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Google Cloud goes to Washington
Welcome to Protocol Cloud, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This week: Google Cloud has some new toys for government customers, why Salesforce's Bret Taylor can't wait to get back to the office, and a tough assignment from IBM.
The Big Story
Bring us your secure workloads
Years of indifference about working with the federal government are in the rearview mirror at Google Cloud, judging by this week's Google Cloud Next event.
The virtual event, postponed thanks to the pandemic, introduced two interesting new services aimed at government and other security-conscious customers, while also extending the reach of one of its more popular products to function with services provided by AWS and Microsoft Azure.
Perhaps the most notable announcement was Assured Workloads for Government, a service designed to make it easier for U.S. customers with strict security or compliance requirements to get up and running on Google Cloud.
- Google is pitching this as distinct from the way AWS and Microsoft operate special "government cloud" regions, claiming those regions "don't come with the technology and benefits that a modern commercial cloud provides, and often require users to operate two distinct application and operation supply chains, adding cost, complexity, and risk."
- While the pitfalls of operating in a government cloud might be a tad overstated, anything that simplifies onerous compliance requirements might be tempting to government customers and suppliers who have so far dismissed Google Cloud during its relatively short life as a government-certified provider of sensitive cloud services.
Google also introduced a service called Confidential VMs, which protects the fundamental processing unit of cloud computing — the virtual machine — while data is being processed.
- Confidential VMs work thanks to a secure portion of the server running the virtual machine, which in Google's case is part of AMD's second-generation Epyc server chips.
- Google said this is the first release in a series of security services under its Confidential Computing banner, and the goal is to convince cloud holdouts worried about security that they can duplicate their on-premises protections on Google's servers.
- Last year Google, along with other prominent cloud companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Alibaba, and Red Hat, joined the Linux Foundation's Confidential Computing Consortium to work on joint products for security-minded customers.
- AWS is not a member of that group, but offers a similar service using its Nitro hypervisor.
The third prominent announcement involved BigQuery, Google's take on a cloud-based data warehouse that is a favorite of data scientists and machine-learning researchers.
- BigQuery users will now be able to access data stored with AWS or Microsoft Azure through the BigQuery user interface.
- This was made possible by building Anthos, Google Cloud's multicloud management service, into BigQuery.
- An industry-wide move toward the separation of storage services from computing services means that cloud users have a much larger range of options when deciding where to store data, and where to process data.
- Worth noting: Database decacorn (are we still doing that?) Snowflake also offers cross-cloud access through its data warehouse product.
In courting government organizations and late-arriving cloud customers, Google Cloud is aiming to win a big chunk of the next wave of cloud business. There's still a lot of that business out there, and given the disruption caused by the pandemic, industry analysts expect the shift to the cloud to accelerate over the next year or so.
- The challenge for Google, as always, is that AWS and Microsoft are far more well-established options for potential cloud customers.
- Yesterday's announcements show that Google is determined to compete with those two companies with new technology ideas and consultative services, rather than pricing.
- At some point, however, if Google Cloud wants to gain significant market share, it needs to find a way to leapfrog AWS and Microsoft with a service cloud buyers can't resist.
Of course, there's still time for that, with a lot more to come from Google Cloud Next '20 — a seven-week event with new technical content released each Tuesday. Imagine spending seven weeks in a convention center.
This Week In Protocol
Taylor made: Salesforce COO Bret Taylor seems destined to take control of the enterprise software giant when CEO Marc Benioff decides he's ready to exchange the boardroom for the beaches of Hawaii. In an interview last week with Protocol, he shared more detail about how Salesforce is coping with the pandemic, why low-code tools will be a big part of the recovery, and the reason he's keen to get back to Salesforce Tower.
Chips in: It's an interesting time for the staid world of semiconductors, with Nvidia passing Intel in market cap last week and Analog Devices snapping up Maxim Integrated Products this week for $21 billion. Both the latter companies are modest players in the data center world right now, but they're well-positioned to cash in on the surge in connected car applications.
Human weaknesses: It's hard enough for Black and brown people trying to make their way in the tech industry, and a lack of support from the HR department does not help. Protocol interviewed several tech workers and HR experts who pointed out that lots of HR departments only exist to protect the company, not its employees.
A MESSAGE FROM HPE
The benefits of the cloud are well known: reduced costs, improved scalability, and more agility. But not all applications can be run in the public cloud. Compliance, security and other complex dependencies sometimes make it impractical to move them. Bring the cloud to you by taking these 5 steps to transform to on-premises cloud services.
Around the Cloud
- TikTok agreed to spend $800 million with Google Cloud over three years, according to The Information, adding cloud capacity alongside its own infrastructure.
- Meanwhile, Google scrapped Chinese cloud plans, Bloomberg reported, by ending a push to provide cloud services in China that would have seen it partner with a local vendor, as Chinese law requires.
- And Chinese tech buyers increasingly favor homegrown cloud databases when replacing older on-premises options from Oracle and Microsoft — as tends to be the case with the cloud infrastructure services market.
- Another nasty security flaw was discovered in a key piece of tech infrastructure: Microsoft issued a patch to fix a security hole in Windows Server DNS that received the infamous 10 out of 10 CVE severity rating.
- Softbank plans to explore selling all or part of its stake in Arm, the chip designer that is behind AWS's Graviton server processors as well as new laptop chips from Apple.
- Docker has reinvented itself as a developer client company, which means that it can focus on making it easier for developers to spin up containers. And it just figured out a way to make the process easier on AWS.
- This isn't a great look for Microsoft: While the company has been touting its forward-thinking approach to privacy and facial-recognition software, through partners it has been selling a ton of analytical face recognition tools that run on Azure to police departments around the country.
- Facebook built a robot that adds fiber networking cables to existing electrical wires, which could be a far easier way to bridge the digital divide than ripping up roads to lay cable.
- HPE added to its networking strategy by spending $925 million on the wide area network company Silver Peak, as software continues to wedge its way into the old-school systems that run networks.
- IBM is hiring for a job that requires a minimum of 12 years of experience managing Kubernetes, which just turned six years old last month. Good luck, everybody.
A MESSAGE FROM HPE
By 2022, IDC says more than 90% of enterprises worldwide will rely on a mix of on-premises of dedicated private clouds, multiple public clouds, and legacy platforms to meet their infrastructure needs. Here's how COVID-19 is accelerating the move to hybrid cloud, and why 2021 is already talking about as the year of multi-cloud.
Correction: Last week, we wrote that AWS and Microsoft were already carrying Nvidia's latest Ampere graphics chips for their artificial intelligence customers. Actually, they have only announced plans to do so.
Thanks for reading — see you next week.