There are a lot of reasons for Google to like Israel. With two major R&D facilities, Google Israel has been behind many important innovations for the company – including the technology behind Google products like Search Live Results, Person Finder, Google Suggest, Youtube Annotations, and more. It’s fair to say that Google just wouldn’t be the same without its two major Israeli research centers.

There’s another reason for the company to like Israel, said Dan Powers, Director of the Google Cloud Platform. “Israel is one of the fastest growing markets for cloud technology,” Powers said. Unlike the situation in other countries, “Israeli companies are not afraid of the cloud, and they realize that this is the best way to go globally quickly.”

Powers, who knows cloud as well as anyone – before moving to Google, he was responsible for all sales and partnerships worldwide for Amazon Web Services — spoke to The Times of Israel at Google’s first Cloud Platform event in Tel Aviv, showing start-ups the benefits of cloud in general, and Google’s cloud in particular.

Like for other major tech companies, conquering – or at least making deep inroads – into the cloud is a prime objective right now for Google. “Cloud,” of course, is what people used to call “working online,” and Google has been providing tools for that for many years. Hundreds of millions worldwide use Gmail, Google Docs, Youtube, Picasa, and the storage services Google provides worldwide, for free or for little money.

Dan Powers (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Dan Powers (Photo credit: Courtesy)

That experience has helped Google to succeed in moving to the next level in cloud – providing services for businesses that want to take advantage of advanced tools and a solid server base, without laying out money for expensive hardware. “Start-ups that are trying to compete in a crowded market want to save as much money as possible, so doing development on the cloud makes a great deal of sense for them. Israeli start-ups have a special challenge, because they need to find international customers immediately, as there is no real local market in Israel. Working in the cloud lets a start-up deploy anywhere and ramp up quickly, and keeps them nimble enough to seize new opportunities,” said Powers.

Naturally, the cloud to use, as far as he is concerned, is Google’s. So far, though, cloud is one area where Google lags behind. According to research company Forrester, 20% of application development is now being done in the cloud – most of it (62%) on Amazon’s Web Services platform. Next in popularity is Microsoft’s Azure platform, followed by Google’s platform.

Nevertheless, said Powers, more users have been switching from Amazon to Google Cloud Platform over the past year – with good reason, he believes. “Google has had 14 years of experience in infrastructure, in the online world that was the precursor to the public cloud that has become so popular. We started offering cloud services for developers several years ago, and recently we opened Google Compute Engine,” an infrastructure as a service (IAAS) that that provides a Linux virtual machine hosted on Google’s infrastructure for developers, said Powers. “Our model has been to develop services for users, and then making them available for cloud users.”

In terms of quality, Powers thinks Google’s cloud has the edge over its competitors. “We have experience in dealing with and solving all of the problems that cloud users face – like ‘noisy neighbor syndrome,’ where one user or service takes up more processing power or bandwidth than they are supposed to, slowing things down for everyone else. We actually had to solve that one a long time ago, because we had major bandwidth applications, like Youtube, running on the servers, so we had to ensure that other services did not suffer.”

What’s been most challenging, he said, was ensuring that service on all services would be stable, keeping performance consistent despite the many things happening on a server, Powers added. Israel will be essential to Google’s cloud success, as it has been to other Google efforts. Google already has a major cloud platform partner in Israel: CoolaData, which provides Big Data Analytics as a Service, allowing Google cloud users to easily take advantage of tools to better help them understand customer behavior.

As more data gets collected from more sources — sensors, social media, Internet, mobile GPS, etc. — and makes its way to the cloud, big data has become a big concern for Google, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, or any of the other companies recruiting customers for their cloud services, and there’s a fierce competition between the companies to develop big data tools, enabling customers to make sense of the endless reams of data coming in. CoolaData, said Powers, is a good example of an Israeli start-up that could give Google more and better “cloud appeal.”

But despite the competition, there’s plenty of business to go around. “Cloud use is exploding,” said Powers. “Five or so years from now over 60% of the world’s workload will be in the cloud,” up from less than 10% today. “With the benefits of the cloud – enabling companies large and small to take advantage of advanced hardware and software with a minimum up-front investment – it just makes so much sense. We believe the infrastructure we are building, in terms of the computing environment, service components, and communications capabilities, will win over many customers.”