10 big announcements from Google’s Cloud Conference

eric schmidt

Google brought out the big wigs at its NEXT customer conference, including Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

From machine learning to open source, and lots of new enterprise-wooing features too

In San Francisco this week at Pier 48, overlooking the Giants’ AT&T Ballpark, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) executives are holding a user conference to introduce products and services they hope will help make the case for choosing Google in the cloud.

Sam Charrington, a cloud and big data analyst and advisor, summed up Google executives’ pitch best this week on Twitter: “GCP exec team’s operating thesis: ‘Cloud’s not done. The industry’s just beginning the journey.”

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Is Google pushing the cloud envelope too far? +

Google is seen by many as being behind Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and even IBM in the IaaS cloud market. In a new research note, Deutsche Bank investment analysts predicted that GCP is on a $400 million revenue run rate, which is roughly 20 times less than AWS’s.

But as cloud watcher Charrington notes: “Google came from behind to win in search, mail, maps, browser, mobile based on strength of tech/product. Still room to innovate.”

Below are some of the most significant announcements Google made at its NEXT event, in no particular order.

Machine learning

If there is one big takeaway from GCP NEXT, it is Google’s major focus on machine learning. Google introduced a product family this week with multiple machine learning tools, a cloud-based platform for building predictive analytics models based on data customers have stored in Google’s cloud. “For example, a financial services app that predicts values using regression models, or a classification service for images,” Google explained on its blog announcing the service. “Cloud Machine Learning will take care of everything from data ingestion through to prediction. The result: now any application can take advantage of the same deep learning techniques that power many of Google’s services.”

Google is not alone in focusing on machine learning – IBM, another company vying for IaaS supremacy, has a big focus on ML using its Watson cognitive analytics. AWS and Azure have ML platforms too.

Coming off of its software beating the best Go player in the world, Google’s on a machine learning high.

StackDriver

At NEXT, Google jumped into the cloud management market with the introduction of StackDriver. Google calls it a “unified, monitoring, logging and diagnostics service that makes ops easier.” Here’s the big surprise though: Customers can use StackDriver to manage Google and AWS clouds.

google stackdriver 10

Cloud management dashboards are nothing new – there are a plethora of them. Google is acknowledging that it’s a multi-cloud world though, and is hoping that customers choose Google’s tools to manage their entire cloud usage.

Cloud IAM

One way that Google is attempting to boost GCP’s appeal to enterprise customers is via the introduction of Cloud Identity and Access Management roles. IAM could be considered almost table-stakes for a serious IaaS platform; it manages which users can log in and do what inside of a cloud. These new role features announced provide more fine-grained access controls for GCP environments.

Audit Logging

This is another feature that seems to be aimed squarely at enterprise customers. For security purposes and other operational tasks, providing an audit log of everything happening in your cloud is key. Audit Logs are slated to be available by the end of May.

Customer Supplied Encryption Keys

Google announced the beta of encryption keys that customers can manage themselves and that are scheduled to become generally available shortly. Google already does native encryption of data at rest and in transit. This new feature allows customers, rather than Google, to hold the keys.

Google Speech API

Along the same theme as the Machine Learning news, Google announced an API for speech recognition at NEXT. It allows developers to integrate the company’s speech-to-text feature in apps they’re building. The feature works in 80 languages. Google also showed off its Translate and Google Vision APIs.

Open Source

Google executives say the company is committed to open source. It has open sourced many projects, from Hadoop MapReduce to Spanner, software-defined networking components, container management platform Kubernetes, and machine learning tools Dataflow and TensorFlow. Google also recently joined the Open Compute Project, and committed a new rack design. At NEXT, it open sourced another software tool: Helm, which is code that is helpful in managing containers by deconstructing them.

Big Query advancements

GCP’s cloud-based analytics data warehouse, BigQuery, is one of the core analytics tools in Google’s cloud. At NEXT, Google announced a price drop of 50% for data stored in BigQuery for more than 90 days; auto table partitions (making data management easier); and a capacitor storage engine, which Google says could speed up some queries by 10x.

Customers wins

Trotting out customers at a user conference is not surprising, but some of the names that Google featured this week are: Disney’s consumer product and interactive media, Dominos, Spotify, Macy’s, Heineken and Best Buy. And that’s not even to mention Apple (which Google did not mention at NEXT).

Take a data center tour

Google has one of the most impressive networks of data centers around the world. Prior to NEXT the company announced it would be expanding its regional footprint from four to six, with plans to add 10 more regions in the coming years. Google doesn't give in-person tours of its data centers, but as of this week, you can take a virtual tour. (Google recommends you use a virtual reality system, like its Cardboard to view it).

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