10 ways Google improved its cloud at NEXT

Google is putting pressure on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in the public IaaS cloud market

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Google Cloud

Google cloud is seen by analysts as an up and comer. Company executives will even admit that the past few years Google has not had everything it needs to compete for enterprise customers in the IaaS public cloud market against Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and even IBM.

But they will also tell you that Google is ready now.

+MORE FROM NETWORK WORLD: Google Cloud President of Customers talks courting enterprises, competing with Amazon and Microsoft +

Last week Google held NEXT, its user conference where the company introduces new cloud features and users get to learn about the cloud platform.

In the opening day keynote, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google’s cloud division, said that not many analysts have questioned Google’s technical abilities in the cloud. But now, they’ve rounded out the rest of their portfolio. “We can do both great cloud – that is great tech in the cloud – but we can also now work with you as a customer and a partner, to build a business that actually scales globally and which should make a lot of money,” he said. “We have this incredible leadership platform for the things that matter for the future,” he added. Namely, those are big data, analytics, application development platforms and machine learning.

Below are 10 ways Google made its cloud more competitive in the IaaS market at its NEXT conference.

Enterprise customers: Google trotted out name brand, Fortune 500 enterprises that use its cloud, including eBay, Home Depot and HSBC. Schmidt pointed out that not only are companies moving to Google’s cloud, they’re doing it fast. He said Evernote, for example, migrated 3 petabytes of data in three months. Read more about Google’s big-name cloud customers.

Machine Learning focus: One area where Google is attempting to distinguish itself is in cloud-based machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence. At NEXT, Google’s Chief ML Scientist Fei Fei Li explained the company’s vision for how this technology will impact many verticals, from retail to healthcare. Google also introduced a new Cloud Vision API, which is able to identify the contents of videos. This goes along with its image recognition platform that was previously available. Google also announced it is buying Kaggle, a community of machine learning sharing. Read more about how Google plans to bring ML and AI to the enterprise.

SaaS/IaaS integration: In taking a page from Microsoft’s playbook, Google is attempting to position itself not just as an IaaS public cloud vendor, but a cloud that includes SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. There’s now an integrated sales team that sells both G Suite and Google Cloud Platform, and enhanced product integrations between the two. Meanwhile, Google announced advancements for its G Suite, including an overhaul of Hangouts and a new Jamboard smart collaboration whiteboard. Google wants its cloud to be a one-stop-shop for all enterprise cloud computing needs.

New security features: In another move that seemed geared toward the enterprise market, Google announced a handful of new security tools available on its cloud platform. These include a new Identity Aware Proxy (which lets administrators set access control policies for specific applications); new Data Loss Prevention tools, including an API; a new Key Management System and Security Key Enforcements, which require users to have two-factor authentication enabled to access certain programs. A demonstration showed the DLP system automatically redacting sensitive credit card and Social Security information contained in data uploaded to the cloud in real-time. Read more about Google Cloud’s new security features.

New compute features: Google updated its core compute-as-service offerings in a variety of ways. A new Virtual Machine Migration service allows users to more easily transfer Windows or Linux-based virtual machines from their on premises environment or another cloud provider into Google’s cloud; New Cloud Dataprep helps users manage data that is stored in Google’s databases; Google demonstrated its new globally-scalable and consistent SQL database named Spanner; and it debuted new 64-core machines.

Committed Use Discounts: One new feature that seems aimed specifically at the enterprise market is the addition of Committed Use Discounts. The idea is that if customers commit to using Google’s cloud for a one- or three-year period, they will get a discounted rate. Amazon and Microsoft have similar offers, but Google says it is different because users don’t have to choose the exact virtual machine size and type they’re committing to, just how much compute and memory capacity they need. A study by cloud management vendor RightScale found that Google’s CUDs offer the average customer a larger discount compared to AWS’s Reserved Instances. Cloud price wars are certainly not over.

Free cloud!

In an effort to get people to just try Google’s cloud, the company announced an expansion of its Free Tier of cloud services. Check out details of the free service.

Three new regions: Google has been on an aggressive push in recent years to expand the number of regions its cloud has. This gives customers more options in terms of where they can place their workloads and expands their reach into new geographic markets. At NEXT, Google announced three new regions in California, Canada and the Netherlands. Google has 14 other announced and live regions. By comparison, Microsoft Azure has 34 regions and AWS has 42 Availability Zones across 16 regions (each AWS region has at least two Availability Zones). Read more about Google’s newly announced regions and check out an interactive map of all three cloud providers’ regions.

Bigwigs buy in: Google executives are attempting to make it clear the company is committed to the cloud. The opening day keynote of NEXT included speeches from Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Schmidt and the head of Google Cloud Diane Greene. At one point, Schmidt told the crowd that he has personally approved up to $30 billion in capital expenditures for Google’s IaaS cloud. He asked the crowd why they would want to replicate that type of spending when instead they could focus on higher-value services they can build on top of that infrastructure?

Partners: In an interview before NEXT Google President of Customers Tariq Shaukat told Network World that one priority in the short-term is expanding Google’s partnerships with independent service vendors (ISV) and system integrators. To that end, Google announced expanded support for running SAP HANA workloads on its cloud, it announced that Rackspace is the company’s first managed service vendor and Pivotal is the first Customer Reliability Engineering partner. It also announced plans to work more closely with the likes of Accenture and PWC.

And if you want to read about even more announcements Google made at NEXT, check out the company’s list of 100 announcements from the conference.

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