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Kyndryl, the IT services business that IBM spun off in early November, has formed a global strategic partnership with Google to support their joint customers in the cloud.
The deal comes a month after Kyndryl struck a similar deal with Microsoft, encompassing Azure cloud hosting and support for products such as Office365 and Teams, and a smaller partnership with VMware, as well as a certification agreement with SAP.
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Kyndryl, a young company with a long history as IBM’s former managed infrastructure services business, inherited more than 4,000 customers worldwide and is looking to expand its share of those customers’ infrastructure management spend in a way that wasn’t possible as part of IBM.
“We couldn’t do it in IBM because we were focused on and committed to only the IBM cloud,” said Stephen Leonard, Kyndryl’s global alliances and partnerships leader.
Under IBM, cloud migration and management capabilities were tailored to IBM’s cloud. Now, said Leonard, “We’re going to take those management capabilities and make them available to clients who run workloads on the Google Cloud, or who wish to move workloads to the Google Cloud.”
That offer goes for any kind of workload, said Leonard, not just the IBM Power Systems servers accessible through Google Cloud Platform on which enterprises can run AS/400 applications.
Key areas of focus for the deal with Google include helping customers integrate cloud-based AI and analytics into their digital transformations and moving their SAP workloads to the cloud.
Charles King, president and principal analyst of Pund-IT, sees the partnership as important for both Kyndryl and Google.
“It expands Kyndryl’s capabilities for supporting customers’ hybrid cloud needs and should deliver substantial benefits related to Google’s innovative work in advanced analytics and AI,” King said. “The relationship should also aid Google’s increasing focus on developing and delivering enterprise-class cloud services and solutions. The plans for supporting SAP on Google Cloud, enterprise edge, and industry solutions for financial services are all areas where Google wants to build stronger positions.”
Kyndryl plans to get 5,000 of its 80,000 technical staff certified on Google Cloud Platform and will have about 1,000 certified by the end of 2021. That process started back in September, before the partnership was formed, Leonard said.
It’s a similar process to what Kyndryl is doing with its internal “Kyndryl University for Microsoft” training program, although more staff will likely become Microsoft certified because that program also encompasses Microsoft products such as Dynamics and Office365, not just the Azure cloud platform.
Building up those skills in a variety of clouds is key for Kyndryl, says Pund-IT’s King.
“Kyndryl’s focus on and capabilities in hybrid cloud are part of the DNA it inherited from IBM. Being a world-class player in this space isn’t so much about partnering with specific service providers as it is to be able to help customers address their hybrid cloud needs no matter what cloud platforms they employ,” he said. “Microsoft and Google both qualify as significant building blocks in that strategy.” 
The most remarkable thing about Kyndryl’s strategic cloud infrastructure partnerships is that it hasn’t yet struck one with industry giant Amazon Web Services, which controlled 32% of the cloud infrastructure services market in the third quarter, ahead of Microsoft Azure (21%) and Google Cloud Platform (8%).
AWS does feature on Kyndryl’s “alliances” webpage but doesn’t get prominent billing.
Leonard shed some light on that: “They all have similar but differing requirements. Our intention is to get to the highest level of certification with AWS,” he said, but “with AWS, we’re neither of us at each other’s highest level because we’re still working on what the investments are, and what are the areas where we’re going to work together.”
Securing a strategic deal with AWS is important for Kyndryl, though, because, “There are a tremendous number of mutual clients, and they’re in some of the spaces that we’re very interested in, VMware, mainframe modernization, and so on,” Leonard said.
Pund-IT’s King sees the delay as nothing to be concerned about. “It takes time to hammer out details on deals like this, but I expect Kyndryl and AWS will find a way to work together as strategic allies.”
Kyndryl has also recently struck a partnership with VMware, itself a newly standalone company after its separation from Dell Technologies on Nov. 1, and gained certification from SAP for global operation of SAP technologies, including HANA, S/4HANA, Business Suite, and SuccessFactors.
King sees potential for other deals ahead: “Kyndryl offers services for Oracle’s database and business applications so there may be opportunities to deepen the two companies’ collaborations. Pursuing strategic relationships with enterprise-focused vendors like Salesforce and ServiceNow could also make sense,” he said.
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