Google continues New Zealand investment with Auckland office and engineering team

Zach Marzouk

29 Jul, 2021

Google has opened a new Google Cloud Dedicated Interconnect location in New Zealand as part of its new investment in the region.

Based in Auckland, the site will also create new engineering roles that will contribute to some of the research and development work being done by Google, as well as work with local institutions to raise the importance of machine learning and AI in the country’s tech landscape.

Google is investing in expanded cloud infrastructure in response to local customer demand, which includes the Google Cloud Dedicated Interconnect location that connects the country to the company’s private secure network. This will ensure customer data “never traverses the public internet”, according to the firm.

Google also hopes that this, along with the new Google Cloud region in Melbourne, will “deliver geographically distributed and secure infrastructure to customers across New Zealand”.

“As we approach 15 years on the ground here our new home will foster the creativity and collaboration that inspires the team to use innovation and technology to solve problems for Kiwi businesses, schools, teachers, communities and more,” said Caroline Rainsford, Google New Zealand country director. “As New Zealand moves through the next phase of economic recovery we’ll continue to find ways to bring the best of Google to Aotearoa.”

A new office is set to accompany the Dedicated Interconnect site, described as a “uniquely-Google space” containing “an experiential ceiling, kayaks for a reception desk, a cafe that takes its likeness from a chilly bin and an event space where the Google team plan to host business leaders, technologists and the wider community over the coming years”. 

The office, which will accommodate around 50 employees from Auckland and Wellington, is also designed to suit Google’s new hybrid approach to work.

Google’s SVP of cloud infrastructure Urs Hölzle, who recently announced he would move to New Zealand to work remotely from the country, said that the Dedicated Cloud Interconnect would “hardwire” New Zealand into the company’s global infrastructure backbone.

He added that “Kiwi organisations of all sizes will benefit from the speed, scalability and security of our expanded Cloud region footprint in AUNZ as they continue to drive their digital transformation agenda”.

Google Cloud also announced yesterday it was opening a new cloud region in Melbourne, the firm’s second region in Australia and 11th in APAC overall. The company said its cloud customers operating in Australia and New Zealand would benefit from low latency and high performance of their cloud-based workloads and data thanks to the new initiative.

Google Cloud to open new region in Melbourne

Zach Marzouk

28 Jul, 2021

Google Cloud is set to open a new cloud region in Melbourne, which will be the firm’s second region in Australia and its 11th in the APAC region overall.

The tech giant revealed that Melbourne joins the existing 26 Google Cloud regions worldwide connected via its high-performance network.

“With this our second region in Australia, customers benefit from improved business continuity planning with distributed, secure infrastructure needed to meet IT and business requirements for disaster recovery, all the while maintaining data sovereignty in-country,” said Alister Dias, Google Cloud vice president of Australia & New Zealand.

The company stated that its cloud customers operating in Australia and New Zealand will benefit from low latency and high performance of their cloud-based workloads and data. 

Furthermore, the region opens with three zones to protect against service disruptions and offers a portfolio of key products like Google Kubernetes Engine, Cloud Spanner, and Compute Engine.

Google Cloud stated that it will continue to invest in expanding connectivity across Australia and New Zealand by working with partners to establish subsea cables and new Dedicated Cloud Interconnect locations and points of presence in major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Auckland.

This aims to deliver geographically distributed and secure infrastructure to customers across the region, which it said is especially important for those in regulated industries like Financial Services and the Public Sector.

Earlier this month, Google Cloud opened its second region in India in Delhi, four years after the launch of its Mumbai cloud region in 2017. The company said this new region would better support customers and the public sector in India and across the Asia Pacific. 

Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud CEO, said that the company had seen “enormous growth in demand for Google Cloud services in India” so wanted to be able to offer more capacity with the new region. He called it a “large commitment” from Google Cloud in terms of capital and infrastructure investment and was designed to allow the company to capture the opportunity it sees around growth.

Amazon to retire iconic EC2 cloud service

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

29 Jul, 2021

AWS has announced that it’s retiring its flagship Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) platform after 15 years in operation, with customers given until 2022 to migrate their services to its successor.

EC2-Classic, widely considered a foundational cloud computing technology, was launched in 2006 as a virtual computing environment that organisations could use to host scalable applications. These ‘instances’ provided layers of security, different hardware configurations, as well as pre-configured templates.

This technology was eclipsed with the launch of AWS’ Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) platform in 2009, which serve as virtual networks of isolated EC2 instances. It was again followed by the launch of Virtual Private Clouds for Everyone in 2013.

AWS has now decided to retire EC2-Classic, giving customers two years to complete all migrations away from the older technology and towards VPC.

“EC2-Classic has served us well, but we’re going to give it a gold watch and a well-deserved sendoff,” said chief evangelist for AWS, Jeff Barr, in an in-depth blog post.

“We are not planning to disrupt any workloads and we are giving you plenty of lead time so that you can plan, test, and perform your migration. In addition to this blog post, we have tools, documentation, and people that are all designed to help.”

When is AWS retiring EC2-Classic?

AWS has begun notifying all current EC2-Classic customers through their account teams, and will soon begin issuing notices in the Personal Health Dashboard.

From 30 October 2021, AWS will disable EC2-Classic in Regions for AWS accounts that have no active EC2-Classic resources in the Region. The firm will also stop selling one-year and three-year Reserved Instances for EC2-Classic.

Then, from 15 August 2022, AWS expects all migrations to be complete, with no remaining EC2-Classic resources present in any AWS account.

All AWS accounts created after 4 December 2013 were already VPC-only, unless EC2-Classic was enabled as a result of a support request, meaning the change is likely only to affect longstanding AWS customers.

How to migrate from EC2-Classic to VPC

Although AWS will notify customers they will need to migrate, there are several steps that businesses running EC2-Classic instances will need to take. To prepare, ahead of any migration, the firm has put together guidance available on the AWS site.

To fully migrate, customers need to find, examine, and migrate several resources. These comprise running or stopped EC2 instances, running or stopped RDS database instances, Elastic IP addresses, Classic Load Balances, Redshift clusters, Elastic Beanstalk environments, EMR clusters, AWS Data Pipelines, ElastiCache clusters, Reserved Instances, Spot Requests, and Capacity Reservations.

Customers may also need to create, or recreate if deleted, the default VPC for their account. In some cases, they’ll need to be able to modify the existing resources, but in other cases, customers will need to create new and equivalent resources in VPC.

The task may seem daunting, but AWS has launched the EC2 Classic Resource Finder script so customers can find all EC2-Classic resources in their accounts. This can either be run directly in a single AWS account or can be used against all accounts within an organisation.

Customers, at this stage, can use a variety of migration tools that AWS has developed including AWS Application Migration Service, Support Automation Workflow, IP Address Migration, and Class Load Balancers.

Comprehensive support is available through Barr’s post hosted on the AWS site, including a more in-depth overview of each of these migration tools, as well as guidance for updating instance types as businesses move from EC2-Classic to VPC.

HP buys remote software specialist Teradici

Daniel Todd

28 Jul, 2021

HP has announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Teradici, a specialist in remote computing software that enables users to securely access high-performance computing from any PC, Chromebook or tablet. 

The tech giant says the purchase will enhance its capabilities in the Personal Systems category, helping it to deliver new compute models and services tailored for hybrid work. 

“Teradici’s cutting-edge technology has long been at the forefront of secure, high-performance virtual computing,” commented Alex Cho, president of Personal Systems at HP. 

“Their world-class talent, industry-leading IP, and strong integrations with all major public cloud providers will expand our addressable market, and meet growing customer needs for more mobile, flexible, and secure computing solutions. We look forward to welcoming the Teradici team to HP.”

HP will pair the new acquisition with its ZCentral Remote Boost software, which is designed to provide remote access to physical workstations. The idea it is to enable remote and hybrid work for professionals that require high-performance computing – such as engineers, animators and editors. 

Teradici’s Cloud Access Software (CAS) leverages the firm’s PC-over-IP (PCoIP) protocol to deliver high performance, security and deployment flexibility to more than 15 million users around the world.

With Teradici’s focus on cloud PCs and virtual workstations, HP said the new combined offering will enable it to offer a broader remote compute platform that spans on-premise and cloud solutions from any type of device – including macOS, public clouds, as well as iPadOS and Android tablets. 

The transaction is expected to be finalised in Q4 2021, subject to regulatory review and customary closing conditions.

“We have long admired HP as one of the world’s most innovative technology companies and we are thrilled to be joining the team,” said David Smith, Teradici CEO. 

“HP’s strong culture of innovation, customer-centricity and corporate values aligns extremely well with our mission at Teradici and this deal will significantly expand our global reach and drive new sources of innovation.”

Apple, Google and Microsoft report record-breaking profits

Bobby Hellard

28 Jul, 2021

Apple, Google and Microsoft all broke quarterly profit records for Q2 2021 as the tech sector continues to grow amid the COVID pandemic.

Increased cloud adoption, internet usage and the success of the latest iPhone have helped to strengthen the stock performance of three of the world’s biggest companies – two of which have reached a market valuation of $2 trillion during the pandemic. 

Apple: iPhone 12 success

Apple, the first company to be valued at $2 trillion, posted revenues of $81.4 (£58.5 billion) billion for the quarter ending June 26, an increase of 36% year-on-year.

This is largely down to the success of the iPhone 12 range, with sales up 50% at $39 billion. There were some reports earlier in the year that the iPhone mini hadn’t done as well as expected, but the standard and Pro Max versions of the handset have proved extremely popular. 

However, there are some concerns that this hot streak will be curtailed by the ongoing chip shortage, which has beset other sectors, such as the automotive industry. Apple itself is wary of the issue, pointing out that it has already started to affect its ability to produce Macs and iPads and could eventually affect its iPhone production; the firm even forecasted slowing revenue growth for the rest of 2021. 

Google: YouTube, search and cloud growth

Google parent company Alphabet reported second-quarter earnings of $61.8 billion (£44.5 billion), a 62% increase year on year, with advertising revenues up 69%. The biggest increase, however, came from search which has shot up $14 billion since the same period last year at $35.8 billion. Many of its segments saw double-digit growth, like YouTube advertising, which brought in revenues near $7 billion, almost twice the $3.8 billion it generated last year. 

The only real negative for Google was its cloud division, which continues to operate at a loss with $591 million written off in Q2. However, Google Cloud is still the fastest-growing segment of Alphabet’s overall business with revenues of $4.6 billion, up from $3 billion last year. 

Microsoft: Saved by the cloud

Microsoft pulled in revenues of $46.2 billion (£33 billion), up 21% year on year, but it wasn’t all rosy for the Redmond tech giant. While the chip shortage is expected to hamper iPhone sales in the near future, it has already started to impact Microsoft’s Windows and hardware segments, such as Surface laptops. Windows OEM revenue declined by 3% in Q2 and Surface sales dropped 20%, both of which were attributed to “supply chain constraints”. 

The company was still able to post record-breaking quarterly profits though, thanks to its commercial products and cloud services which increased 20%. This is the part of the business that includes its Azure cloud platform, but also Microsoft 365, which saw subscribers increase to 51.9 million – a 22% increase year on year. 

Box launches free e-signature tool for all customers

Bobby Hellard

27 Jul, 2021

Box has launched a new e-signature function as a free addition to its platform that allows users to complete transactions entirely in the cloud.

The company said that ‘Box Sign’, which is available now, will also come with a robust set of application programming interfaces (APIs), which will allow businesses to modernise and manage all their agreements via the cloud.

With businesses transitioning into hybrid environments where employees are separated between the office and the home, Box hopes its new feature can help to streamline its customer experience by removing any need for physical documentation.

“Every day, more transactions are moving from paper-based manual workflows to the cloud, and we will only see this trend accelerate as companies shift to a hybrid work environment,” said Diego Dugatkin, chief product officer at Box.

“With the addition of natively embedded e-signatures, Box customers will be able to manage the entire content lifecycle in the cloud, realising the value of their content – at no additional cost. From the moment a file is created to when it’s shared, edited, published, approved, signed, classified, and retained, the entire content lifecycle can now happen in the Box Content Cloud.”

The ability to sign off documents in the cloud has come from Box’s $55 million acquisition of Dutch startup SignRequest, which was only announced in February of this year. The takeover was seen as a way for Box to muscle in on Dropbox’s territory, with Box Sign touted as the first use case at the time of the deal.

The cloud service has reportedly come under some investor pressure for middling stock performance during the pandemic and there were even suggestions that the company’s leadership were considering a sale and had held talks with potential buyers.

Box was thought to be well placed to grow during the pandemic and, while it has benefited from the shift to working from home over the last 12 months, its growth has been far lower than rival cloud businesses.

Google Cloud seeks to abandon its ‘Killed By Google’ reputation

Sabina Weston

27 Jul, 2021

Google Cloud is looking to turn around the tech giant’s reputation for sunsetting legacy tools despite their popularity among customers.

This is according to statements made by Google Cloud VP Kripa Krishnan, who told Business Insider that the company will be readjusting its approach towards killing off products:

“We want Google Cloud to be something stable that customers can rely on for a long-term time,” she told the publication on Monday, adding that the company was “obviously (…) not doing the right thing” by sunsetting fan favourites such as Picasa and Reader or even the less popular Google+.

“What we were doing was clearly not working. We are trying to address that head on,” said Krishnan, who leads Google’s Technical Infrastructure team.

The decision to address Google’s poor reputation was prompted by “Killed By Google” – a satirical website and Twitter account run by software engineer Cody Ogden, who keeps track of all the tools Google has decided to shutdown.

Google’s new approach now includes a new policy of notifying customers at least one year in advance that a product will be killed off, excluding instances of an intractable security bug or intellectual property issues.

However, even in these cases, the company will “do everything possible to make migration as effortless as possible for customers”.

“If we need to make a breaking change, we will make sure the burden is on us,” she said.

According to Krishnan, Google Cloud will try to win back the trust of developers by being more supportive of customer needs and “not just announce something”.

“My intent is we don’t have these issues going forward,” she said.

Krishnan’s announcement comes months after Google killed off Cloud Print, its cloud-based printing solution, without providing users with a clear reason for the closure. Last year, the tech giant also unceremoniously abandoned Hangouts, its most popular messaging app, with only a few weeks notice.

Despite this, Krishnan insisted that Google “already [has] dependability and reliability”.

“We just want to make sure we extend it to its fullest extent possible in Google Cloud,” she added.

Rackspace to lay off 10% of workforce

Sabina Weston

26 Jul, 2021

Rackspace Technology plans to lay off 10% of its workforce, with 85% of these roles set to be replaced through its offshore service centres.

That’s according to a regulatory filing submitted by the cloud computing services provider last week, informing the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US market regulator, of its plans.

The document states that on 21 July, Rackspace “committed to an internal restructuring plan, which will drive a change in the types of and location of certain positions and is expected to result in the termination of approximately 10% of the Company’s workforce”.

“The Company anticipates that approximately 85% of these roles will be backfilled in the Company’s offshore service centres,” it added. The affected employees were notified of the decision on the same day, and are expected to leave Rackspace over the next 12 months. The restructuring means that the company will spend between $70 and $80 million (£50-58 million) over the next 12-24 months on “severance payments, healthcare benefits and other exit costs”.

Rackspace will instead focus on “expanding its internal training programme to further develop expertise in cloud services”, such as cloud, data, and cloud native software engineering.

In another regulatory filing, the San Antonio, Texas-based cloud computing company also stated that it’s planning to invest between $65 and $70 million (£47-50 million) in expanding its offerings in areas including “cloud migration, Elastic Engineering, cloud native application development, data/artificial intelligence/machine learning and security services”.

The investments are expected to deliver the company “an estimated $95-$100 million of gross cost savings”.

Commenting on the decision, Rackspace CEO Kevin Jones said that the initiatives will allow the company “to take full advantage of current market trends, drive significant earnings leverage as revenue continues to grow, and compete even more effectively with other cloud service providers”. 

“In addition, we are more closely aligning our Rackers with next-generation service offerings that offer more compelling growth potential both for them and the company,” he added.

Besides its offices in Texas, New Jersey, California, Virginia in the US, Rackspace also has two facilities in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. IT Pro reached out to find out which out of these offices will be affected by the job cuts but the company has yet to respond. 

Salesforce’s $28bn Slack acquisition: What’s next for workplace collaboration?

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

22 Jul, 2021

Despite the eye-watering $27.7 billion (roughly £20.2 billion) fee involved, nobody raised an eyebrow at Salesforce’s acquisition of the workplace collaboration platform Slack in December 2020. Workplace collaboration is all the rage – especially following the pandemic – with several entities hoping to capitalise on the changing world of work, including Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace, and even Citrix, with its multi-billion-dollar Wrike acquisition.

Slack has long been one of the biggest names on the scene, although its early dominance was dwarfed by the emergence of Teams, which surged in popularity thanks to its capacity to tap into the ubiquity of Microsoft products.

With US antitrust regulators clearing the $27.7 billion deal this week – one of the biggest acquisitions in tech history – Salesforce is now free to position Slack as a much stronger challenger.

The CRM giant will also have been buoyed by a 36% surge in year-on-year revenue for the first quarter of the year, with Slack adding 13,000 more paid customers too, taking its total to 169,000. With late-2020 stagnation firmly in the rearview mirror, this is the sort of momentum Salesforce hopes to build on, as it eyes up expanding on cross-business collaboration and undergoing a fundamental rewiring of the nature of work.

Better connected

There were fears in December that Salesforce muscling its way into operations would spell the end for Slack as we knew it. Much of Salesforce’s rhetoric over subsequent months, however, seemed to align well with Slack’s existing plans; namely devising a means to replace email entirely in light of a longstanding antagonism to the legacy system.

Launched last June, Slack Connect is a way for organisations to add up to 20 others into a single Slack channel, allowing businesses to migrate supply chains and external ecosystems into a single hub. It was seen as a smart move – after all, what more proof might you need that you’re onto something when Microsoft Teams launches an effective carbon copy feature? Salesforce sees this tool as the foundation for building on its vision for a ‘digital HQ’ that allows businesses to collaborate across the virtual borders traditionally established between companies.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Slack as part of the Salesforce family, combining the #1 CRM and the trailblazing digital platform for the work anywhere world,” Marc Benioff, chair and CEO of Salesforce, said after the deal cleared. “Together we’ll define the future of enterprise software, creating the digital HQ that enables every organisation to deliver customer and employee success from anywhere.”

Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack, and Salesforce president Bret Taylor added in an interview with Reuters that this merger is an opportunity to connect customers to smoothen the process of making business deals. Slack channels, for example, can be recreated to replace all emails, phone calls, and video conferences that might otherwise occur between, say, a sales team doing a deal with a procurement team at another company. Slack’s growing list of integrations also means that documents from third-party platforms such as Google Drive can be signed with services like DocuSign.

Reimagining the workplace

With this acquisition closing, Salesforce has been keen to push the idea of a ‘digital HQ’, which is very much an idea born of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies across the world, the firm says, have learned that surviving as a business is incredibly challenging without means to connect with employees, customers, and partners through digital channels. As such, headquarters are no longer physical locations and are instead mostly based in the cloud, with every industry adjusting to a digital-first environment.

Alluding to the fundamental changes we’ve seen throughout the last few months, Butterfield, who will continue to lead Slack, sees the acquisition as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink and reshape everything about how and where we work”. The merger, the firm adds, will create a business operating system for whatever this new world of work is.

Although Salesforce says it’s committed to Slack’s roadmap and vision, with the platform continuing to operate under its own brand, the firm has suggested it will integrate Slack into its Customer 360 platform. Launched in 2018, this tool gives companies the capacity to connect Salesforce apps and create unified customer IDs to build a single view of the customer. It was built on the technology of a previous acquisition, MuleSoft, to allow companies to connect apps, data sources, and devices across any cloud service or on-premise server. Every Salesforce Cloud and industry-specific platform will now be deeply integrated with Slack, with the platform serving as the new interface for Customer 360.

Integrations remain a priority

Part of Salesforce’s mission to make the digital workplace more accessible also involves expanding the integrations and interoperability in Slack. Speaking to Reuters, Butterfield added Slack will continue to integrate with Microsoft, despite an intense rivalry, because that sits in line with the goal of making it easier for employees to get things done.

“What customers want is interoperability. They don’t want to have to make hard choices,” he added. “We’ll integrate with everyone – Microsoft and Salesforce, of course, but also ServiceNow and Workday, and more or less anyone you can think of.”

Given the expansion of remote working, changing workplace culture, as well as digitisation of the workplace, this could be one of the most important acquisitions in tech history in terms of its timing. This period is very much seen as a fresh start for defining the nature of work, and what the workplace means, although it’s not clear how things will settle once the pandemic is well and truly over and businesses embark on their next, more stable, chapter.

For all this talk about reimagining the workplace, a cross-industry disinclination to define what this actually means suggests it’s still very much an unknown quantity. This acquisition, however, might be the right deal at the right time for both Salesforce and Slack to attack this question head-on, and help position them as influential architects of whatever comes next.

Amazon releases trove of Alexa tools to address developer apathy

Bobby Hellard

22 Jul, 2021

Amazon is aiming to re-energise its Alexa voice platform with the release of a trove of new developer tools, announced at its Alexa Live conference on Wednesday.

The company hopes the new tools will help create more variety on the platform and encourage Alexa device owners to discover and engage with more Alexa apps and services, referred to as ‘skills’.

However, the update has come after a significant drop in new skills being developed over the last three years. As of October 2020, total Alexa skills in the UK were 37,000, and 77,000 in the US, according to research from

The findings suggest that in 2019, the rate of new Alexa skills introduced per day in the US was 58% lower than in 2018, with a further decline of 38% in 2020. The rate of new skills per day in the UK was 66% lower in the first three quarters of 2020 compared to the full year 2019.

Part of the problem is that finding new skills is hampered by its voice-only interface – with users being unable to easily see what’s available at a glance. Amazon has attempted to fix this by launching Alexa-enabled devices with smart screens, but with the launch of new tools that help developers better surface their skills to users, the firm clearly feels more could be done.

This includes a new feature that will see Alexa respond to common requests, such as “Alexa, tell me a story” or “Alexa, let’s play a game”, with personalised skill suggestions based on customer use. And a new “contextual discovery” mechanism will allow customers to use natural language and phrases to accomplish tasks across skills.

For users with screen-based devices, the new tools include widgets and Featured Skill Cards for developers to promote their news apps – essentially as a way to make Alexa skills discoverable like apps on a mobile phone. 

Amazon is also improving the ways in which developers can monetise their applications with support for ‘Paid Skills’, and in-skill purchases.