Google Cloud Next: From AI for everyone to boosted security

24 Jul 2018

Google Cloud office in California. Image: Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

Google Cloud Next is underway in San Francisco and the tech giant is announcing some innovative new products and features.

Cloud computing is ubiquitous among businesses and organisations of all sizes, and Google Cloud has positioned itself as a major player in the space.

Today (24 July), the Google Cloud Next conference begins at San Francisco, with keynotes on everything from developing apps, to the internet of things (IoT) and securing cloud infrastructure.

AI for everyone at Google Cloud Next

Google AI’s chief scientist, Fei-Fei Li, is keen for the power of AI to be harnessed by “everyone and every business – from retail to agriculture, education to healthcare”.

She added: “AI is no longer a niche in the tech world – it’s the differentiator for businesses in every industry.”

She also noted that with machine learning (ML) at present, there is a significant gap in between the extremes. Experienced data scientists can use Cloud ML Engine to build custom solutions on one end, while Cloud Vision API is a pre-trained ML model that does not require as much technical knowledge to use.

To address the middle ground, Google announced Cloud AutoML earlier this year with the first release, AutoML Vision. This extends the Cloud Vision image recognition capabilities and it is now in public beta. Li announced two brand new AutoML offerings today: the first, AutoML Natural Language, helps predict custom text categories specific to domains; while AutoML Translation allows organisations to build their own custom translation models.

Google also announced some exciting new updates to its core ML APIs, as Cloud Vision now recognises handwriting, supports TIFF and PDF files, and can even identify where an object is within an image.

Improvements have been made to Cloud text-to-speech and speech-to-text, among other features. Third-generation Cloud TPUs are also now available to make larger amounts of ML computation possible for even small firms.

New G Suite features

G Suite is used by organisations to collaborate and work together when that may not be possible to do so in real time due to geography or different schedules. Prabhakar Raghavan, vice-president of G Suite apps, announced some handy new features.

A new investigation tool in the G Suite security centre can allow admins to identify potentially infected users, see what files have been shared externally and delete malicious emails – this will cut down on time-consuming log reviews and complex scripting.

As we all know, GDPR is in force and G Suite will now let customers decide where to store primary data for certain apps – globally, US or within Europe. It said this will make managing data regions easier.

For those who use Google Hangouts Chat, look out for the Smart Reply feature making an appearance in the next few weeks. Smart Compose for Gmail will intelligently complete your emails if you are short on time. First launched in May, it is now available for G Suite customers to try. Meanwhile, grammar suggestions in Google Docs will harness ML to help detect tricky grammar issues.

A new vision for cloud services

Cloud Services Platform (CSP) is basically a centralised family of Google Cloud Services, which can run both on-premise and across the Google Cloud Platform itself.

CSP can be thought of as a control centre for IT administrators, allowing them to examine infrastructure in terms of service, rather than the other way around.

Urs Hölzle, senior vice-president of technical infrastructure, explained some of the changes.

Istio, a microservices management mesh, allows operators more control over traffic management, security and troubleshooting, and it is almost ready for production deployments.

Google Kubernetes Engine is now available to be used in on-premise infrastructure, allowing users to modernise apps without having to move to the cloud.

With more announcements and keynotes expected, Google Cloud Next and San Francisco will remain on the radar of IT professionals across the globe.

Google Cloud office in California. Image: Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects