Google bets big on AI, security in cloud battle

Firm vying with Amazon, Microsoft for dominance of cloud

In a battle to dominate cloud computing services, Google is taking on rivals Amazon and Microsoft by wooing customers with its artificial intelligence and security technologies.

“Security is the number one worry and AI is the number one opportunity,” Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene said at the Google Cloud Next ’18 conference in San Francisco, which saw the participation of more than 20,000 people comprising customers, partners, developers and Googlers.

“If you look a few years back, the infrastructure was like driving around in a horse and buggy,” said Mike McNamara, chief information and digital officer at retailer Target — a Google Cloud customer — after he was introduced by Ms. Greene to the audience.

‘3 performance cars’

“Today you have got three performance cars parked in the driveway. So you choose the partner who suits your organisation. I think Target and Google have a lot of shared values,” he said.

Unity, a leading 3D game and design developer platform, is also moving from Amazon Web Services “to Google Cloud,” said Ms. Greene, who co-founded and ran three successful technology companies including VMware.

This month U.S. retail major Walmart entered into a strategic partnership with Microsoft for broader use of AI and cloud technologies.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that AI holds enormous promise and the company is using it to rethink and reimagine its own products ranging from search, maps, Gmail to Android.

“We call it an AI first approach and we want to bring that approach and [its] power to all of you,” said Mr. Pichai, who made a surprise appearance signaling the importance of the cloud computing business to Google.

The public cloud services market is projected to grow 21.4% in 2018 to $186.4 billion, from $153.5 billion last year, according to research firm Gartner. The business is expected to almost double to $302.5 billion in 2021.

“The cloud is going to be a huge opportunity for Google… We are deeply investing for the long run and the best is yet to come,” said Mr. Pichai.

Cloud infrastructure

Google has spent $30 billion to improve its infrastructure over three years. This includes many football stadium-sized data centres, hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber-optic submarine cables and hyper-fast machine-to-machine interconnects. Google has also invested in specialised processors like Titan and Tensor Processing Unit, Ms. Greene said, adding that Google’s big data tools like BigQuery can process an entire petabyte (1 million gigabytes) in 3.7 minutes.

Google has also allied with other companies to tap into the money-making enterprise business. The firm has partnered with networking giant Cisco on a hybrid cloud and an on-premise version of Kubernetes, an open source project, that will ship soon.

“Our joint solution, Cisco Hybrid Cloud Platform for Google Cloud, will be generally available next month,” said Urs Hölzle, SVP Cloud Infrastructure.

Mountain View, California-based Google is also betting big to bring its healthcare machine learning to market. The firm announced a partnership with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), to make it easier to access and analyse large biomedical data sets. The aim is to accelerate efforts to find cures for diseases.

(The writer is in San Francisco at the invitation of Google)

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