Command and control – Google on its vision of the cloud, privacy, data and security

Google cloud

We spoke to Google’s Joe Valente about the tech giant’s vision of the cloud, privacy, data and security and its plan to put users in control

There are a raft of platforms and services jostling for business when it comes to getting organisations up on the cloud and changing the way they operate. At the heart of this market is the big three cloud platforms – Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

Digital transformation, AI, security, big data, IoT, and pretty much anything else to do with running a business in the future will in some part be based on cloud adoption – the process of moving some or all of your storage and compute to a provider’s remote server, as opposed to on premise technology.

Google recently held an event in London called Google Next, in which it made a raft of announcements including how it is seeking to protect European data (even from Google itself), new assistive features in G Suite that utilise artificial intelligence (AI),  ‘explainable AI’, and a couple of big name deals with Vodafone and John Lewis.

Much of what Google is pushing as the benefits of its cloud platform above that of its rivals seem to be around giving customers more direct control over their data assets once they’ve transitioned into the cloud, in order to address privacy and security concerns.  

We spoke to Product Manager at Google Joe Valente to find out more.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of Google Cloud right now?

I think security and privacy is a big strength for us. We have made a big investment in innovating in that space and making sure we can offer people the absolute latest in encryption technology as a well as transfer technology, to give them the most control we can over their data.   

What will be the next transformative technology or service from Google?

The work we’re doing in hybrid cloud with Anthos is going to be really big. On the security and privacy side, we’ve been lucky in that we’ve been able to release a lot of new technologies specifically at Next London, that have put us in a position in which we can say to the customer: ‘you are the ultimate arbiter of access to your data’.

And that is a really big leap forward in the market because we’re the only cloud provider that can offer that level of control of access to your data. Specifically in Europe, where customers really care a lot about making sure that they are in control.

So a lot of these launches are about giving control and customisation to users?

When we talk to a lot of customers they tell us that they’ve been running their workloads on premise for a long time, that they started moving bits of it to the cloud, but there are still a few categories of data which they are not comfortable moving on to the cloud because they feel like they are losing control.

So this set of announcements that we’ve been able to make in the last month have allowed us to reach out to a lot of those customers and tell them a lot of those things you were previously very uncomfortable putting on the cloud, take another look and consider with this extra control, would you be comfortable finally moving that over?

What’s the Google Cloud strategy to increase market share over Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web services in the cloud platform space?

We approach it from a perspective of what do customers want, and how can we use breakthrough innovations to meet their needs. Specifically, one of the big things we are doing in security and privacy Is making a huge investment in giving people control and transparency. The announcement we’ve made recently are good examples of that – the external key manger and the key access justifications. Two ground-breaking pieces of technology that means the customer in the position where they ultimate arbiter of access to their data.

We think that by offering customers more control and making them more comfortable moving their workloads onto cloud, they’ll always think about Google Cloud first when they are picking a cloud provider. Because they know that’s where they can get the most control for putting their most precious resource, which is their data, into the cloud.

 Is it inevitable that the large tech companies will have to operate under much tighter regulation in the near future?

I think what we’re seeing is that our customers increasingly are driving the requirements around wanting to have more visibility, wanting to have more control and wanting to have auditability over what goes on in the cloud. Previously that was less of a concern for people. Increasingly, especially in the last two to three years, it’s become a very, very big concern.

Google cloud is currently working with the Department of Transport to ‘modernise its core technology’ and to be a “cloud-first” organisation by 2020. In general, how behind is the technology underpinning public sector/government bodies like this, and if plugging them into cloud infrastructures is the way forward, what does that allow these bodies to do/do better?

 When customers do move onto the cloud, we’re very focussed on being able to provide them with all the tools that they need to achieve the absolute best security level that they can achieve, across both their cloud environments and their hybrid environments, on premise through Anthos.

Making security configuration easy, standard and transparent is a big focus for us. And the shift to the cloud is hopefully a chance for a lot of customers to adopt a lot of this new technology – to go back, revaluate the models they have in place, and set things up properly so that they can be secure in the new world.  

As with various offerings that provide huge amounts of compute remotely – Google Stadia is one – is there a future where homes and offices no longer have computing hardware of any type other than to connect to powerful data centres run by cloud services providers, whether that’s Google Cloud or AWS, etc?

While customers are moving more compute and more storage always onto the cloud, our belief is that there’s always a role for customer controlled environments. And in the encryption case we are really proud of the fact that we now have an offering where you can move all of this compute and you can move all of this data that you have onto the cloud, get all the flexibility and all the performance of having it on the cloud, but still have all of the comfort of knowing that ultimately the keys they use to encrypt that data are stored in an environment that you yourself retain control over.

Is Google still, in essence, a ‘search’ company?

Google cloud is really a company that is focussed on bringing all of the greatest innovations that make Google great to our customers, so that we can help them make their business really successful, and help them move to the cloud with confidence.