Gulf, Google unite to develop sovereign cloud service
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Gulf, Google unite to develop sovereign cloud service

Mr Sarath, centre left, and Mr Bajwa, centre right, unveiled the partnership between Gulf and Google Asia-Pacific.
Mr Sarath, centre left, and Mr Bajwa, centre right, unveiled the partnership between Gulf and Google Asia-Pacific.

The partnership between Gulf Energy Development (Gulf) and Google Asia-Pacific to launch an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled sovereign cloud service in Thailand aims to tap a new market for those needing digital sovereignty amid geopolitical conflicts while capitalising on Thailand's Cloud First policy.

Gulf Edge Co Ltd, Gulf's fully-owned digital arm, and Google Cloud announced yesterday a multi-year agreement to deliver next-generation sovereign cloud services in Thailand, meeting the country's most stringent data residency, security and privacy requirements.

This strategic partnership aims to empower organisations in Thailand's critical industries, particularly those that use sensitive data, to accelerate their digital transformations using AI and analytics capabilities, according to Gulf Edge.

The agreement sees Google Cloud authorise Gulf Edge to operate Google Distributed Cloud (GDC) as a Managed GDC Provider (MGP), with a focus on air-gapped configurations for Thai organisations.

GDC is a Google Sovereign Cloud solution that operates entirely within a customer's chosen environment, requiring no connectivity to a Google Cloud region or the public internet.

Thailand is the fourth country where Google appointed an MGP for sovereign cloud and the first in Southeast Asia.

Global spending on sovereign cloud solutions is projected to reach US$259 billion by 2027, according to research firm IDC.

Gulf chief executive Sarath Ratanavadi said cloud and data centres are a growing business during the AI era, while sovereign cloud offers future growth as many countries roll out of sovereign laws.

"Thailand is still a laggard in cloud adoption," said Mr Sarath.

The Thai government is promoting its Cloud First policy, which means highly sensitive or classified data from agencies in defence or regulators will need sovereign cloud service, he said.

The successful delivery of GDC in Thailand is a strategic imperative, as its adoption across regulated industries will not only boost Thailand's digital competitiveness, but also create new revenue opportunities for the company, said Mr Sarath.

Data centre investment

He said the partnership is in addition to the GSA Data Center in Bang Na, which has a capacity of 25 megawatts in the first phase worth 10 billion baht.

The data centre is slated to go live by March 2025, while the sovereign cloud service with Google is expected to begin operation in mid-2025.

GSA Data Center is a joint venture between Gulf Infrastructure Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Gulf; ST Dynamo TH PTE LTD, a subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications; and AIS DC Venture Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Advanced Info Services.

The second phase of the data centre is slated for next year, adding 25MW of capacity with an investment of 10 billion baht. When its total capacity reaches 50MW, it will be the largest data centre in Thailand.

Karan Bajwa, vice-president for Asia-Pacific at Google Cloud, said the company chose Gulf Edge because of its deep expertise in energy infrastructure. The duo spent 1-2 months to seal the partnership because they are on the same page, he said.

New growth engine

Benya Phetkaeo, senior vice-president for business development at Gulf Edge, said to provide sovereign cloud, the company needs to recruit more skilled workers and beef up its operation team.

"Gulf Edge will ramp up its workforce to 100 in the near future," said Ms Benya.

Gulf will consider acquiring tech firms such as cybersecurity service providers for inorganic growth, while fulfilling its digital business and cloud data centre ecosystem, said a source close to the deal who requested anonymity.

Mr Bajwa praised the government for its support of cloud data centre business, especially its green utilities tariff policy and direct purchase agreement scheme. The government should allocate budget to make these policies happen, he said.

Google announced in 2022 a plan to invest in a Google cloud region in Thailand, with three availability zones around Bangkok. Mr Bajwa said the service will offer only public cloud, avoiding overlap with the sovereign cloud partnership.


In a separate matter, Mr Sarath said Gulf intends to participate in renewable projects as part of the green utility tariff category 2, also known as GUT 2, promoted by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to increase renewable energy development in the country.

GUT determines renewable power prices, which will be applied to projects developed under the first and second phases of the ERC's renewables scheme.

Foreign companies wishing to invest in Thailand want to know the GUT rates as well as clarity regarding the government's direct power purchase agreement (PPA) policy, which allows them to buy electricity directly from producers.

GUT category 1 rates are slightly higher than the current power tariff of 4.18 baht per kilowatt-hour (unit), while GUT 2 rates are estimated to be 4.55-4.56 baht a unit.

He said Gulf is interested in joining the ERC's second-phase renewables scheme, which aims to generate capacity of 3.6 gigawatts.

In the first phase, Gulf was awarded 20 licences to develop renewable power generation facilities, mostly solar and wind farms.

The government recently agreed to a pilot direct PPA scheme, but Mr Sarath said he wants to wait for clearer policy rules after energy agencies were instructed to study the negative impacts of this peer-to-peer power trade.

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