Google Cloud will let you know how your workloads are damaging the environment

Google Cloud Next '21 brings Distributed Edge, emissions metrics, and a Cybersecurity Action Team


Google is taking its cloud platform to the network's edge while aiming to arm customers with data about the damage their compute workloads are doing to the Earth's atmosphere.

At its Google Cloud Next event on Tuesday, the search giant intends to announce a series of novel or more refined products and services. The event follows the wake of last month's exec shuffling, an exercise intended to hasten Google Cloud Platform's (GCP) transition from side hustle to serious AWS rival.

Among the newly formulated cloud confections are tools that GCP customers can use to convince themselves that their computational workloads fall within the acceptable range of planet-damaging carbon emissions.

At a tag team presentation for the press last week, company execs took turns recounting customer wins – because it's necessary to remind everyone that AWS is not the only game in town – and then moved on to celebrating product introductions and milestones.

"We booked great momentum this year across every industry ... and we're honored that top enterprises are building their businesses on Google Cloud, from telecommunications to media and entertainment, retail, etcetera," said Kirsten Kliphouse, president of Google Cloud North America.

"I'm personally spending a lot of time with these leaders and these businesses, and they're telling me that they're choosing Google Cloud because we're betting on the areas where the industry is going."

New Google Cloud customers, Kliphouse said, include Wendy's, General Mills, Siemens Energy, and Deutsche Post DHL Group. And she mentioned several new Cloud service partners, like Tableau, Trifacta, Databricks, Citrix, and Cyberreason, among others.

Having offered evidence that companies are using GCP, Google also did its best to sell itself as environmentally responsible.

"I have a number of conversations with customers, and in those conversations it's clear that sustainability is top of mind for every CEO and board," said Jen Bennett, technical director in the Office of the CTO at Google Cloud. "It's no longer a question of if, but rather what and how. And it's clear that the time for action is now, and some would even argue that it was yesterday."

Time to feel guilty

Google doesn't currently offer a Time Machine so going back to yesterday to save the planet isn't in the cards. And its next best thing, Google Earth's Time Lapse feature, is mainly useful for watching past glaciers melt over time and musing about what future generations will think of us.

As a consolation prize, the cloud biz is at least providing Cloud Footprint reporting, a dashboard designed in consultation with HSBC, Atos, Salesforce, and L’Oreal to provide data about greenhouse gas emissions tied to GCP usage.

"Customers can monitor their cloud emissions over time by project, by product, and by region, empowering IT teams and developers with metrics that help them reduce their carbon footprint," said Bennett, who added that Google is partnering with Salesforce to make its GCP emissions data available in Salesforce's carbon account platform.

Bennett said Google also aims to help customers reduce carbon cloud emissions through its Unattended Project Recommender, an extension of GCP's Active Assist Recommender that uses machine learning to scan for idle projects that can be deleted and thereby prevents unnecessary billing as well as damaging emissions.

The company claims that when Active Assist analyzed data from all GCP customers in August, it identified projects for cleanup that were responsible for over 600,000 kgCO2e (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalence). As an arbitrary point of comparison, that is roughly the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from the production of 10,000 kg (~22,000 lbs) of beef.

To further help companies, corral their carbon usage, Google Earth Engine is being made available to "select enterprise customers," so firms can combine cloud kit, satellite imagery, and AI to help them decarbonize their operations.

Google notes that while gross carbon emissions associated with Google Cloud usage are still worth watching, its net operational emissions are zero, due to the company's balancing of annual energy consumption with purchases of clean energy [PDF]. The company plans to be truly carbon free – using only clean energy – by 2030.

Every cloud has a silver lining

In terms of product announcements, the most significant is Google Distributed Cloud, a set of hardware and software offerings that push GCP to the network's edge and to customer data centers through GCP's Anthos-managed controls.

The initial two products in this portfolio include Google Distributed Cloud Edge and Google Distributed Cloud Hosted.

"[Google Distributed Cloud Edge] enables communication service providers to run core network elements at the edge, allowing them to offer their customers high speed bandwidth with private 5G and localized compute," explained Sachin Gupta, VP and general manager of open infrastructure at Google Cloud. "This translates to increased operational efficiencies in creating brand new customer experiences."

Google Distributed Cloud Hosted, meanwhile, expands upon the digital sovereignty initiative that Google discussed last year as a way to serve customers with strict data residency, security, or privacy requirements.

"It provides a safe and secure way to modernize on premises deployments, without requiring any connectivity to Google Cloud," said Gupta.

Google Cloud Platform's data and analytics capabilities are expanding further with the addition of Vertex AI Workbench, a single interface for dealing with machine learning models, from data ingestion and analysis through deployment and management. Google claims its internal data indicates that the service allows models to be built and trained five times faster on Vertex AI Workbench than on unadorned Jupyter notebooks.

BigQuery Omni, a way to analyze data across Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure, has graduated to general availability. Spark on Google Cloud, "the world’s first autoscaling and serverless Spark service," according to the company, is now available as a preview service – Apache Spark is open source analytics software. And Cloud Spanner, a managed, scalable, relational database, now has a PostgreSQL interface that's available as a preview service.

Google Cloud's Contact Center AI (CCAI) Insights, a service for helping contact center teams understand customer interaction data, has reached general availability. And Contract DocAI, a service for scanning and understanding contracts, is being offered as a preview.

Also arriving in preview are Compute Engine Spot VMs, which let customers purchase VM capacity from a pool of underutilized resources at a discount.

The software formally known as G Suite

Google Workspace, the product previously known as G Suite which now counts more than three billion user accounts, is adding Jira integration for Google Chat and Spaces. AppSheet, a no-code app building system, is getting hooked into Gmail to facilitate the creation of custom apps and automations that interact with Gmail messages.

Google is also adding security features to its collaboration tools in the form of client-side encryption for Google Meet – the user controls the keys and identity service – and Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Google Chat.

Finally, Google announced its Work Safer program, which helps companies operate securely across hybrid work environments. This takes the form of endpoint protection and network protection from CrowdStrike and Palo Alto Networks, respectively, and assorted other security-oriented capabilities.

The biz also said it's forming the Google Cybersecurity Action Team to provide customers with security advice and guidance.

"This Cybersecurity Action Team marshals experts from across Google to form what we believe will be the world's premier security advisory team," said Phil Venables, chief information security officer of Google Cloud.

"It has a singular mission: supporting the security and digital transformation of governments, critical infrastructure, enterprises, and small businesses. And the vision of this team is to guide customers through the cycle of security transformation, from their first cloud adoption roadmap and implementation through increasing their cyber resilience preparedness for potential events and incidents, and engineering new solutions as requirements change." ®

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