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Sooraj Shah

Contributing Editor

Sooraj Shah is Contributing Editor of New Statesman Tech with a focus on C-level IT leader interviews. He is also a freelance technology journalist.

Cloud Technology Solutions CEO on keeping pace with Google Cloud’s growth

Back in 2008, when working on a programme for The Economist to migrate to Google Apps, James Doggart and his colleague realised there was no migration technology to allow organisations to easily switch over. It was on this basis that they formed Cloud Technology Solutions (CTS), and it started trading in 2009-2010.

Initially, the organisation began as a software provider. Under the CloudM brand, it developed software to help organisations benefit from shifting to G-Suite or Office 365. To date, it has migrated more than 11.5 million users and 23,000 domains to the cloud across 84 countries. Among the 35,000+ companies that the organisation has helped either with CloudM or with managed services are Netflix, Spotify, LinkedIn, Salesforce and the Cabinet Office.

Now, more than a decade on, CTS has 185 employees based in offices in Manchester, Edinburgh, Utrecht and Frankfurt. While the company focuses on both Microsoft and Google within its software division, for its managed services side, the company is very much focused on Google – it is the largest dedicated Google Cloud practice in Europe.

Cloud has been a slow burner

Co-founder and CEO of the company, Doggart, tells NS Tech that his team were surprised with how long the market has taken to lean towards the cloud.

“As our name suggests, we were born in the cloud. We realised that traditional IT was going to suffer and struggle with the distribution model of what cloud represented. It is a similar dynamic to the traditional retailer against e-commerce companies because it isn’t just about technology but the business model has to change,” he says.

Doggart explains that what compounded an already complicated task of persuading IT leaders to shift infrastructure to the cloud, was that traditional vendors started rebranding other elements of IT such as hosting as ‘cloud’ – confusing the market further.

What really enabled CTS to gather momentum was when Google started to heavily invest in the cloud space.

“They realised they could get something significant out of it revenue-wise. They already had the largest infrastructure available but they weren’t exposing it to customers. I think it’s the fourth biggest server manufacturer on the planet but it only manufactured the servers for itself. So giving access to customers for that infrastructure started happening,” he says.

“It only started in earnest in the last three to four years, and the Google Cloud organisation went from 2,000 employees to 20,000 and so people started taking Google seriously for the enterprise – in that it shifted from being a consumer-only company to an enterprise company too,” he adds.

A big shift, has also been the realisation from organisations that cloud isn’t just about a lift and shift approach or cost-cutting, but rather the exploitation of data, and the use of more powerful tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Google brought in $8.9bn in cloud revenue in 2019, a 53 per cent increase from 2018. The company disclosed quarterly and annual revenue for the first time this week, and despite the huge amount of revenue and growth, the company still lags behind the top two – Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. For context, AWS brought in more cloud revenue in the most recent quarter – $9.9bn than Google did in the whole of 2019.

Doggart believes it’s still very early days in the cloud computing space and that the investment Google is making will make a difference in the years to come. Indeed, AWS CEO Andy Jassy recently said that only three percent of all IT workloads are in the cloud.

Doggart says that in order to keep up with the investment and growth of Google’s cloud proposition, he has had to scale up his workforce in the last 24 months – this has included an acquisition of Netherlands-based application development and machine learning company Qlouder in 2018.

CTS and government

CTS manages the Cabinet Office’s G-Suite estate, as well as having 20 local government customers. When asked whether anything had changed when it came to dealing with government over the years, Doggart referred to 2010, when there had been encouragement from the government for departments to work with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) more.

“We were winning work then that we wouldn’t have won before 2010 because the big four professional services firms were taking a lot of business out of government – especially central government. As well as encouraging them to work with SMBs, they also paid suppliers more promptly,” he says.

Since then, he believes the government has not changed at all in the way it works with SMBs – it hasn’t gone backwards or forwards.