Google plans five new cloud regions, touts “open data cloud”

South Africa will be Google’s first region; the company also announced two new Nordic regions, Austria and Greece

Google Cloud is expanding services throughout Europe with new regions planned for Austria, Greece, Norway and Sweden. What’s more, it’s bringing its services locally to the African continent for the first time, with a South Africa region. The company also touted its efforts to provide what it calls an “open data cloud” ecosystem that unites data across sources and platforms. These and other announcements headlined the company’s Google Cloud Next ’22 event, a virtual endeavor that ran for several days this week.

“Cloud is one of our fastest growing businesses. It’s what enables us to share innovation and investment across Google with companies, governments and organizations worldwide,” said CEO Sundar Pichai during the keynote session on Tuesday. Pichai pointed to Google’s research in computer vision, natural language processing and translation as areas where the company is “powering helpful product innovations.”

Google’s new region news caps other expansion announcements the company has made to expand its global wide area network (WAN) footprint this year. Google is racing neck-and-neck with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure to expand its global footprint. Google and other hyperscalers’ expansion efforts are happening against the backdrop of governments worldwide implementing restrictions on data sovereignty that increasingly demand hyperscalers to store data on native soil rather than relegating it to overseas data centers.

In June, Google announced a collaboration with Italian telco TIM to bring Google Cloud to Milan, with plans announced to expand Italy services with another region in Turin. In August, the company announced plans to bring Google Cloud regions to Malaysia, Thailand and New Zealand. Paris, Madrid, and two in the U.S., in Columbus, Ohio and Dallas, Texas also joined the roster.

“With 35 regions, 106 zones, 173 network edge locations and 22 subsea cables available to serve customers in over 200 countries and territories, Google Cloud’s infrastructure supports digital transformations for organizations across the globe,” said Sachin Gupta, Google’s VP and GM, Infrastructure.

Emphasizing the data complexity challenges to enterprises engaged in digital transformation efforts, Google is putting effort into expanding the openness and extensibility of its data cloud. The cluster of open data announcements include news that BigQuery, Google’s cloud-based big data analytics service, will support structured and unstructured data types. 

“Unstructured data may account for up to 90 percent of all data today, like video from television archives, audio from call centers and radio, and documents of many formats,” wrote Gerrit Kazmaier, Google’s VP and GM of Database, Data Analytics, and Looker

The company is also adding support in Big Lake, its storage engine, for new data formats including Apache Iceberg, Delta Lake, and Apache Hudi. Google said that it’s expanding integrations with a number of enterprise data platforms including Collibra, Elastic, MongoDB, Palantir Foundry and ServiceNow.

Google expands workgroup collaboration, ESG and security efforts

Google is also expanding Workspace — the suite of collaboration and productivity apps previously marketed as G Suite. Meet adds new features aimed at helping to improve immersion and collaboration like support for AI-powered cameras from Logitech and Huddly, automatic video framing, meeting transcriptions and other features. Google’s Chat app is adding custom emojis and threaded conversations, as well as broadcast-only spaces for times when businesses aim to do one-to-many presentations. Google will also public new Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for Meet and Chat to extend service functionality to third-party applications.

Google’s long held itself up to be the “greenest cloud” service provider, with plans to run 100% on carbon-free energy by 2030. One of the myriad announcements at Google Cloud Next underscores those efforts. Google Cloud Carbon Footprint measures the carbon emissions associated with Google Cloud customers’ cloud usage. When the tool was introduced in 2021 it was only available in preview, but Google said this week that it’s now available for all Google Cloud customers. 

Google’s improving security efforts with new tools including Chronicle Security Operations, which helps enterprises leveraging Google Cloud tools to detect and investigate cyberthreats. Confidential Space, an outgrowth of Google’s Confidential Computing portfolio, is the newest addition to the company’s efforts. The idea behind it is to provide a safe and effective way for companies working with personally identifiable information and protected health information to aggregate and analyze the data without compromising security. Google sees banks, insurance agencies and healthcare organizations as prime customers for the new service.

“Confidential Space runs workloads in a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). Together with the hardened version of Container-Optimized OS (COS), data contributors can have control over how their data is used and which workloads are authorized to act on it. Finally, Confidential Space blocks the workload operator from influencing the workload in any way,” explained Rene Kolga, Google Cloud product manager.

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