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Google Cloud Next: A Deep Dive Into AI and Modern Infrastructure

Google Cloud Next: A Deep Dive Into AI and Modern Infrastructure

The News: This week’s Google Cloud Next conference showcased a plethora of announcements aimed at redefining the cloud landscape through advanced AI solutions, expanded partnerships, and modernized infrastructure. From generative AI applications in enterprises to newly-launched Vertex AI extensions, Google is creating an environment that promotes faster decision-making, operational excellence, and technological innovation. For more information, read the post from Google Cloud CEO, Thomas Kurian on the Google Cloud blog.

Google Cloud Next: A Deep Dive Into Transformative AI and Modern Infrastructure

Analyst Take: Google took the opportunity presented by over 12,000 attendees flocking to San Francisco to drop a plethora of announcements, many of which were focused on cementing Google’s leadership position in AI.

Infrastructure and Tools

Google is rolling out critical advancements in cloud-based infrastructure and tools, emphasizing the robustness and scale of its cloud platform. The newly-announced custom silicon TPU v5e is touted to be a game-changer in AI acceleration, offering up to twice the training performance per dollar compared to its predecessor based on Google’s statements. Moreover, the forthcoming A3 VMs, integrated with NVIDIA’s H100 GPU, are optimized for the next generation of AI and large language model (LLM) developments, promising three times better training performance than the A2 series. Jensen Huang, NVIDIA CEO was live on stage as part of the keynote speech wearing his customary leather jacket to further emphasize how the companies are collaborating.

Accompanying these hardware advancements is Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) Enterprise, which aims to streamline AI/ML workloads through multi-cluster horizontal scaling. This new offering is already showing significant benefits by improving productivity by 45% and slashing software deployment times by over 70% according to Google. Additionally, GKE’s features like autoscaling, workload orchestration, and automatic upgrades will now be synergistic with Cloud TPU v5e, potentially revolutionizing the way enterprises manage their AI/ML projects.

On the networking side, and in a somewhat humble move given GCP’s market position, Google is taking cross-cloud collaboration up a notch with the Cross-Cloud Network platform, designed to enhance application connectivity and security across different clouds, and based on Google’s own measurements reducing network latency by up to 35%. Meanwhile, Google Distributed Cloud extends the cloud’s capabilities closer to the edge, offering a slew of next-gen hardware and new security features. Despite attending various briefings, it is unclear whether Distributed Cloud is the new naming convention for Anthos.

These advancements are strategically poised to not only make Google’s cloud infrastructure more versatile but also to make it a solid choice for existing and aspiring generative AI enterprises. With such diversified offerings, Google is clearly aiming to be a one-stop shop for organizations steering through the complexities of modern AI applications, and this is a wise strategy given AWS’ and Azure’s market position and their relative strengths.

Google Vertex: Supercharged

In a pivotal enhancement to its AI offerings, Google has supercharged its Vertex AI platform, aiming to further consolidate its place as a leader in the machine learning (ML) ecosystem. The platform, which has seen a meteoric 150-fold increase in gen AI customer projects from April to July, now offers extensive customization, enterprise-grade security, and a myriad of tooling. Its newly-unveiled features include PaLM 2, Imagen, and Codey upgrades, promising higher adaptability to various enterprise needs—ranging from processing long-form documents to enhancing visual and linguistic capacities. Adapter tuning for these models further enables fine-tuning with minimal data, enhancing their LLM performance.

The platform is also making waves by exclusively offering advanced capabilities like adapter tuning and Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF) for newly added models like Llama 2. An innovative “enterprise grounding service” aims to fine-tune AI responses based on enterprise-specific data, raising the bar for accuracy. Other highlights include real-time information extensions and a proprietary digital watermarking technology, touted as a first among hyperscale cloud providers, that embeds an indiscernible watermark directly into AI-generated images.

As data control remains a pressing concern in the AI industry, Vertex AI ensures zero data leakage, giving enterprises full control over their data, code, and intellectual property. Colab Enterprise extends these capabilities into a collaborative environment, blending ease of use with stringent security measures. With these extensive updates, Google’s Vertex AI platform is set to redefine how organizations approach ML, offering a rich toolkit for building, deploying, and scaling AI models.

Duet AI Takes Shape

Google’s Duet AI is rapidly shaping up to be a transformative influence across Workspace and Google Cloud, signaling a leap in collaborative technology for businesses. Launched just months ago, Duet AI has already proven itself as a valuable tool, assisting users in Gmail, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Meet. Thousands of companies have leveraged Duet AI to improve productivity, automate tedious tasks, and enhance data control.

Google is introducing several new features that could redefine virtual interactions and workflow automation. Duet AI’s role in Google Meet is expanding; it will not only take notes and send meeting summaries but also offer automated translation services. Meanwhile, in Google Chat, Duet AI will summarize documents and allow users to query their content, thus optimizing collaboration spaces.

The AI solution is extending its utility beyond just Workspace. Google Cloud is also set to benefit from Duet AI, with the tool serving as a coding assistant, data analyst, and cybersecurity adviser. It will assist in software development, infrastructure operations, and even in database modernization tasks. High-profile customers such as L’Oréal have already noted significant productivity gains and faster business decision-making processes.

Essentially, Duet AI encapsulates Google’s broader strategy to seamlessly integrate AI into work processes while ensuring data privacy and security. With Duet AI becoming generally available in Workspace and soon in Google Cloud, Google is taking a significant step in making AI a ubiquitous partner in digital productivity.

Unified Data and AI Foundation

Google is doubling down on the symbiotic relationship between data and AI by introducing a suite of new capabilities to its Data and AI Cloud. Building on the momentum of Duet AI, Google aims to streamline analytics at scale with a unified data foundation. Key among the announcements were BigQuery Studio and AlloyDB AI. BigQuery Studio serves as a one-stop interface for data engineering, analytics, and predictive analysis, boasting new integrations with Vertex AI foundation models. It aims to AI-enable data lakehouses and offers innovations in cross-cloud analytics, governance, and data security.

AlloyDB AI, a component of Google’s PostgreSQL-compatible database service, AlloyDB, promises up to a 10x speed increase in vector queries. Its flexibility is underscored by AlloyDB Omni, which allows the service to run virtually everywhere—on-premises or across various cloud platforms including Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure.

In addition to these in-house advancements, Google is expanding its partnerships within its open data ecosystem. Companies like Confluent, DataRobot, and MongoDB are launching new capabilities to accelerate gen AI development, also adding more datasets to Google’s Analytics Hub.

The upshot is a powerful, holistic ecosystem that enables businesses to deploy AI and ML directly to their data, significantly reducing both risks and costs associated with data movement.

Focus on Security

In a concerted effort to tackle the mounting complexities of cybersecurity, Google Cloud is positioning itself as a vanguard through its unique blend of frontline intelligence, a modern SecOps platform, and a trusted cloud foundation— all supercharged by gen AI. The company had previously launched Security AI Workbench, fine-tuned for cybersecurity operations, and Chronicle CyberShield, aimed at empowering governments with centralized security data.

Google Cloud is looking to add several new arrows to its security quiver. The Mandiant Hunt for Chronicle service melds frontline insights with rapid security data analysis, offering businesses elite-level cybersecurity support without the administrative and financial hassle. Also introduced are Agentless Vulnerability Scanning capabilities, enabling Security Command Center to identify weaknesses in Compute Engine VMs. On the network security front, Cloud Firewall Plus, powered by Palo Alto Networks, brings advanced threat protection and next-generation firewall capabilities. Additionally, Network Service Integration Manager allows seamless incorporation of trusted third-party firewall solutions.

Last, Assured Workloads Japan Regions provides a controlled environment ensuring data residency in Japan, local control over encryption keys, and administrative access transparency. All these initiatives reflect Google Cloud’s multifaceted approach to mitigating security risks for diverse customers.

Ecosystem Expansion

At Next ’23, Google Cloud announced significant expansions within its ecosystem, emphasizing collaborations that leverage Vertex AI for versatile applications. Partnerships include DocuSign, which is exploring the use of Vertex AI in developing smart contract assistants, SAP in creating AI-driven business solutions such as streamlining automotive manufacturing, and Workday for integrating gen AI into finance and HR applications. Additionally, global consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte aim to train more than 150,000 experts in Google Cloud GenAI, showcasing a concerted effort to bolster AI applications in diverse industries.

Looking Ahead

AI, AI, and more AI – I stopped counting when AI was mentioned 52 times in the first 22 minutes of the keynote at Google Cloud Next. The focus for Google Cloud is clear, AI. Google Cloud Next has set the stage for an AI-driven transformation, not only of the industry but how we should look at Google as a hyperscale cloud provider. The announcements this week touch every facet from partnerships to custom silicon, infrastructure, and application-specific solutions for enterprises of all sizes. Through these varied announcements, Google Cloud continues to position itself as a leader in promoting efficient, scalable, and secure cloud computing solutions. The integration of generative AI across multiple platforms and services indicates a future where AI is not just an add-on but a fundamental layer of next-gen enterprise technology.

The wave of Gen AI could not have come at a more opportune moment for Google as it looks to take the fight to AWS and Azure and based on the announcements this week, I will be watching the fight for cloud supremacy play out with renewed interest.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other Insights from The Futurum Group:

Previewing Google Cloud Next ’23 – Six Five On the Road

Google Cloud Next: Vertex AI Heats Up Developer Platform Competition

Duet AI for Google Workspaces Enhances Google Meet and Google Chat

Author Information

Regarded as a luminary at the intersection of technology and business transformation, Steven Dickens is the Vice President and Practice Leader for Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure, and Operations at The Futurum Group. With a distinguished track record as a Forbes contributor and a ranking among the Top 10 Analysts by ARInsights, Steven's unique vantage point enables him to chart the nexus between emergent technologies and disruptive innovation, offering unparalleled insights for global enterprises.

Steven's expertise spans a broad spectrum of technologies that drive modern enterprises. Notable among these are open source, hybrid cloud, mission-critical infrastructure, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and FinTech innovation. His work is foundational in aligning the strategic imperatives of C-suite executives with the practical needs of end users and technology practitioners, serving as a catalyst for optimizing the return on technology investments.

Over the years, Steven has been an integral part of industry behemoths including Broadcom, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and IBM. His exceptional ability to pioneer multi-hundred-million-dollar products and to lead global sales teams with revenues in the same echelon has consistently demonstrated his capability for high-impact leadership.

Steven serves as a thought leader in various technology consortiums. He was a founding board member and former Chairperson of the Open Mainframe Project, under the aegis of the Linux Foundation. His role as a Board Advisor continues to shape the advocacy for open source implementations of mainframe technologies.

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