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
10
2019
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What’s left of Google+ is now called Currents

Google+ for consumers is officially dead, but it’s still alive for enterprise users. Only a few days after completely shutting down the public version of Google+, Google today announced that it is giving the enterprise version a new name. It’s now called Currents.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Google once offered another service called Currents, a social magazine app with Google+ integrations that was later replaced by Google Play Newsstand. That history clearly bodes well for the new Currents.

Like before, Google+/Currents is meant to give employees a place to share knowledge and provide them with a place for internal discussions.

Google is probably doing the right thing by completely eliminating the Google+ moniker. The fact that there was still a version of Google+ for the enterprise created a bit of confusion when it announced the shutdown of the consumer version. Maybe this move will also allow the remaining developers on the project to leave the failed legacy of Google+ behind and try something new. As the only focus is now on business users, that should be fairly easy, even though the code base surely still reflects a time when Google’s leadership thought that social search was the future.

Apr
10
2019
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Hangouts Chat is coming to Gmail for G Suite users

The least said about Google’s messaging strategy, the better. But for better or worse, Hangouts Chat and Meet for G Suite, Google’s work-focused text and video chat tools, are here to stay, given that the one area where Google’s messaging strategy is clear is in the enterprise. With the end of the old Hangouts experience drawing nearer, the company today announced it is now essentially replacing classic Hangouts with its business-focused Hangouts Chat tool in Gmail.

That’s a pretty sensible move, and doesn’t come as a major surprise, but this marks the first time that Google has clearly laid out its strategy for how it will replace Hangouts in Gmail for its business users.

The experience, as far as we can tell, will be very similar to the current Hangouts. Unsurprisingly, Hangouts Meet in Gmail will not just feature people, but also rooms and bots, two of the key differentiators between the old and new Hangouts. One difference worth mentioning, though, is that rooms will open into a full-screen experience with threads, which will make for a slightly different experience compared to what you’re probably used to from the classic Hangouts.

For now, this new feature isn’t quite ready to launch yet. Google is asking businesses that want to participate in the beta to register their interest here.

Apr
10
2019
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Google extends its BeyondCorp security model to G Suite

BeyondCorp is Google’s model for securing networks not just through VPNs and other endpoint security techniques, but through a model that focuses on context-aware access policies that focus on the user’s identity, hardware and the context of the request. That has been Google’s internal security policy for a while now and over the last few months, it started bringing it to its own customers, too, starting with its Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy, which is now generally available, and its VPC Service Controls.

Today, the company is extending these context-aware access capabilities to its Cloud Identity user and device management service, as well as G Suite, its productivity suite. So while earlier implementation centered around protecting a company’s technical cloud infrastructure, this release focuses on devices and cloud-based apps like Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets and Calendar.

In this context, some devices, for example, may be more highly trusted because they have been enrolled in the Cloud Identity service and because a number of security policies are in place for it. That’s a different kind of security posture than a system that simply trusts users because they come through a specific VPN.

Context-aware access for G Suite apps is now in beta, but only for customers who subscribe to Cloud Identity Premium, G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education.

With today’s release, Google also announced the BeyondCorp Alliance, which brings together a number of security and management partners. These include Check Point, Lookout, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec and VMware. According to Google, these companies are all working to bring device posture data to Google’s context-aware access engine.

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.

Apr
09
2019
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Google Cloud challenges AWS with new open-source integrations

Google today announced that it has partnered with a number of top open-source data management and analytics companies to integrate their products into its Google Cloud Platform and offer them as managed services operated by its partners. The partners here are Confluent, DataStax, Elastic, InfluxData, MongoDB, Neo4j and Redis Labs.

The idea here, Google says, is to provide users with a seamless user experience and the ability to easily leverage these open-source technologies in Google’s cloud. But there is a lot more at play here, even though Google never quite says so. That’s because Google’s move here is clearly meant to contrast its approach to open-source ecosystems with Amazon’s. It’s no secret that Amazon’s AWS cloud computing platform has a reputation for taking some of the best open-source projects and then forking those and packaging them up under its own brand, often without giving back to the original project. There are some signs that this is changing, but a number of companies have recently taken action and changed their open-source licenses to explicitly prevent this from happening.

That’s where things get interesting, because those companies include Confluent, Elastic, MongoDB, Neo4j and Redis Labs — and those are all partnering with Google on this new project, though it’s worth noting that InfluxData is not taking this new licensing approach and that while DataStax uses lots of open-source technologies, its focus is very much on its enterprise edition.

“As you are aware, there has been a lot of debate in the industry about the best way of delivering these open-source technologies as services in the cloud,” Manvinder Singh, the head of infrastructure partnerships at Google Cloud, said in a press briefing. “Given Google’s DNA and the belief that we have in the open-source model, which is demonstrated by projects like Kubernetes, TensorFlow, Go and so forth, we believe the right way to solve this it to work closely together with companies that have invested their resources in developing these open-source technologies.”

So while AWS takes these projects and then makes them its own, Google has decided to partner with these companies. While Google and its partners declined to comment on the financial arrangements behind these deals, chances are we’re talking about some degree of profit-sharing here.

“Each of the major cloud players is trying to differentiate what it brings to the table for customers, and while we have a strong partnership with Microsoft and Amazon, it’s nice to see that Google has chosen to deepen its partnership with Atlas instead of launching an imitation service,” Sahir Azam, the senior VP of Cloud Products at MongoDB told me. “MongoDB and GCP have been working closely together for years, dating back to the development of Atlas on GCP in early 2017. Over the past two years running Atlas on GCP, our joint teams have developed a strong working relationship and support model for supporting our customers’ mission critical applications.”

As for the actual functionality, the core principle here is that Google will deeply integrate these services into its Cloud Console; for example, similar to what Microsoft did with Databricks on Azure. These will be managed services and Google Cloud will handle the invoicing and the billings will count toward a user’s Google Cloud spending commitments. Support will also run through Google, so users can use a single service to manage and log tickets across all of these services.

Redis Labs CEO and co-founder Ofer Bengal echoed this. “Through this partnership, Redis Labs and Google Cloud are bringing these innovations to enterprise customers, while giving them the choice of where to run their workloads in the cloud, he said. “Customers now have the flexibility to develop applications with Redis Enterprise using the fully integrated managed services on GCP. This will include the ability to manage Redis Enterprise from the GCP console, provisioning, billing, support, and other deep integrations with GCP.”

Apr
09
2019
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Google’s hybrid cloud platform is coming to AWS and Azure

Google’s Cloud Services Platform for managing hybrid clouds that span on-premise data centers and the Google cloud is coming out of beta today. The company is also changing the product’s name to Anthos, a name that either refers to a lost Greek tragedy, the name of an obscure god in the Marvel universe or rosemary. That by itself would be interesting, but minor news. What makes this interesting is that Google also today announced that Anthos will run on third-party clouds, as well, including AWS and Azure.

“We will support Anthos and AWS and Azure as well, so people get one way to manage their application and that one way works across their on-premise environments and all other clouds,” Google’s senior VP for its technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, explained in a press conference ahead of today’s announcement.

So with Anthos, Google will offer a single managed service that will let you manage and deploy workloads across clouds, all without having to worry about the different environments and APIs. That’s a big deal and one that clearly delineates Google’s approach from its competitors’. This is Google, after all, managing your applications for you on AWS and Azure.

“You can use one consistent approach — one open-source based approach — across all environments,” Hölzle said. “I can’t really stress how big a change that is in the industry, because this is really the stack for the next 20 years, meaning that it’s not really about the three different clouds that are all randomly different in small ways. This is the way that makes these three cloud — and actually on-premise environments, too — look the same.”

Anthos/Google Cloud Services Platform is based on the Google Kubernetes Engine, as well as other open-source projects like the Istio service mesh. It’s also hardware agnostic, meaning that users can take their current hardware and run the service on top of that without having to immediately invest in new servers.

Why is Google doing this? “We hear from our customers that multi-cloud and hybrid is really an acute pain point,” Hölzle said. He noted that containers are the enabling technology for this but that few enterprises have developed a unifying strategy to manage these deployments and that it takes expertise in all major clouds to get the most out of them.

Enterprises already have major investments in their infrastructure and created relationships with their vendors, though, so it’s no surprise that Google is launching Anthos with more than 30 major hardware and software partners that range from Cisco to Dell EMC, HPE and VMware, as well as application vendors like Confluent, Datastax, Elastic, Portworx, Tigera, Splunk, GitLab, MongoDB and others.

Robin.io, a data management service that offers a hyper-converged storage platform based on Kubernetes, also tells me that it worked closely with Google to develop the Anthos Storage API. “Robin Storage offers bare metal performance, powerful data management capabilities and Kubernetes-native management to support running enterprise applications on Google Cloud’s Anthos across on-premises data centers and the cloud,” said Premal Buch, CEO of Robin.io.

Anthos is a subscription-based service, with the list prices starting at $10,000/month per 100 vCPU block. Enterprise prices will then be up for negotiation, though, so many customers will likely pay less.

It’s one thing to use a service like this for new applications, but many enterprises already have plenty of line-of-business tools that they would like to bring to the cloud as well. For them, Google is launching the first beta of Anthos Migrate today. This service will auto-migrate VMs from on-premises or other clouds into containers in the Google Kubernetes Engine. The promise here is that this is essentially an automatic process and once the container is on Google’s platform, you’ll be able to use all of the other features that come with the Anthos platform, too.

Google’s Hölzle noted that the emphasis here was on making this migration as easy as possible. “There’s no manual effort there,” he said.

Apr
05
2019
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On balance, the cloud has been a huge boon to startups

Today’s startups have a distinct advantage when it comes to launching a company because of the public cloud. You don’t have to build infrastructure or worry about what happens when you scale too quickly. The cloud vendors take care of all that for you.

But last month when Pinterest announced its IPO, the company’s cloud spend raised eyebrows. You see, the company is spending $750 million a year on cloud services, more specifically to AWS. When your business is primarily focused on photos and video, and needs to scale at a regular basis, that bill is going to be high.

That price tag prompted Erica Joy, a Microsoft engineer to publish this Tweet and start a little internal debate here at TechCrunch. Startups, after all, have a dog in this fight, and it’s worth exploring if the cloud is helping feed the startup ecosystem, or sending your bills soaring as they have with Pinterest.

For starters, it’s worth pointing out that Ms. Joy works for Microsoft, which just happens to be a primary competitor of Amazon’s in the cloud business. Regardless of her personal feelings on the matter, I’m sure Microsoft would be more than happy to take over that $750 million bill from Amazon. It’s a nice chunk of business, but all that aside, do startups benefit from having access to cloud vendors?

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