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Why Google Is Emphasizing Partners To Help Grow Its Cloud

Google needs help from partners like Box to grow its cloud business.Google needs help from partners like Box to grow its cloud business.
Google needs help from partners like Box to grow its cloud business.SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Google’s plan to grow its cloud computing business will require the help of partner companies.

The search giant said it is expanding its existing partnerships with companies like Intel and SAP as part of the company’s partner summit during its cloud computing conference this week in San Francisco.

It’s part of Google’s broader push to grow its cloud computing business, in which it faces tough competition from market leader Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure and related businesses. Microsoft, in particular, has been consistently impressing Wall Street with its growing cloud business, which helped push the enterprise titan’s annual 2018 fiscal sales to over $100 billion for the first time.

To help compete with companies like Microsoft and Amazon, Google needs the help from more traditional enterprise businesses to help give it the credibility it needs to be seen as a business technology provider.

Tariq Shaukat, Google Cloud president of global alliances and industry platforms, explained that Google is attempting to differentiate itself by co-developing products with some of its partners.

For example, in Google’s partnership with cloud storage and workplace software company Box, both companies have their engineering teams work on integrating their products so that they work better together. Although companies can now link their products together more easily than in the past through the use of so-called application performance interfaces (APIs), much of the work Google partners have done making their products work with Google’s suite of tools is more involved.

Box Chief Product Officer Jeetu Patel said that both Google and Box have members of their engineering teams meet to swap ideas on how their products should best work with each other. Box needs the help of Google engineers that work on Google Docs, for instance, to understand how people use online documents within Google’s G Suite workplace software tools.

“What should that experience look like?” Patel said. “We can’t just do that by integrating with the APIs on a superficial level.”

But as Google takes on more partners, there’s a chance that some of those partner companies will be competitors with one another. For instance, document management company and Google partner Iron Mountain is expanding from securing physical documents to handling digital files, which is making it more competitive with cloud storage businesses like Box.

Iron Mountain Senior Vice President of Emerging Commercial Solutions Jim O’Dorisio acknowledged the increased competition between Iron Mountain and Box and the fact that both companies are Google partners. Google’s cozy relationship with Box does not appear to upset O’Dorisio, however; he said it’s up to Iron Mountain to differentiate itself as a superior product.

O’Dorisio said that Google is trying to “develop an ecosystem of partners because they aren’t trying to lose that last mile for these kinds of solutions.” Essentially, Google knows it can’t build every workplace software product, and even if it does, there’s a possibility that Google’s products won’t be as popular as others.

Both O’Dorisio and Patel declined to comment on the length of their respective partnerships with Google, but said they were generally multi-year terms.

It should be noted that many of Google’s partners also have similar partnership deals with Google competitors like Microsoft and Amazon, underscoring the tricky nature of modern corporate enterprise partnerships. Box, for instance, has partnerships with Microsoft and IBM.

“It’s probably fair to say that many of partners have deals with other cloud providers,” said Shaukat. “It’s sort of a reality; we want to make sure we are the best partner for our partners, and that they would prefer to do more with us than others.”

Shaukat acknowledged that enterprise companies appear to be signing partnerships with one another at a furious pace, and that many seem to be what he refers to as “press release partnerships.”

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He believes efforts like having Google co-developing technologies with its partners serve as an example of a more serious type of cooperation, and that a year from now, the partnerships won’t be something that will cause people to just “roll their eyes and say nothing really came from it.”