Oct
10
2018
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Google+ for G Suite lives on and gets new features

You thought Google+ was dead, didn’t you? And it is — if you’re a consumer. But the business version of Google’s social network will live on for the foreseeable future — and it’s getting a bunch of new features today.

Google+ for G Suite isn’t all that different from the Google+ for consumers, but its focus is very much on allowing users inside a company to easily share information. Current users include the likes of Nielsen and French retailer Auchan.

The new features that Google is announcing today give admins more tools for managing and reviewing posts, allow employees to tag content and provide better engagement metrics to posters.

Recently Google introduced the ability for admins to bulk-add groups of users to a Google+ community, for example. And soon, those admins will be able to better review and moderate posts made by their employees. Soon, admins will also be able to define custom streams so that employees could get access to a stream with all of the posts from a company’s leadership team, for example.

But what’s maybe more important in this context is that tags now make it easy for employees to route content to everybody in the company, no matter which group they work in. “Even if you don’t know all employees across an organization, tags makes it easier to route content to the right folks,” the company explains in today’s blog post. “Soon you’ll be able to draft posts and see suggested tags, like #research or #customer-insights when posting customer survey results.”

As far as the new metrics go, there’s nothing all that exciting going on here, but G Suite customers who keep their reporting structure in the service will be able to provide analytics to employees so they can see how their posts are being viewed across the company and which teams engage most with them.

At the end of the day, none of these are revolutionary features. But the timing of today’s announcement surely isn’t a coincidence, given that Google announced the death of the consumer version of Google+ — and the bug that went along with that — only a few days ago. Today’s announcement is clearly meant to be a reminder that Google+ for the enterprise isn’t going away and remains in active development. I don’t think all that many businesses currently use Google+, though, and with Hangouts Chat and other tools, they now have plenty of options for sharing content across groups.

Oct
10
2018
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Google’s Apigee officially launches its API monitoring service

It’s been about two years since Google acquired API management service Apigee. Today, the company is announcing new extensions that make it easier to integrate the service with a number of Google Cloud services, as well as the general availability of the company’s API monitoring solution.

Apigee API monitoring allows operations teams to get more insight into how their APIs are performing. The idea here is to make it easy for these teams to figure out when there’s an issue and what’s the root cause for it by giving them very granular data. “APIs are now part of how a lot of companies are doing business,” Ed Anuff, Apigee’s former SVP of product strategy and now Google’s product and strategy lead for the service, told me. “So that tees up the need for API monitoring.”

Anuff also told me that he believes that it’s still early days for enterprise API adoption — but that also means that Apigee is currently growing fast as enterprise developers now start adopting modern development techniques. “I think we’re actually still pretty early in enterprise adoption of APIs,” he said. “So what we’re seeing is a lot more customers going into full production usage of their APIs. A lot of what we had seen before was people using it for maybe an experiment or something that they were doing with a couple of partners.” He also attributed part of the recent growth to customers launching more mobile applications where APIs obviously form the backbone of much of the logic that drives those apps.

API Monitoring was already available as a beta, but it’s now generally available to all Apigee customers.

Given that it’s now owned by Google, it’s no surprise that Apigee is also launching deeper integrations with Google’s cloud services now — specifically services like BigQuery, Cloud Firestore, Pub/Sub, Cloud Storage and Spanner. Some Apigee customers are already using this to store every message passed through their APIs to create extensive logs, often for compliance reasons. Others use Cloud Firestore to personalize content delivery for their web users or to collect data from their APIs and then send that to BigQuery for analysis.

Anuff stressed that Apigee remains just as open to third-party integrations as it always was. That is part of the core promise of APIs, after all.

Oct
10
2018
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Google introduces dual-region storage buckets to simplify data redundancy

Google is playing catch-up in the cloud, and as such it wants to provide flexibility to differentiate itself from AWS and Microsoft. Today, the company announced a couple of new options to help separate it from the cloud storage pack.

Storage may seem stodgy, but it’s a primary building block for many cloud applications. Before you can build an application you need the data that will drive it, and that’s where the storage component comes into play.

One of the issues companies have as they move data to the cloud is making sure it stays close to the application when it’s needed to reduce latency. Customers also require redundancy in the event of a catastrophic failure, but still need access with low latency. The latter has been a hard problem to solve until today when Google introduced a new dual-regional storage option.

As Google described it in the blog post announcing the new feature, “With this new option, you write to a single dual-regional bucket without having to manually copy data between primary and secondary locations. No replication tool is needed to do this and there are no network charges associated with replicating the data, which means less overhead for you storage administrators out there. In the event of a region failure, we transparently handle the failover and ensure continuity for your users and applications accessing data in Cloud Storage.”

This allows companies to have redundancy with low latency, while controlling where it goes without having to manually move it should the need arise.

Knowing what you’re paying

Companies don’t always require instant access to data, and Google (and other cloud vendors) offer a variety of storage options, making it cheaper to store and retrieve archived data. As of today, Google is offering a clear way to determine costs, based on customer storage choice types. While it might not seem revolutionary to let customers know what they are paying, Dominic Preuss, Google’s director of product management says it hasn’t always been a simple matter to calculate these kinds of costs in the cloud. Google decided to simplify it by clearly outlining the costs for medium (Nearline) and long-term (Coldline) storage across multiple regions.

As Google describes it, “With multi-regional Nearline and Coldline storage, you can access your data with millisecond latency, it’s distributed redundantly across a multi-region (U.S., EU or Asia), and you pay archival prices. This is helpful when you have data that won’t be accessed very often, but still needs to be protected with geographically dispersed copies, like media archives or regulated content. It also simplifies management.”

Under the new plan, you can select the type of storage you need, the kind of regional coverage you want and you can see exactly what you are paying.

Google Cloud storage pricing options. Chart: Google

Each of these new storage services has been designed to provide additional options for Google Cloud customers, giving them more transparency around pricing and flexibility and control over storage types, regions and the way they deal with redundancy across data stores.

Oct
10
2018
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Google expands its identity management portfolio for businesses and developers

Over the course of the last year, Google has launched a number of services that bring to other companies the same BeyondCorp model for managing access to a company’s apps and data without a VPN that it uses internally. Google’s flagship product for this is Cloud Identity, which is essentially Google’s BeyondCorp, but packaged for other businesses.

Today, at its Cloud Next event in London, it’s expanding this portfolio of Cloud Identity services with three new products and features that enable developers to adopt this way of thinking about identity and access for their own apps and that make it easier for enterprises to adopt Cloud Identity and make it work with their existing solutions.

The highlight of today’s announcements, though, is Cloud Identity for Customers and Partners, which is now in beta. While Cloud Identity is very much meant for employees at a larger company, this new product allows developers to build into their own applications the same kind of identity and access management services.

“Cloud Identity is how we protect our employees and you protect your workforce,” Karthik Lakshminarayanan, Google’s product management director for Cloud Identity, said in a press briefing ahead of the announcement. “But what we’re increasingly finding is that developers are building applications and are also having to deal with identity and access management. So if you’re building an application, you might be thinking about accepting usernames and passwords, or you might be thinking about accepting social media as an authentication mechanism.”

This new service allows developers to build in multiple ways of authenticating the user, including through email and password, Twitter, Facebook, their phones, SAML, OIDC and others. Google then handles all of that authentication work. Google will offer both client-side (web, iOS and Android) and server-side SDKs (with support for Node.ja, Java, Python and other languages).

“They no longer have to worry about getting hacked and their passwords and their user credentials getting compromised,” added Lakshminarayanan, “They can now leave that to Google and the exact same scale that we have, the security that we have, the reliability that we have — that we are using to protect employees in the cloud — can now be used to protect that developer’s applications.”

In addition to Cloud Identity for Customers and Partners, Google is also launching a new feature for the existing Cloud Identity service, which brings support for traditional LDAP-based applications and IT services like VPNs to Cloud Identity. This feature is, in many ways, an acknowledgment that most enterprises can’t simply turn on a new security paradigm like BeyondCorp/Cloud Identity. With support for secure LDAP, these companies can still make it easy for their employees to connect to these legacy applications while still using Cloud Identity.

“As much as Google loves the cloud, a mantra that Google has is ‘let’s meet customers where they are.’ We know that customers are embracing the cloud, but we also know that they have a massive, massive footprint of traditional applications,” Lakshminarayanan explained. He noted that most enterprises today run two solutions: one that provides access to their on-premise applications and another that provides the same services for their cloud applications. Cloud Identity now natively supports access to many of these legacy applications, including Aruba Networks (HPE), Itopia, JAMF, Jenkins (Cloudbees), OpenVPN, Papercut, pfSense (Netgate), Puppet, Sophos and Splunk. Indeed, as Google notes, virtually any application that supports LDAP over SSL can work with this new service.

Finally, the third new feature Google is launching today is context-aware access for those enterprises that already use its Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy (yes, those names are all a mouthful). The idea here is to help enterprises provide access to cloud resources based on the identity of the user and the context of the request — all without using a VPN. That’s pretty much the promise of BeyondCorp in a nutshell, and this implementation, which is now in beta, allows businesses to manage access based on the user’s identity and a device’s location and its security status, for example. Using this new service, IT managers could restrict access to one of their apps to users in a specific country, for example.

 

Oct
10
2018
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Google Cloud expands its networking feature with Cloud NAT

It’s a busy week for news from Google Cloud, which is hosting its Next event in London. Today, the company used the event to launch a number of new networking features. The marquee launch today is Cloud NAT, a new service that makes it easier for developers to build cloud-based services that don’t have public IP addresses and can only be accessed from applications within a company’s virtual private cloud.

As Google notes, building this kind of setup was already possible, but it wasn’t easy. Obviously, this is a pretty common use case, though, so with Cloud NAT, Google now offers a fully managed service that handles all the network address translation (hence the NAT) and provides access to these private instances behind the Cloud NAT gateway.

Cloud NAT supports Google Compute Engine virtual machines as well as Google Kubernetes Engine containers, and offers both a manual mode where developers can specify their IPs and an automatic mode where IPs are automatically allocated.

Also new in today’s release is Firewall Rules Logging, which is now in beta. Using this feature, admins can audit, verify and analyze the effects of their firewall rules. That means when there are repeated connection attempts that the firewall blocked, you can now analyze those and see whether somebody was up to no good or whether somebody misconfigured the firewall. Because the data is only delayed by about five seconds, the service provides near real-time access to this data — and you can obviously tie this in with other services like Stackdriver Logging, Cloud Pub/Sub and BigQuery to create alerts and further analyze the data.

Also new today is managed TLS certificated for HTTPS load balancers. The idea here is to take the hassle out of managing TLS certificates (the kind of certificates that ensure that your user’s browser creates a secure connection to your app) when there is a load balancer in play. This feature, too, is now in beta.

Sep
27
2018
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Alphabet’s Chronicle launches an enterprise version of VirusTotal

VirusTotal, the virus and malware scanning service own by Alphabet’s Chronicle, launched an enterprise-grade version of its service today. VirusTotal Enterprise offers significantly faster and more customizable malware search, as well as a new feature called Private Graph, which allows enterprises to create their own private visualizations of their infrastructure and malware that affects their machines.

The Private Graph makes it easier for enterprises to create an inventory of their internal infrastructure and users to help security teams investigate incidents (and where they started). In the process of building this graph, VirtusTotal also looks are commonalities between different nodes to be able to detect changes that could signal potential issues.

The company stresses that these graphs are obviously kept private. That’s worth noting because VirusTotal already offered a similar tool for its premium users — the VirusTotal Graph. All of the information there, however, was public.

As for the faster and more advanced search tools, VirusTotal notes that its service benefits from Alphabet’s massive infrastructure and search expertise. This allows VirusTotal Enterprise to offers a 100x speed increase, as well as better search accuracy. Using the advanced search, the company notes, a security team could now extract the icon from a fake application, for example, and then return all malware samples that share the same file.

VirusTotal says that it plans to “continue to leverage the power of Google infrastructure” and expand this enterprise service over time.

Google acquired VirusTotal back in 2012. For the longest time, the service didn’t see too many changes, but earlier this year, Google’s parent company Alphabet moved VirusTotal under the Chronicle brand and the development pace seems to have picked up since.

Sep
19
2018
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Google’s Cloud Memorystore for Redis is now generally available

After five months in public beta, Google today announced that its Cloud Memorystore for Redis, its fully managed in-memory data store, is now generally available.

The service, which is fully compatible with the Redis protocol, promises to offer sub-millisecond responses for applications that need to use in-memory caching. And because of its compatibility with Redis, developers should be able to easily migrate their applications to this service without making any code changes.

Cloud Memorystore offers two service tiers — a basic one for simple caching and a standard tier for users who need a highly available Redis instance. For the standard tier, Google offers a 99.9 percent availability SLA.

Since it first launched in beta, Google added a few additional capabilities to the service. You can now see your metrics in Stackdriver, for example. Google also added custom IAM roles and improved logging.

As for pricing, Google charges per GB-hour, depending on the service level and capacity you use. You can find the full pricing list here.

Sep
18
2018
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Google’s Work Insights helps businesses better understand how they work

At an event in Tokyo, Google today announced the launch of Work Insights, a new tool that gives businesses more insights into how their employees use the company’s G Suite productivity tools and how teams collaborate using those tools.

In addition, Google is also launching its investigation tool for helping business better secure their data in G Suite into general availability.

“Work Insights is a tool built specifically to help businesses measure and understand the impact of digital transformation within their organizations, driven by G Suite,” Reena Nadkarni, a group product manager for G Suite, explains in today’s announcement. Data is aggregated at the team level (where a team needs to have 10 people or more) to help businesses understand how their employees are adapting G Suite apps.

As enterprises bet on one vendor or the other, there’s always a bit of a transition period and not everybody makes the move quite as quickly as others. Most of these tools, though, only really work when the whole company adopts them. That’s especially true for communication tools like Slack, Hangouts Chat/Meet or Microsoft Teams, but also for productivity tools like G Suite.

The other use cases here, though, is actually far more interesting. Work Insights will also give companies a view of how users on different teams interact with each other (think the marketing and sales teams). If they are working on documents together, then they are probably working well together, too (or just leaving acerbic comments on marketing presentations, but you get the general idea here).

“This insight can help executives identify opportunities to strengthen collaboration and reduce siloes,” Nadkarni writes. Since few executives ever say that they want less collaboration and more siloes, chances are we’ll see quite a few companies adopt these tools.

 

Sep
12
2018
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Nvidia launches the Tesla T4, its fastest data center inferencing platform yet

Nvidia today announced its new GPU for machine learning and inferencing in the data center. The new Tesla T4 GPUs (where the ‘T’ stands for Nvidia’s new Turing architecture) are the successors to the current batch of P4 GPUs that virtually every major cloud computing provider now offers. Google, Nvidia said, will be among the first to bring the new T4 GPUs to its Cloud Platform.

Nvidia argues that the T4s are significantly faster than the P4s. For language inferencing, for example, the T4 is 34 times faster than using a CPU and more than 3.5 times faster than the P4. Peak performance for the P4 is 260 TOPS for 4-bit integer operations and 65 TOPS for floating point operations. The T4 sits on a standard low-profile 75 watt PCI-e card.

What’s most important, though, is that Nvidia designed these chips specifically for AI inferencing. “What makes Tesla T4 such an efficient GPU for inferencing is the new Turing tensor core,” said Ian Buck, Nvidia’s VP and GM of its Tesla data center business. “[Nvidia CEO] Jensen [Huang] already talked about the Tensor core and what it can do for gaming and rendering and for AI, but for inferencing — that’s what it’s designed for.” In total, the chip features 320 Turing Tensor cores and 2,560 CUDA cores.

In addition to the new chip, Nvidia is also launching a refresh of its TensorRT software for optimizing deep learning models. This new version also includes the TensorRT inference server, a fully containerized microservice for data center inferencing that plugs seamlessly into an existing Kubernetes infrastructure.

 

 

Sep
05
2018
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Google adds a bunch of rugged devices to its Android Enterprise Recommended program

Rugged smartphones, the kind of devices that business can give to their employees who work in harsh environments, are a bit of a specialty market. Few consumers, after all, choose their smartphones based on how well they survive six-foot drops. But there is definitely a market there, and IDC currently expects that the market for Android -based rugged devices will grow at 23 percent annually over the next five years.

It’s maybe no surprise that Google is now expanding its Android Enterprise Recommended program to include rugged devices, too. Chances are you’ve never heard of many of the manufacturers in this first batch (or thought of them as smartphone manufacturers): Zebra, Honeywell, Sonim, Point Mobile, Datalogic. Panasonic, which has a long history of building rugged devices, will also soon become part of this program.

The minimum requirements for these devices are pretty straightforward: they have to support Android 7+, offer security updates within 90 days of release from Google and, because they are rugged devices, after all, be certified for ingress protection and rated for drop testing. They’ll also have to support at least one more major OS release.

Today’s launch continues our commitment to improving the enterprise experience for customers,” Google writes in today’s announcement. “We hope these devices will serve existing use cases and also enable companies to pursue new mobility use cases to help them realize their goals.

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