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June 6, 2019

Google, Looker Eye Data Scaling via Multi-Cloud

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Google Cloud has moved to buttress its position in the booming data analytics sector with its acquisition of data platform and visualization tool vendor Looker.

Underscoring a trend among infrastructure vendors, Google Cloud said Thursday (June 6) Looker’s platform would run on multiple clouds and Looker customers would be able to access data from Google Cloud’s competitors. “We remain committed to our multi-cloud strategy and will retain and expand Looker’s capabilities to analyze data across clouds,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud.

That includes local support for hybrid cloud deployments and cloud databased, Kurian added.

The all-cash deal is valued at $2.6 billion. The acquisition is likely to attract antitrust scrutiny, and Kurian acknowledged, “We don’t have a clear timeline” on regulatory approval.

Looker has worked closely with Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) since the data analytics company was founded in 2011. The two companies claim more than 350 joint customers. Last year, Looker integrated its data platform tools with the beta release of Google Cloud’s BigQuery ML.

“Data is becoming the new app,” Kurian said in announcing the deal. As data drives decisions, he added, the trend among data analytics customers is “building applications within their own applications.” Those data-driven applications would incorporate interactive data visualization tools with BigQuery ML and Look ML, Looker’s data modeling language.

When Looker integrated its tools last year with BigQuery ML, Looker CTO Lloyd Tabb noted the combination meant the company’s tools would handle data preparation while BigQuery “does the learning.”

Calling the merger a “natural fit,” Looker CEO Frank Bien said the combination of its data infrastructure with BigQuery running on multiple clouds would allow its customers to scale their analytics applications. The result, Kurian added, would be an “augmented analytics” platform that combines Looker’s BI tools with Google’s AI and machine learning capabilities.

The multi-cloud analytics platform also is touted as providing customers with a common data model by abstracting inherent data complexity. That, Google said, would increase access to data across entire organizations and allow users to “operationalize BI.”

Google also said the combination would allow it to create an integrated analytics platform for visualizing data across Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN) as well as on-premises databases and software services applications.

Google Cloud’s multi-cloud strategy reflects a growing trend among public cloud competitors, offering services that interoperate with partners and competitors. For example, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and cloud database vendor Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) said this week they would collaborate to allow customers to migrate and run enterprise workloads across each other’s cloud.

Kurian said Looker’s tools would extend Google’s analytics platform to link, analyze and visualize data across multi-cloud or hybrid cloud deployments. The results would be a managed, serverless “smart analytics-as-a-service,” Google asserts.

The issue for antitrust regulators looking to rein in Amazon, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Google is whether the Looker deal further concentrates monopoly power in areas like big data. Kurian argued otherwise.

“We’re buying a business intelligence tool, not data,” the Google executive said. “There are lots of analytics tools.”

The acquisition of Looker “represents a strengthening of our competitive position in the [analytics] market,” Kurian added.

The cloud data analytics deal was not unexpected. “I’m not actually that surprised that Google decided to acquire Looker,” said Ajeet Singh, co-founder of BI vendor ThoughtSpot. The deal “clearly indicates the industry and businesses at large are ready for new ways to leverage their data beyond the data visualization paradigm set by the likes of Tableau and Qlik, are willing to spend real money to tap into these new capabilities.”

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