Jun
07
2019
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Google continues to preach multi-cloud approach with Looker acquisition

When Google announced it was buying Looker yesterday morning for $2.6 billion, you couldn’t blame some of the company’s 1,600 customers if they worried a bit if Looker would continue its multi-cloud approach. But Google Cloud chief Thomas Kurian made clear the company will continue to support an open approach to its latest purchase when it joins the fold later this year.

It’s consistent with the messaging from Google Next, the company’s cloud conference in April. It was looking to portray itself as the more open cloud. It was going to be friendlier to open-source projects, running them directly on Google Cloud. It was going to provide a way to manage your workloads wherever they live, with Anthos.

Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says that in a multi-cloud world, Looker represented one of the best choices, and that could be why Google went after it. “Looker’s strengths include its centralized data-modeling and governance, which promotes consistency and reuse. It runs on top of modern cloud databases including Google BigQuery, AWS Redshift and Snowflake,” Wang told TechCrunch. He added, “They wanted to acquire a tool that is as easy to use as Microsoft Power BI and as deep as Tableau.”

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, also sees this deal as part of a consistent multi-cloud message from Google. “I do think it is in alignment with its latest strategy outlined at Google Next. It has talked about rich analytics tools that could pull data from disparate sources,” he said.

Kurian pushing the multi-cloud message

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian, who took over from Diane Greene at the end of last year, was careful to emphasize the company’s commitment to multi-cloud and multi-database support in comments to media and analysts yesterday. “We first want to reiterate, we’re very committed to maintaining local support for other clouds, as well as to serve data from multiple databases because customers want a single analytics foundation for their organization, and they want to be able to in the analytics foundation, look at data from multiple data sources. So we’re very committed to that,” Kurian said yesterday.

From a broader customer perspective, Kurian sees Looker providing customers with a single way to access and visualize data. “One of the things that is challenging for organizations in operationalizing business intelligence, that we feel that Looker has done really well, is it gives you a single place to model your data, define your data definitions — like what’s revenue, who’s a gold customer or how many servers tickets are open — and allows you then to blend data across individual data silos, so that as an organization, you’re working off a consistent set of metrics,” Kurian explained.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Looker CEO Frank Bien sought to ease concerns that the company might move away from the multi-cloud, multi-database support. “For customers and partners, it’s important to know that today’s announcement solidifies ours as well as Google Cloud’s commitment to multi-cloud. Looker customers can expect continuing support of all cloud databases like Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Teradata and more,” Bien wrote in the post.

No antitrust concerns

Kurian also emphasized that this deal shouldn’t attract the attention of antitrust regulators, who have been sniffing around the big tech companies like Google/Alphabet, Apple and Amazon as of late. “We’re not buying any data along with this transaction. So it does not introduce any concentration risk in terms of concentrating data. Secondly, there are a large number of analytic tools in the market. So by just acquiring Looker, we’re not further concentrating the market in any sense. And lastly, all the other cloud players also have their own analytic tools. So it represents a further strengthening of our competitive position relative to the other players in the market,” he explained. Not to mention its pledge to uphold the multi-cloud and multi-database support, which should show it is not doing this strictly to benefit Google or to draw customers specifically to GCP.

Just this week, the company announced a partnership with Snowflake, the cloud data warehouse startup that has raised almost a billion dollars, to run on Google Cloud Platform. It already runs AWS and Microsoft Azure. In fact, Wang suggested that Snowflake could be next on Google’s radar as it tries to build a multi-cloud soup-to-nuts analytics offering.

Regardless, with Looker the company has a data analytics tool to complement its data processing tools, and together the two companies should provide a fairly comprehensive data solution. If they truly keep it multi-cloud, that should keep current customers happy, especially those who work with tools outside of the Google Cloud ecosystem or simply want to maintain their flexibility.

Jun
05
2019
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Google Cloud gets capacity reservations, extends committed use discounts beyond CPUs

Google Cloud made two significant pricing announcements today. Those, you’ll surely be sad to hear, don’t involve the usual price drops for compute and storage. Instead, Google Cloud today announced that it is extending its committed-use discounts, which give you a significant discount when you commit to using a certain number of resources for one or three years, to GPUs, Cloud TPU Pods and local SSDs. In return for locking yourself into a long-term plan, you can get discounts of 55% off on-demand prices.

In addition, Google is launching a capacity reservation system for Compute Engine that allows users to reserve resources in a specific zone for later use to ensure that they have guaranteed access to these resources when needed.

At first glance, capacity reservations may seem like a weird concept in the cloud. The promise of cloud computing, after all, is that you can just spin machines up and down at will — and never really have to think about availability.

So why launch a reservation system? “This is ideal for use cases like disaster recovery or peace of mind, so a customer knows that they have some extra resources, but also for retail events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” Google senior product manager Manish Dalwadi told me.

These users want to have absolute certainty that when they need the resources, they will be available to them. And while many of us think of the large clouds as having a virtually infinite amount of virtual machines available at any time, some machine types may occasionally only be available in a different availability zone, for example, that is not the same zone as where the rest of your compute resources are.

Users can create or delete reservations at any time and any existing discounts — including sustained use discounts and committed use discounts — will be applied automatically.

As for committed-use discounts, it’s worth noting that Google always took a pretty flexible approach to this. Users don’t have to commit to using a specific machine type for three years, for example. Instead, they commit to using a specific number of CPU cores and memory, for example.

“What we heard from customers was that other commit models are just too inflexible and their utilization rates were very low, like 70, 60% utilization,” Google product director Paul Nash told me. “So one of our design goals with committed-use discounts was to figure out how we could provide something that gives us the capacity planning signal that we need, provides the same amount of discounts that we want to pass on to customers, but do it in a way that customers actually feel like they are getting a great deal and so that they don’t have to hyper-manage these things in order to get the most out of them.”

Both the extended committed-use discounts and the new capacity reservation system for Compute Engine resources are now live in the Google Cloud.

Apr
17
2019
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Google Cloud brings on 27-year SAP veteran as it doubles down on enterprise adoption

Thomas Kurian, the newly minted CEO of Google Cloud, used the company’s Cloud Next conference last week to lay out his vision for the future of Google’s cloud computing platform. That vision involves, in part, a hiring spree to give businesses that want to work with Google more people to talk to and get help from. Unsurprisingly, Kurian is also looking to put his stamp on the executive team, too, and today announced that former SAP executive Robert Enslin is joining Google Cloud as its new president of Global Customer Operations.

Enslin’s hire is another clear signal that Kurian is focused on enterprise customers. Enslin, after all, is a veteran of the enterprise business, with 27 years at SAP, where he served on the company’s executive board until he announced his resignation from the company earlier this month. After leading various parts of SAP, including as president of its cloud product portfolio, president of SAP North America and CEO of SAP Japan, Enslin announced that he had “a few more aspirations to fulfill.” Those aspirations, we now know, include helping Google Cloud expand its lineup of enterprise customers.

“Rob brings great international experience to his role having worked in South Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States—this global perspective will be invaluable as we expand Google Cloud into established industries and growth markets around the world,” Kurian writes in today’s announcement.

For the last two years, Google Cloud already had a president of Global Customer Operations, though, in the form of Paul-Henri Ferrand, a former Dell exec who was brought on by Google Cloud’s former CEO Diane Greene . Kurian says that Ferrand “has decided to take on a new challenge within Google.”

Apr
10
2019
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Daily Crunch: Meet the new CEO of Google Cloud

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Google Cloud’s new CEO on gaining customers, startups, supporting open source and more

Thomas Kurian, who came to Google Cloud after 22 years at Oracle, said the team is rolling out new contracts and plans to simplify pricing.

Most importantly, though, Google will go on a hiring spree: “A number of customers told us ‘we just need more people from you to help us.’ So that’s what we’ll do.”

2. Walmart to expand in-store tech, including Pickup Towers for online orders and robots

Walmart is doubling down on technology in its brick-and-mortar stores in an effort to better compete with Amazon. The retailer says it will add to its U.S. stores 1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners, 300 more shelf scanners, 1,200 more FAST Unloaders and 900 new Pickup Towers.

3. Udacity restructures operations, lays off 20 percent of its workforce

The objective is to do more than simply keep the company afloat, according to co-founder Sebastian Thrun. Instead, Thrun says these measures will allow Udacity to move from a money-losing operation to a “break-even or profitable company by next quarter and then moving forward.”

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

4. The government is about to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic filing system

That’s right, members of Congress are working to prohibit a branch of the federal government from providing a much-needed service that would make the lives of all of their constituents much easier.

5. Here’s the first image of a black hole

Say hello to the black hole deep inside the Messier 87, a galaxy located in the Virgo cluster some 55 million light years away.

6. Movo grabs $22.5M to get more cities in LatAm scooting

The Spanish startup targets cities in its home market and in markets across Latin America, offering last-mile mobility via rentable electric scooters.

7. Uber, Lyft and the challenge of transportation startup profits

An article arguing that everything you know about the cost of transportation is wrong. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Apr
10
2019
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Google makes the power of BigQuery available in Sheets

Google today announced a new service that makes the power of BigQuery, its analytics data warehouse, available in Sheets, its web-based spreadsheet tool. These so-called “connected sheets” face none of the usual limitations of Google’s regular spreadsheets, meaning there are no row limits, for example. Instead, users can take a massive data set from BigQuery, with potentially billions of rows, and turn it into a pivot table.

The idea here, is to enable virtually anybody to make use of all the data that is stored in BigQuery. That’s because from the user’s perspective, this new kind of table is simply a spreadsheet, with all of the usual functionality you’d expect from a spreadsheet. With this, Sheets becomes a front end for BigQuery — and virtually any business user knows how to use a spreadsheet.

This also means you can use all of the usual visualization tools in Sheets and share your data with others in your organization.

“Connected sheets are helping us democratize data,” says Nikunj Shanti, chief product officer at AirAsia. “Analysts and business users are able to create pivots or charts, leveraging their existing skills on massive data sets, without needing SQL. This direct access to the underlying data in BigQuery provides access to the most granular data available for analysis. It’s a game changer for AirAsia.”

The beta of connected sheets should go live within the next few months.

In this context, it’s worth mentioning that Google also today announced the beta launch of BigQuery BI Engine, a new service for business users that connects BigQuery with Google Data Studio for building interactive dashboards and reports. This service, too, is available in Google Data Studio today and will also become available through third-party services like Tableau and Looker in the next few months.

“With BigQuery BI Engine behind the scenes, we’re able to gain deep insights very quickly in Data Studio,” says Rolf Seegelken, senior data analyst at Zalando. “The performance of even our most computationally intensive dashboards has sped up to the point where response times are now less than a second. Nothing beats ‘instant’ in today’s age, to keep our teams engaged in the data!”

Apr
09
2019
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Google Cloud’s new CEO on gaining customers, startups, supporting open source and more

After Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud’s recently minted CEO, joined the company, he took hundreds of meetings to learn what the company’s prospective and current customers were looking for. The overarching theme of those conversations was always similar, he told me during an interview at Google’s Cloud Next conference: “Love the technology — amazed at it. [They] think that it’s the best of the best. But they want more people that can help them adopt it and improvements to how they do business with us.”

So that’s the first order of business at Google Cloud now. Kurian, who came to Google Cloud after 22 years at Oracle, said that the team is rolling out new contracts and plans to simplify pricing. Most importantly, though, Google will go on a hiring spree. “A number of customers told us ‘we just need more people from you to help us.’ So that’s what we’ll do,” Kurian said.

I asked Kurian whether he believes that his predecessors made a mistake by not doing all of this already. Always the diplomat, Kurian denied that (of course). “No, I think it’s just the natural evolution of every company. Growing up, understanding their business, seeing an opportunity,” he said. “When I look at it, isn’t it a great position to be in? When you have customers saying ‘please hire more people to help me’ rather than ‘please go away from me?’ ”

Enterprises want Google to figure out the enterprise, Kurian argues, because they want to use the company’s technology. “And so we’re trying to do that.”

No matter what he thinks about Diane Greene’s tenure at Google Cloud, though, Kurian undoubtedly has the opportunity to reshape the organization now. When I asked him about how his own philosophy is different from his predecessor, though, he argued that it’s all about listening to customers and giving them what they want. And what they want is more help, but also better collaboration tools, for example, as well as more industry-specific solutions.

Later on, though, he also noted that what Google Cloud will do going forward is to play to its strengths. “I think you will see us emphasizing our differentiators and strengthening the multi-cloud infrastructure,” he said, and highlighted today’s launch of Anthos as an example of what the company can do — and as a product that was developed in response to customer requests. “We’ve taken the area of security. We’ve taken the area of analytics. We’ve taken the area of AI — and we’ve invested a lot more in solutions there. And the reason is, that’s what customers want from us,” he added

It’s no secret that Google is definitely focusing on bringing more enterprises onto its platform. That’s not to say that Google Cloud doesn’t care about startups, though. “When we say we’re focused on enterprise, it doesn’t mean we’re stopping to focus on the small and medium companies — on the digital natives and the startups,” Kurian said. “Historically, the complaint has always been ‘Google doesn’t focus on enterprises, they focus on digital natives. […] The perception outside that Google doesn’t care about enterprises is not true. And the statement that we’re now going to focus exclusively on enterprises is also not true.”

Kurian argues that nine of the 10 largest media companies use Google Cloud, as well as seven of the 10 largest retailers and six of the top 10 enterprise companies. “Other cloud providers would have you believe that no one is using Google, which is not true,” he added.

Talking about other cloud providers, it’s also worth noting that Google is taking a very different approach to open source than some of its competitors, and especially AWS. That’s something that isn’t likely to change under Kurian’s leadership at Google Cloud. “The most important thing is that we believe that the platforms that win in the end are those that enable rather than destroy ecosystems. We really fundamentally believe that,” he told me. “Any platform that wins in the end is always about fostering rather than shutting down an ecosystem. If you look at open-source companies, we think they work hard to build technology and enable developers to use it.”

Kurian isn’t the kind of CEO who will directly attack his competitors in an interview, but he did come rather close to it in this context: “In order to sustain the company behind the open-source technology, they need a monetization vehicle. If the cloud provider attacks them and takes that away, then they are not viable and it deteriorates the open-source community.”

As for the future of Google Cloud, Kurian didn’t quite want to look at his crystal ball. Instead, he argued that as long as the company focuses on doing what its customers want — starting with hiring more employees to help those customers and making it easier to do business with Google — those customers will buy a lot more of their cloud technology from Google.

Apr
09
2019
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Talk key takeaways from Google Cloud Next with TechCrunch writers

Google’s Cloud Next conference is taking over the Moscone Center in San Francisco this week and TechCrunch is on the scene covering all the latest announcements.

Google Cloud already powers some of the world’s premier companies and startups, and now it’s poised to put even more pressure on cloud competitors like AWS with its newly-released products and services. TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois will be on the ground at the event, and Ron Miller will be covering from afar. Thursday at 10:00 am PT, Frederic and Ron will be sharing what they saw and what it all means with Extra Crunch members on a conference call.

Tune in to dig into what happened onstage and off and ask Frederic and Ron any and all things cloud or enterprise.

To listen to this and all future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free.

Apr
09
2019
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Watch Google Cloud Next developer conference live right here

If you can’t stop dreaming about NoSQL databases, Google’s Cloud Next conference is the closest thing to heaven that you’ll find today. At 9 AM PT, 12 PM ET, 5 PM GMT, some of the brightest minds in cloud computing are going to introduce the upcoming features of Google Cloud.

Along with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, Google is building the infrastructure of the web. Countless startups use Google Cloud as their only hosting provider. And there are now more and more specialized and niche services launching. So it’s going to be interesting to see what Google has in store to beat their competitors on the cloud front.

We’ll have a team on the ground covering all the announcements and explaining what it means.

Feb
06
2019
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Google doubles down on its Asylo confidential computing framework

Last May, Google introduced Asylo, an open-source framework for confidential computing, a technique favored by many of the big cloud vendors because it allows you to set up trusted execution environments that are shielded from the rest of the (potentially untrusted) system. Workloads and their data basically sit in a trusted enclave that adds another layer of protection against network and operating system vulnerabilities.

That’s not a new concept, but, as Google argues, it has been hard to adopt. “Despite this promise, the adoption of this emerging technology has been hampered by dependence on specific hardware, complexity and the lack of an application development tool to run in confidential computing environments,” Google Cloud Engineering Director Jason Garms and Senior Product Manager Nelly Porter write in a blog post today. The promise of the Asylo framework, as you can probably guess, is to make confidential computing easy.

Asylo makes it easier to build applications that can run in these enclaves and can use various software- and hardware-based security back ends like Intel’s SGX and others. Once an app has been ported to support Asylo, you should also be able to take that code with you and run it on any other Asylo-supported enclave.

Right now, though, many of these technologies and practices around confidential computing remain in flux. Google notes there are no set design patterns for building applications that then use the Asylo API and run in these enclaves, for example.The different hardware manufacturers also don’t necessarily work together to ensure their technologies are interoperable.

“Together with the industry, we can work toward more transparent and interoperable services to support confidential computing apps, for example, making it easy to understand and verify attestation claims, inter-enclave communication protocols, and federated identity systems across enclaves,” write Garms and Porter.

And to do that, Google is launching its Confidential Computing Challenge (C3) today. The idea here is to have developers create novel use cases for confidential computing — or to advance the current state of the technologies. If you do that and win, you’ll get $15,000 in cash, $5,000 in Google Cloud Platform credits and an undisclosed hardware gift (a Pixelbook or Pixel phone, if I had to guess).

In addition, Google now also offers developers three hands-on labs that teach how to build apps using Asylo’s tools. Those are free for the first month if you use the code in Google’s blog post.

Jan
31
2019
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Google’s Cloud Firestore NoSQL database hits general availability

Google today announced that Cloud Firestore, its serverless NoSQL document database for mobile, web and IoT apps, is now generally available. In addition, Google is also introducing a few new features and bringing the service to 10 new regions.

With this launch, Google is giving developers the option to run their databases in a single region. During the beta, developers had to use multi-region instances, and, while that obviously has some advantages with regard to resilience, it’s also more expensive and not every app needs to run in multiple regions.

“Some people don’t need the added reliability and durability of a multi-region application,” Google product manager Dan McGrath told me. “So for them, having a more cost-effective regional instance is very attractive, as well as data locality and being able to place a Cloud Firestore database as close as possible to their user base.”

The new regional instance pricing is up to 50 percent cheaper than the current multi-cloud instance prices. Which solution you pick does influence the SLA guarantee Google gives you, though. While the regional instances are still replicated within multiple zones inside the region, all of the data is still within a limited geographic area. Hence, Google promises 99.999 percent availability for multi-region instances and 99.99 percent availability for regional instances.

And talking about regions, Cloud Firestore is now available in 10 new regions around the world. Firestore launched with a single location when it launched and added two more during the beta. With this, Firestore is now available in 13 locations (including the North America and Europe multi-region offerings). McGrath tells me Google is still in the planning stage for deciding the next phase of locations, but he stressed that the current set provides pretty good coverage across the globe.

Also new in this release is deeper integration with Stackdriver, the Google Cloud monitoring service, which can now monitor read, write and delete operations in near-real time. McGrath also noted that Google plans to add the ability to query documents across collections and increment database values without needing a transaction.

It’s worth noting that while Cloud Firestore falls under the Google Firebase brand, which typically focuses on mobile developers, Firestore offers all of the usual client-side libraries for Compute Engine or Kubernetes Engine applications, too.

“If you’re looking for a more traditional NoSQL document database, then Cloud Firestore gives you a great solution that has all the benefits of not needing to manage the database at all,” McGrath said. “And then, through the Firebase SDK, you can use it as a more comprehensive back-end as a service that takes care of things like authentication for you.”

One of the advantages of Firestore is that it has extensive offline support, which makes it ideal for mobile developers but also IoT solutions. Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that Google is positioning it as a tool for both Google Cloud and Firebase users.

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