big data analytics and machine learning.

In his presentation, Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., Google's parent company, said Google has made a transition from a technology play to a services organization -- with partners contributing to customer support.

"It used to be we would say we have this incredible technology derived from the way Google operates, but we didn't have a full-service product offering," Schmidt noted.

Google has added professional services resources, solutions architects and cloud-building personnel to its portfolio, Schmidt said. But for customers requiring extra assistance -- those working through legacy systems issues, for instance -- Schmidt pointed to Google's systems integrator partners as sources of additional help, citing Pythian, Agosto, Groovenauts, Sada Systems, Accenture and PwC as examples.

Embedding the Google Cloud

Indeed, Google Cloud partners are finding ways to incorporate elements of Google's technology into the systems they build for customers. Accenture, for example, is using Google's machine learning offerings in a mobile application it created for Rentokil, a pest control company based in the United Kingdom. The app, dubbed PestID, helps technicians identify insects. Accenture featured the app, which is currently being piloted, at Google Cloud Next.

Nisha Sharma, managing director at Accenture Mobility, said the Rentokil application didn't start as a machine learning endeavor. Accenture originally approached the customer project as a mobile solution for field technicians who need information at a job site.

In six weeks, we built the app and trained the model with the first set of images.
Nisha Sharmamanaging director, Accenture Mobility

"But then as we started to explore what the challenge was -- how can we solve this -- that is when the cloud angle came in," she explained.

PestID embeds Google's CloudML image classification technology, which Sharma said "allows you to take a picture of essentially any object and recognize what it is."

In addition to using Google's image technology, Google Cloud Vision API, Accenture employed TensorFlow, a machine learning software library that lets developers train models. In the case of PestID, a TensorFlow-trained model was trained on insect images, so when a field technician photographs a bug, the app can identify it.

"In six weeks, we built the app and trained the model with the first set of images," Sharma said.

Cloud services, such as machine learning and big data analytics, are what provides Google's competitive advantage with respect to its cloud rivals, noted Joe Kosco, vice president of sales at SADA Systems' Google practice.

"We are definitely focusing on those areas to leverage the new services, the value-added services [Google] provide[s], over and above the infrastructural services," he said.

Kosco said infrastructure services, such as the ability to run virtual machines in the cloud, have become more of a commodity.

"All the players have an excellent platform for that," he said.

Other Google Cloud partners also emphasized the higher-level cloud services.

Vanessa Simmons, director of business development at Pythian, described analytics as a key opportunity for her company's work with Google.

"For us, it is very much around the analytics solutions," she said. "That is where Google has a lot of strength, especially on the data side. That is what everyone is talking about -- CMOs getting more insight out of data."

At Google Cloud Next, Pythian, an IT services company based in Ottawa, announced that the company has obtained a Google Cloud Partner Specialization in Data Analytics. Pythian recently used Google BigQuery data warehouse service on a project with a retail chain, focusing on analyzing "store capacity and traffic patterns to improve merchandise and store layout," according to the company.

Partner program moves

The data analytics specialization is one of four such credentials Google has recently rolled out.

In a blog post, Bertrand Yansouni, Google's vice president of global partner sales and strategic alliances, said the company is launching specializations for Google Cloud partners in app development, machine learning and infrastructure in addition to data analytics.

"Partners demonstrating strong customer success and technical proficiency in certain solution areas will now qualify to apply for a specialization," Yansouni said.

Other Google partner program moves include making low-interest loans available for qualified partners at the Premier Partner level; expanding co-funding to help partners "accelerate a deal" or hold "early-stage strategy workshops;" and extending its rebate program to include all Premier G Suite and Premier Google Cloud Platform (GCP) reselling partners.

Kosco said he sees Google's partner announcements as an expansion of previous initiatives. He said Google's loan program is of particular relevance to SADA, noting that the company obtained a loan from Google a couple of years ago to help grow its G Suite practice. He said Google's current loan initiative is more focused around GCP.

"My takeaway is that Google is taking the partner channel seriously and has completely realigned their business to support channel partners," said Jonathan Lieberman, CEO of itopia, a workspace as a service (WaaS) company that sells though IT service providers. The company at Google Cloud Next announced its status as a Google Cloud partner in the WaaS area.

Lieberman attributed Google's partner direction to Diane Greene, senior vice president of Google Cloud. Greene, a founder of VMware, "brings an enterprise software sales and marketing mentality to the company," he said.

Google rebranded Google Docs as G Suite and consolidated its cloud offerings under the Google Cloud umbrella soon after Greene joined the company in November 2015, Lieberman noted. Google Cloud partners said the rebranding had the potential to boost the company's position with enterprise customers

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