Google Cloud is joining forces with a giant in IT services, in a move that CEO Thomas Kurian said will give it more muscle in the cloud against key rivals Amazon and Microsoft.
Google said Thursday that it has formed a partnership with HCL Technologies, the India-based tech giant, which is creating a brand new unit featuring an army of 5,000 professionals geared to serving Google Cloud customers. Specifically, they'll help customers move to the platform, upgrade or build new applications, and generally make the process of using Google Cloud as painless for them as possible.
The move would help shore up Google's position in IT services, an area where it is known to be weak, but which is critical in wooing big enterprises looking to move to cloud to embrace its platform. Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, and other major IT vendors all have professional services arms that help their customers get the most from their products.
"At Google, we've been very clear that we're not a services company," Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian told Business Insider.
While Amazon and Microsoft both employ their own IT services organizations in-house, Kurian says Google would rather never find itself in a conflict of interest with its own partners as they chase deals.
"We never wanted to be a services company because frankly being a services company leads to conflict with the very partners like HCL that you want to use your platform," Kurian said. "That makes it much easier to partner, unlike other cloud providers who have their own services arm."
A shot at Microsoft
The alliance appeared to be aimed squarely at Microsoft. In announcing the alliance, Google and HCL said one of their key goals is to help SAP customers migrate their infrastructure to Google Cloud. SAP recently formed an alliance with Microsoft that would make it easier for its customers to move their networks to Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform.
Kurian said they specifically mentioned SAP customers because "it's a deep expertise that HCL has, and it's an area where we're seeing significant demand."
Analyst Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research, a technology research firm, said the HCL alliance is a smart move for Google.
"Strong move for Google in adding a premium services component to its cloud offering," he told Business Insider. "With Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in the market, Google can now include business capable services to help enterprises transition to the cloud."
An advantage in the cloud wars
The cloud market is dominated by Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Cloud computing has made it possible for businesses, including big enterprises, to set up and maintain their networks on web-based platforms. This allowed them to scale down or even abandon private data centers.
Professional service providers like HCL are a key part of the cloud wars between the major cloud providers. They employ an army of experts who provide the manpower and expertise to help even the largest companies move to the cloud, making it that much more feasible.
The cloud giants have formed alliances in order to meet this need. Amazon Web Services has its own professional services division, but also has a partner network that includes major IT services companies such as Accenture and Deloitte. Microsoft long ago established its own professional services arm, and has relationships with the major providers, as well.
While Google Cloud lags Amazon and Microsoft, it has under Kurian and previous CEO Diane Greene signaled a willingness to go after larger customers — and, to that end, started to form its own alliances. Last year, Google and Deloitte teamed up in a separate partnership that was also aimed at helping SAP customers move to Google Cloud. Google has been working with Accenture since around 2011, too, and expanded that partnership earlier this year.
The HCL partnership is the surest sign of that direction, yet, though.
Kurian said that the planned Google-focused HCL organization "will make them the largest number of trained specialists in our portfolio."
HCL's big bet on Google
HCL, which has more than 147,000 employees, is one of the major players in infrastructure managed services the world. Gartner names it among the leading data center outsourcing and hybrid management infrastructure services providers in North America, together with IBM and Accenture.
"We are creating a dedicated business unit" for Google Cloud, CVK Vijayakumar, CEO and president of HCL, told Business Insider. "This is an important investment and strategy for us."
Vijayakumar said that as part of the alliance, HCL will set up "Google Cloud-specific" labs in Dallas, London and Delhi where they plan to enhance technologies Google Cloud customers use, such as Google G-Suite tools, and build new ones.
Kurian said the alliance also allows Google and HCL to adapt to emerging trends, mainly the hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies. In hybrid cloud, businesses set up networks to the cloud while maintaining huge chunks of their data and applications in private data centers. In multi-cloud, businesses manage their networks on different platforms while also maintaining a private data center.
"They were looking for partners who would bring things like multi-cloud and hybrid, and we were looking for expertise in infrastructure management," Kurian said. "I think the combination is a perfect fit."
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