Google Cloud kicks off Next 21 with focus on sustainability, Data Cloud, edge and collaboration

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 12, 2021
Google Cloud kicks off its annual conference Next ‘21 this week with a slew of product announcements - but key themes emerge.

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(Image by Tumisu from Pixabay )

It's the first day of Google Cloud's annual user conference, Next ‘21, and before we dive into a range over customer use cases over the week, there is a deluge of product announcements that enterprise buyers will no doubt be pouring over as they consider the future roadmap of GCP. 

To check out the Google Cloud Next 21 event, you can register here. Or for diginomica's full coverage from Next ‘21, see our dedicated events hub here

Today there are customer wins (Wendy's, General Mills) and product integrations (Databricks, Informatica, Atlassian) worth noting, but the four major themes emerging from Google Cloud's product news this week include: sustainability, Data Cloud, edge computing and collaboration. 

Google Cloud is tackling a number of enterprise themes that are front of mind for buyers and it appears to be attempting to woo prospective customers by offering them choice and flexibility in their cloud deployments, whilst capitalizing on its data expertise. But more on that later. 

Let's first break down each of the key announcement themes.


With all eyes on the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference starting at the end of the month, amidst escalating concerns around the role of business and industry in addressing the climate emergency, Google Cloud is putting sustainability front and center of ‘Next 21. 

Google Cloud claims that it is the "cleanest cloud in the industry", having for the past four years matched 100% of its electricity use with renewable energy purchases, as well as being the first company of its size to commit to running on carbon-free energy 24/7 by 2030. 

But Google Cloud also states that it is making efforts to help its customers better manage their carbon footprint. Google Cloud said: 

As we work to achieve 24/7 carbon-free energy, we help you take immediate action to decarbonize your digital applications and infrastructure. We're also working with our customers across every industry to develop new solutions for the unique climate change challenges that organizations face. Today, we're excited to share a number of new innovations and partnerships that will help every company build a more sustainable future.

These announcements include: 

  • Carbon Footprint - a new product that allows customers to understand the gross carbon emissions associated with their GCP usage. Available for free in Cloud Console, the tool lets you measure, track and report on the gross carbon emissions associated with the electricity of your cloud usage. The tool has been built in collaboration with Atos, Etsy, HSBC, L'Oreal, Salesforce and Twitter. It allows customers to monitor their cloud emissions over time, by project, by product and by region. 

  • Google Cloud is also extending its reach beyond its own environment and is partnering with Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, integrating GCP emissions data into their accounting platform. 

  • Active Assist Recommender now also includes a sustainability impact category. This is starting with the Unattended Project Recommender API, which allows users to estimate the gross carbon emissions they'd save by removing idle resources. 

  • GCP has showcased a preview of Earth Engine as part of Google Cloud Platform, which allows users to combine it with other geospatial enabled products like BigQuery. Google Cloud believes that using Earth Engine will allow companies to track, monitor and predict changes in the Earth's surface due to extreme weather events or human-caused activities, thus allowing them to save on operational costs, manage risks, and become more resilient to climate change threats. 

In addition to the above product announcements, Google Cloud has also made a number of commitment that include: giving sustainability teams a seat at the planning table; putting low-carbon signals natively into its products: ensuring carbon impact is measured consistently with other key performance indicators; publishing third party reviewed reports on its carbon impact; and continuing to work with the industry on best-practices. 

Data Cloud

Unsurprisingly, given Google Cloud's expertise in the area, the vendor made a number of announcements specifically targeted at enabling data teams to derive value more quickly from their data. Google Cloud has consistently put its AI and ML capabilities at the forefront of its offering, and it is keen for buyers to think of their efforts in this area as building their own ‘data clouds'. 

In May, for instance, Google Cloud announced Vertex AI, a managed ML platform that allows companies more quickly deploy and maintain AI models (Google claims that it requires nearly 80% fewer lines of code to train a model versus other platforms). 

Today Google Cloud has announced Vertex AI Workbench, which is a new unified user experience (essentially a new collaborative environment) to build and deploy ML models, which it claims will allow data scientists to realize quicker time to value. It includes integrations across a number of data services, such as Dataproc, BigQuery, Dataplex and Looker. 

Other announcements in this field include: 

  • General availability of BigQuery Omni, which allows customers to analyze data across Google Cloud, AWS and Azure. 

  • A preview of Spark on Google Cloud, an auto scaling and serverless Spark service for Google Cloud data platform. 

  • Continued integration of Cloud Spanner, Google Cloud's relational database offering, with a PostgreSQL interface

  • New integration between Tableau and Looker, which Google Cloud states will allow customers to operationalize analytics and more effectively scale their deployments

Edge computing

In addition to data clouds, Google Cloud is considering how to deliver edge computing capabilities to customers, either via their own data center environments, Google's own environments or a third party operator. Interestingly, Google Cloud is utilizing Anthos to enable this, again highlighting its ability as a management platform to give customers a level of choice outside of the GCP environment. 

Google Cloud states: 

Now more than ever, organizations are looking to accelerate their cloud adoption. They want easier development, faster innovation, and efficient scale, all while simultaneously reducing their technology risk. However, some of their workloads cannot move to the public cloud entirely or right away, due to factors such as industry or region-specific compliance and data sovereignty needs, low latency or local data-processing requirements, or because they need to run close to other services.

To ensure these workloads can still take advantage of what the cloud has to offer, today at Google Cloud Next ‘21 we are announcing Google Distributed Cloud, a portfolio of solutions consisting of hardware and software that extend our infrastructure to the edge and into your data centers. 

Depending on the customer's needs, Google Distributed Cloud can run across multiple locations, including: 

  • Google's network edge - giving customers the choice of over 140+ Google network edge locations around the world.

  • Operator edge - allowing customers to take advantage of an operator's edge network and use 5G/LTE services offered by Google's communication service provider (CSP) partners. The operator edge is aimed at supporting low-latency use cases, running edge applications with stringent latency and bandwidth requirements. 

  • Customer edge - supporting customer-owned edge or remote locations such as retail stores, factory floors, or branch offices, which require localized compute and processing directly in the edge locations. 

  • Customer data centers - Supporting customer-owned data centers and colocation facilities to address strict data security and privacy requirements, and to modernize on-premises deployments while meeting regulatory compliance.

In addition to the above, Google Cloud is also announcing Distributed Cloud Hosted, which caters to the data sovereignty needs of companies that need to adhere to certain government regulations, particularly those in Europe. Designed to run sensitive workloads, Google Cloud states that this offering provides customers with a "safe and secure way to modernize an on-premises deployment, regardless of whether you do it yourself or choose to host through a designated, trusted partner". 

To address the needs of customers across Europe, Google Cloud is also developing partner offerings across the region, including T-Systems in Germany and OVHcloud in France. 


Google Cloud has said this week that it is continuing to invest in Workspace Marketplace, the platform that underpins Workspace and allows partners to develop third party apps that integrate with Google's collaboration tools, including Meet, Chat and Spaces. 

For example, it has announced a new Jira integration for Google Chat and Spaces, which will allow users to create new tickets quickly, see actionable previews, and monitor issues as they come into the space that they are already using for collaboration. 

Commenting on the announcement, Joff Redfern, Chief Product Officer at Atlassian said: 

Modern work requires people to switch contexts and tools faster than ever before. We believe an open ecosystem and tight integrations among the tools that users rely on every day is vital to their success. 

Since 2017, our Trello integration with Gmail has been installed by more than 7 million people. Today, we are excited to build on the partnership between Atlassian and Google to propel work collaboration further with the integration of Jira with Google Chat and Spaces. 

Google Workspace is also integrating Appsheet into Gmail, which for example, will allow budget and vacation requests to be approved, or inventories and asset management systems to be updated, all directly from within a user's inbox. 

Google Cloud provided the example of how Carrefour Property is connecting field service workers with this in the office using AppSheet. It said: 

For example, after discovering a problem, onsite managers previously had to send an email, enter data into a spreadsheet, and sometimes attend a meeting to explain the issue. Now, with AppSheet, they can simply input the data on their phone in a single step, and the team back at headquarters can see and act on the issue while also tracking all the other issues being reported from other locations.

My take

It's worth taking a look at the Google Cloud announcements page, or the Next 21 events page, for all the announcements made (of which there are many). The customer announcements this week are also interesting, as they showcase how customers like Wendy's and General Mills are using Google Cloud specifically for data projects. 

But what's clear from the range of Google Cloud announcements is that it is focusing on deep integration across its own products and a number of partners, as well as offering buyers a range of management options for both Google Cloud and other cloud environments. It's hope, I believe, is that it can create stickiness with customers that favour choice and flexibility in their multi-cloud environments, rather than doubling down on one specific provider. 

We will be covering a range of customer stories this week, so do keep an eye for those on our dedicated Google Cloud Next ‘21 events hub

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