Category Archives: Google

Cloud War: Will Google Overtake AWS?

Cloud war is heating up, as the top player vie with each other to garner more market share and revenue in an ever-growing market environment. As more individuals and companies take to the cloud to make the most of what it has to offer, the top four players, namely Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, IBM and Google are competing with each other to offer the best services at the lowest possible rates.

The very idea of this cloud war is to ensure that one company stays on top of others when it comes to market share and revenue. Currently, AWS is the king as its revenue and market share is way more than that of Microsoft, IBM and Google. But that doesn’t mean that the others can catch up.

In fact, Google is going all out to beat AWS, IBM and Microsoft to get to the top in this cloud war. After Diane Greene took over as the head of this divisions, Google has made rapid strides in this regard. It has introduced many new products, slashed its prices heavily and has even entered into lucrative partnerships with organizations around the world – all in a bid to increase its market reach.

The latest effort in this regard is the prominent role that Google wants to play in the entertainment industry. Tariq Shaukat, a president in Google’s cloud division is one of the keynote speakers at the National Association of Broadcasters show that is happening in Las Vegas. This platform is expected to give Google and its parent company, Alphabet, a wide audience in the media and entertainment industry.

Shaukat is expected to talk about the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and how it can provide the media and entertainment industry with all that it wants to increase their revenue and make their operations more efficient. He is also expected to help this industry make the most of what one of the top tech companies in the world has to offer.

One of the products that Google plans to showcase is Zync, that can enable bandwidth-intensive projects to be rendered at high speeds. Anything ranging from virtual reality to animated TV shows can be hosted on this product, and this is precisely why Google thinks the entertainment industry platform is a good place to talk about it.

These efforts are towards a larger goal, which is to become the top cloud provider soon. In an interview to Forbes, Greene has said that there is a good chance for Google to become the number one cloud provider in five years because it is taking all out effort to make the most of every platform and opportunity.

In March of 2016, Google already announced that it was going to pour in billions of dollars into its cloud business as that’s going to be one of the key revenue drivers in the future. This also explains why it’s planning to increase the number of data centers from three to 15, by the end of 2017.

Will Google surpass AWS in five years and emerge as the winner in this cloud war? Possibilities are there, but time will tell.

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Happy Earth Day!

Jump-start your Earth Day efforts with properly recycling your electronics AKA e-cycling! It’s incredibly easy to think environmentally responsible when it comes to your electronics. We’re happy to encourage and inform others about how-to dispose of your electronics in an environmentally safe fashion: Here is your Earth Day How-To: Most Important rule of e-cycling: Do […]

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Google Brings Federated Learning to Android

Personalization has become a key aspect in today’s world. From a business perspective, the level of personalization that a particular tool or technology offers determines its usability, and in many ways, its popularity too.

No one understands this better than Google. In fact, Google is only company that probably knows everything about you, next to the NSA of course!

But the good side of it is Google uses this information that it collects about you to enhance the level of personalization it offers through its many free services.

If you’re wondering how Google makes its money, it’s simple. It collects information about you, gives you personalized data when you search for something or even when you use its services like Gmail and Google docs. In all this, it also inserts ads that are relevant to you and this is how it makes it’s money.

While all that is good, there are many privacy enthusiasts who see this as a breach of their privacy. When someone collects information and stores it in their server, it clearly violates many laws and even common sense. This is why Google has been in the middle of many controversies and lawsuits, especially in Europe.

To circumvent this breach of privacy without compromising on your personalization, Google has come up with an idea to train artificial intelligence (AI) to give achieve this twin objective. Called Federated Learning, this new AI training procedure will take advantage of the computing power of your phone.

It starts with downloading the latest model from the cloud. This model is kept as a base and the AI system improves it by learning from your data on the phone. Finally, it sends an updated model back to Google through an encrypted communication. This model is then averaged with the model obtained from other users and all these together help to improve the shared model. The data that is used to train this model is still on your device though, and none of it reaches the Google servers at any point in time.

Let’s take a practical situation here. Say, you searched for pizza on your Gboard. The phone stores this information locally and also remembers the links you clicked. Federated learning processes this information to improve the suggestions that the Gboard query will make next time. So, when you search for pizza a few days later, the links that you clicked the previous time will be on top of your search results.

Though this may sound great, it can also bring up concerns about battery life and overuse of data. These are things that you don’t have to worry at all because Google will use your phone to update the model only when it is idling around when connected to a power source and it also uses only a free source of Internet like your Wi-Fi for uploading this model.

With such a Federated Learning, it looks like Google has covered everything this time. Your data never leaves your device, AI is used to improve the model, you phone’s battery and data usage is not affected, and yet you get high levels of customization.

Too good to be true? Time is the answer.

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Google Offers More Discounts for Customers

Google has once again lowered the cost of its offerings to make it a more attractive option, when compared to Azure and AWS. Now, customers can get a whopping 57 percent discount when they commit to buying a certain amount of CPU cores and memory. However, the catch is customers should commit to a one-year or three-year contract to get this discount.

This offering from Google is similar to the Convertible Reserved Offering from AWS, that allows users to reserve a certain compute instance in the cloud, so that they can change the instance type they want in the future, but can still retain the cost and space. So far though, one of the major areas that differentiates Google from other companies is that clients don’t have to commit to a particular instance size. Rather, they can pick and choose their configuration that best meets their needs at any given point in time.

While retaining this option, Google is also enticing its customers to commit to a particular size, probably in a bid to take on Amazon. Overall, this is a smart move by Google, as it tries to take on the two leading companies –  Microsoft and Amazon, in the cloud market. With this high discount, it is effectively getting new and existing customers to commit to it for a long term, so it can be assured that the business will not go to that of its competitors.

Though this is not a new strategy, it is nevertheless a successful one. Cell phone companies are known to entice customers with free or lower-priced smartphone offers for a commitment for three years or more, and they have been successful with it. In fact, such contracts have become a norm in today’s cell phone industry. By applying the same strategy, Google hopes that it’ll be successful for its cloud business too.

This price cut is a part of the cloud wars between AWS, Microsoft and Google, that we’ve been seeing over the last few years now. In fact, it’s become common for these three companies to cut prices as a response to the other’s strategy. Regardless of this war, it’s the customer who ultimately benefits from this competition because they can get better service at lower cost.

Other than this price cut, Google will continue to offer discounts for the sustained use of its platform. Currently, it offers a 24 percent discount off the list price of a particular machine, and this will continue. Also, Google is planning to cut the price of its virtual machines by eight percent for those using the Japanese virtual servers, and five percent for its US customers.

In addition to this strategy, Google also wants to expand its facilities, so it’s in a better position to service the needs of its customers. To this end, it announced that its launching three data centers – one each in California, Canada and the Netherlands. With this, the total number of facilities will go up to 17 locations.

Let’s see how much Google can tighten this race.

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What is Google Cloud Spanner?

Google is going all-out with its arsenal to take on Microsoft and AWS in a growing cloud war. It’s latest product is Cloud Spanner, a global database that’s driven Google to become one of the best tech companies in the world. While this is not a new product as it’s been around for decades, this is the first time Google is opening it up for its customers.

Cloud Spanner is the database that has been powering Google for the last so many years. It all started when a group of engineers came together to create the first database and a system that seemed to defy all logic. Called the Spanner, this database was a mechanism to store information across millions of machines spanning through dozens of data centers in multiple continents. The best part is, Spanner acts as a single piece, even if it is spread across the world.

Today, it is the underlying technology for all of Google’s services such as Gmail, Google Photos and its most important revenue-generating product, Adwords.

Now, for the first time ever, Google is opening up this product to the world by branding it as Cloud Spanner. As per the terms and conditions, customers can rent out some space on Cloud Spanner, and can use it for their own apps and products. This is exactly the same as what Google uses for its in-house operations.

Spanner uses SQL language for querying, so most programmers who’ve worked on popular databases like SQL, Oracle and DB2 should be familiar with it. This translates to little or no training to use the Cloud Spanner, and customers can start making the most of it from day one. At the same time, Spanner is a flexible database that can expand to hold any amount of data, so scalability is never an issue.

On top of it, Cloud Spanner is hosted from the Google data centers, and this means, like other Google products, this is protected against hardware failures and cyber attacks. In other words, customers get to use the patented magic technology from Google for their own apps and products, for a fraction of the cost of developing such a massive system.

For those customers who don’t want to create apps using Cloud Spanner, Google offers a product called Cloud SQL, that’s similar to a traditional database software. In addition, customers can also use BigQuery data analysis engine on both the platforms for big data queries. With such a move, Google has empowered its customers in a big way, as they can choose to either use Cloud Spanner or Cloud SQL, depending on their business needs.

This is a significant move by Google, and one that can shake up the cloud market. Over the last few months, Google has tried a range of different strategies to counter the dominance of AWS and the fast-growing Microsoft Azure, but has seen only limited success. Since Spanner is something that is exclusively available only in Google, there is an increased chance for customers to use Google Cloud over Azure and AWS.

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Snap Enters into an Agreement with Google Cloud

Snap and Google have entered into a five-year agreement, under which Snap has committed to purchasing Google services to the tune of $400 million each year. When this deal expires in 2022, Snap would have spent $2 billion on Google cloud. Already, Snap relies on Google Cloud to run many of its operations, and this agreement will only strengthen the partnership between the two companies.

This agreement is a big win for Google Cloud, as it is looking to take on competition from AWS and Microsoft. Recent results show that AWS is still at the top, followed by Microsoft. Though Google has been working hard in its cloud segment, it hasn’t been able to take on these two giants. While this deal is not expected to help Google surpass its competitors, it will nevertheless increase the chances for Google to gain a better footing in the cloud segment. It is worthy to note that last year Google secured similar agreements with Apple and Spotify.

In addition, this agreement is expected to bump up the annual revenue of Google in a big way. Currently, Google doesn’t separate the revenue from its cloud business, rather it combines it with its other non-advertising revenue such as Google Play Store. With this agreement, we can expect the non-advertising revenue to increase greatly over the next five years. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the revenue from this segment was $3.4 billion.

An another good aspect of this deal is that Snapchat users are a highly engaged bunch of people, with an average user opening the app at least 18 times a day. Further, mobile video is an integral part of Snapchat, and this could give a boost to Google’s aspirations to become the leading mobile video provider.

As of now, mobile video accounts for 55 percent of the total Internet traffic, and this is expected to reach 75 percent by 2020, according to Cisco. Also, data from mobile video is expected to grow at an astounding rate of 62 percent each year from 2017 to 2020. This will include not just videos, but also video-related technologies such as augmented reality (AR) apps like Pokemon Go.  All this means, Google stands to gain much from this partnership, not just in terms of revenue, but also from a wide market presence.

For Snap, this partnership can open the door for new possibilities that are sure to enhance the usability of its software. In early 2015, both the companies talked about a partnership in which Snap users can point to an object, and Google will provide all the information pertaining to it from its search database.  Though that partnership did not take off then, this agreement can lead to similar collaboration between the two companies.

This partnership, in many ways, reflects the growing importance of cloud and its presence as a central component in the operations of any company. As cloud industry increases further in strength, we can expect more such partnerships that will augur well for not just companies, but also for users and the cloud industry at large.

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Google Releases New Cloud Encryption Key Management Service

Almost every major cloud provider is coming up with innovative products and add-ons that’ll add value to their customers. In this line, Google has released a new cloud encryption key management service to make it easy for organizations to create and use encryption keys to protect their data.  This service is currently available in the beta version in 50 countries including the US, Canada, Australia and Denmark.

This service, in many ways, is a necessity considering the number of hacking incidents that have taken place over the last year, including the widely spoken rigging of the US election. It can add an extra layer of protection for confidential data stored on the cloud. A salient feature of this KMS system is that you can not only manage keys for encrypting user credentials, but also take API tokens associated with applications and store them outside Google Cloud.

At the same time, managing encryption keys is also easy with this service. Enterprises can create, use, recycle, and destroy millions of AES-256 standard symmetric keys in any cloud-hosted solution or environment, with a set of simple user-interface driven clicks. These keys can also be automated to rotate at certain intervals, so the password keeps changing all the time, and only authorized users can access the application.

In addition, Google KMS integrates well with existing services from Google such as the Cloud Identity Access Management system and the Cloud Audit Logging services, to help customers have greater control over their encryption keys. Also, this service falls between the default encryption options that’s considered to be fairly lenient and the customer supplier encryption keys (CSEK) that are the most stringent. So, its stringent enough to be easy to use and at the same time, to protect your data strongly.  Such a feature can be particularly useful for companies that operate in regulated sectors such as healthcare and finance, as they can meet the regulatory requirements laid down by different statutory bodies.

These unique features are sure to bring in greater adoption through this year. The pricing is also fairly reasonable, and depends on the level of usage. Currently, Google  plans to charge $0.06 for every active key per month, and the rate for using the key is $0.03 for every 10,000 operations. This means, an organization that stores and uses 500 encryption keys over 100,000 operations can expect to pay around $30 a month. While this is not cheap, it’s fair considering that encryption by itself is an expensive process.

In short, Google’s KMS is sure to address gaps that exist in cloud security by giving it an additional layer of protection. It’s no surprise that Google is the first company to release such a product, as it’s always been a strong advocate of end-to-end encryption of data on the Internet. For enterprise customers, this service is expected to address many fears and concerns regarding hacking, which unfortunately, have been more prevalent than we’d like. This service will hopefully put an end to some of the security loopholes on the Internet.

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G-Cloud Sales Soar in the UK

G-cloud is making a big impact in the UK, as is evident from the recent sales figures released by the company. For the first time since its inception in 2012, G-cloud has passed the £1.5 billion mark, and much of it comes from its  small and medium enterprise (SME) customers. According to the release £875 million came from SMEs, while £702 million came from large enterprises.

These numbers, in many ways, reflect the strength of the British economy, and its ability to stand firm despite Brexit. Also, it shows the growing presence of G-cloud, and the cloud industry at large in the UK. The rate of adoption of technology, especially cloud, is fairly high in the Western world, and these numbers are yet another indicator of it.

Along with the private enterprise, the Central Government also has adopted cloud in a big way. In fact, the central government uses G-cloud more than any other area of public sector. The percentage of sales made through the central government on G-cloud is a whopping 74 percent, while the remaining sectors account for a mere 26 percent. Through this large spending, the central government has set the right example for private and public sectors in the UK.

Much of this spending comes through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS) agreements that cam into being in April of this year to replace the Digital Services framework (DSF) that was in place since 2012. The new agreement is wider and more encompassing than its predecessor, and it aims to ensure greater adoption of tech among UK governments and businesses. The next iteration of DOS is expected to be released in February 2017 by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), and this iteration is likely to have the spending figures under the framework in the future. From a cloud perspective, this is good news, as the iteration’s budget for cloud is expected to increase to give a boost to the economy as a whole.

It is significant to note that AWS opened its new cloud data center in London to cater to the growing demands of its UK businesses. This also means that others like G-cloud and Microsoft are already taking steps or are in the process of doing it.

For G-cloud, though the sales numbers are impressive, it still has its task cut out. Local government spending is just short of £85 million, and this is abysmally low when compared to the potential. Local governments and other council services can tap into the power of cloud to improve their offering and streamline their operations, yet they are not willing to move forward. This is something that G-cloud should look into and address if they want to have a larger customer base. It’s best for the company to reach out to individual governments to see what is stopping them from using more cloud services, and how G-cloud can best address them.

In all, G-cloud has a firm grip on the market, but it still has a long way to go, especially in the public sector.

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Google Cloud’s Presence in India

India is a growing market fueled by its economic aspirations and young demographics. It’s little wonder that every major company in the world has a presence here, and Google is no different. It plans to set up a dedicated data center in Mumbai during 2017 to cater to the growing demands of Indian businesses.

This is an important move for Google because the Indian market is too large to be ignored. Already AWS and Microsoft have a presence here. However, the Indian cloud market is still in the developing stage, so any investments here is likely to grow with the cloud sector. All the major cloud providers understand the current situation, as well as the potential it offers during the next decade or so.

Currently, many businesses in India are in the unorganized sector, especially small and medium enterprises. Many of these SMEs still prefer to use cash for their everyday transactions, and only have a limited exposure to technology. All this is expected to change within the next few years – thanks to awareness about the benefits of universal education and the Indian government’s robust economic policies.

India has a young population, and the education levels are slowly and steadily increasing. Many children attend private or government schools, and they are getting exposed to a lot of technology. This means, they will grow up in a digital space, and it won’t be long before they drive the digital world. Another significant factor is the Indian government’s push towards a digital economy. Single-window business clearances, demonetization, and other steps are ensuring that more people would embrace the digital world for their everyday needs. While the results won’t be imminent right away, it’s sure to make a difference within the next five years. When that happens, tech companies want to be in a position to tap into the demand, and this is why they’re planning ahead of time.

Another reason for Google’s Indian presence is its aim to become a leader in the Japan and Asia Pacific region. To this end, it has invested about $9.9 billion in 2016 alone, and this has led to the emergence of two centers – one in Taiwan and the other in Japan. In 2017, it plans to open three more centers in Asia, out of which one will be in Mumbai. The company reiterated that Mumbai will be a region with three zones, but this doesn’t necessarily mean three data centers. Rather what it means is that these zones will ensure a risk-free and fall-tolerant service, but could encompass any number of data centers, but all of them will be located in the Mumbai region.

Though there are many cities in India, Google announced that it chose Mumbai because it is the financial capital of the country, and many local businesses are already using cloud or are planning to move to it soon.

This announcement is good news for the Indian economy as it will generate more employment opportunities, and can also assist the government’s plans to move the country to a digital space.

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Google Acquires Qwiklabs

Google scores over its arch rival Amazon by acquiring a company called Qwiklabs, that provides hands-on training for AWS developers. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Qwiklabs was founded in 2012 to focus on teaching developers to create and run applications on the AWS platform. Though the original idea was to create a learning tool for cloud-based platforms, the focus quickly turned to AWS because of its dominance in the cloud market. AWS also started using Qwiklabs as its go-to service for providing self-paced labs for different developers.

All that is set to change with this acquisition. Clearly, Google acquired Qwiklabs with an intent to take on its competition head-on. Since the cloud attributes of Google and AWS are fundamentally different, it requires different development approaches. Given this difference, it won’t be a surprise if Qwiklabs transforms from a AWS-based service to a Google-based one, where Google’s own cloud tools and services are showcased to potential customers. It remains to be seen if Google will also allows AWS-based courses on Qwiklabs. Some experts though think Qwiklabs will continue to offer AWS courses, as Google’s cloud head, Diane Greene is a supporter of multi-cloud deployments.

At this point though, Google has announced no major changes to the operations of Qwiklabs, which means, Qwiklabs will continue to offer subscriptions and labs for AWS developers. However, we may not see new AWS courses on this platform, and also, there is no news on when Google’s programs will be included. It is expected that Google will use Qwiklabs to help people understand the Google Cloud Platform and G Suite productivity services better, so more apps can be based out of them.

This acquisition comes as a surprise for many reasons. Firstly, it’s not sure why AWS did not acquire this company before-hand, considering the fact that it sold only AWS-based courses. In fact, Qwiklabs says that more than half a million developers have used its platform, and have spent over five million hours learning about AWS. Secondly, it reflects the multi-pronged strategy that Google has taken over the last few months to get a firm hold on the cloud market. Thirdly, this acquisition can act as the perfect jump board for Google to reach out to more customers.

As for AWS, it has to find a new education partner to fill the absence of Qwiklabs. In September, AWS announced that it will give its Enterprise Support customers free Qwiklabs credits! That has to change now.

This acquisition goes to show the fickle nature of supporting tools. In the past, one company had complete control over all the tools and services that were related to its products, so there was greater certainty. Today, the market is a lot more fragmented, and this can be attributed to the nature of technology and the market itself. Though AWS and Google offer platforms, a host of services and tools from third-party companies are needed to make the most of these platforms, so acquisitions and mergers can significantly alter the market share.

It will be interesting to see the impact of this acquisition for both Google and AWS.

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