Three themes cut across the usual flurry of product announcements at this year's Google Cloud Next conference, which opens later today. Inevitably, data is a huge part of the story, in particular breaking down data silos so that enterprises can work across all of their data, with announcements around opening up access to data and expanding the reach of BI and AI. Allied to this is the second big theme of security, with several announcements offering more granular and proactive security measures. Removing barriers to collaboration is the final big theme, with new capabilities in Workspace.
On data, Google is working towards offering what it calls an open Data Cloud, able to support all kinds of workloads and all styles of analysis. Today's announcements include:
- Adding support for unstructured data in BigQuery, bringing in sources such as video, audio and documents for analysis alongside the more structured operational and time-series data it has traditionally supported.
- A new integration between Datastream and BigQuery to help organizations replicate real-time data from various external data sources directly into BigQuery.
- Extending the BigLake storage engine to include support for major data formats such as Apache Iceberg, Linux Foundation Delta Lake and Apache Hudi, as well as a new integrated experience in BigQuery for Apache Spark.
- Updates to Dataplex for automated data quality and data lineage processes.
- Google Data Studio becomes Looker Studio as part of a deep integration of Looker, Data Studio, and AI and machine learning (ML) technologies. Partnerships with Tableau and Microsoft Power BI allow API access to Looker data in these third-party tools.
- The launch of Vertex AI Vision, a new service that makes powerful computer vision and image recognition AI more accessible to data practitioners.
- Expanding integrations with leading enterprise data platforms, including Collibra, Elastic, MongoDB, Palantir Foundry, and ServiceNow.
Infrastructure and security
Improvements to the underlying Google Cloud infrastructure include:
- A new C3 virtual machine family which runs on the 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor and the custom Infrastructure Processing Unit (IPU) that Google co-designed with Intel.
- Dual Run, which allows customers to make a digital copy of their mainframe system and run it simultaneously on Google Cloud to complete regulatory and compliance testing prior to retiring the original mainframe. The capability is built on top of technology initially developed by Banco Santander.
- Introduction of the OpenXLA Project, a consortium alongside contributors including ARM, Intel and Nvidia which aims to reduce the cost and complexity of ML development by creating ML frontend frameworks that are tuned to work with various hardware backends for faster, more flexible development.
- Plans to bring new Google Cloud regions to Austria, Greece, Norway, South Africa, and Sweden, in addition to the already announced plans for Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, and Thailand, bringing the global network to 48 live and pending regions.
Security announcements aim to progress the goal of making security more proactive by the use of automation and other tooling. They include:
- Confidential Space, which allows organizations to perform tasks such as joint data analysis and machine learning (ML) model training while having trust guarantees that the data they own can stay protected from their partners and the cloud service provider. Use cases include a clinical researcher sharing results or a bank looking at risk management in different parts of the world.
- Chronicle Security Operations, a new cloud-based software suite that combines elements of the existing Chronical tooling and acquisitions of Siemplify and, later on, Mandiant. Now in preview, the suite aims to help cybersecurity teams speed and scale their ability to detect, investigate, and respond to threats.
- Expansion of the trusted cloud ecosystem with the addition of more partners.
The collaboration announcements also include some security measures, but the main emphasis is on breaking down barriers to teamwork:
- Extensions to smart canvas, launched last year. These include custom building blocks in Docs which allow organizations to build their own templates for commonly used blocks of writing that can be easily accessed with the @ menu, such as custom emails, pitches, and to-do lists. The capabilities of Smart chips, which embed previews and actions from files and applications into Workspace documents, are expanded in to include people, file, and calendar smart chips, a new timeline view, and smart chip data extraction. Finally, variables in Google Docs allow users to define common data elements, such as a client name or contract number, and update it throughout the document by changing the value in one place.
- Smoother integrations with other applications build on the Workspace canvas enhancements, including the ability to engage with third-party applications using smart chips, new APIs for Chat and Meet, a new add-on SDK so that developers can embed their app directly into the Meet experience, and integration of AppSheet to allow customers to build intelligent no-code apps that integrate into Google Chat.
- Immersive connections announcements aim to improve the online meeting experience. These include extensions to companion mode in Google Meet, and the introduction of adaptive framing when using AI-powered cameras to focus meeting room images on the most relevant spot when someone is speaking. It's also now possible to create a Google Slides presentation where the presenter's video feed is shown within the content rather than off to the side.
- Security enhancements include the extension of data loss prevention to Chat, client-side encryption in Gmail and Calendar, and the ability to set more granular trust rules in Drive.
We'll have more commentary and news from Cloud Next, with my colleague Derek Du Preez there on the ground. For now I'll simply observe that the open data announcements echo trends that we're seeing at other vendors to unify enterprise data into a single layer to respond to the demands of Frictionless Enterprise. Meanwhile the smart canvas enhancements to Google Workspace, especially the integrations with third-party applications, are particularly noteworthy. I'm curious to see how well this offering is being taken up by customers because I feel Google should be trumpeting it more loudly — it's a crucial component of enabling enteprises to use Workspace as a platform for teamwork across the organization and breaking down those barriers to getting things done.