Google’s managed hybrid cloud platform is now in beta

Last July, at its Cloud Next conference, Google announced the Cloud Services Platform, its first real foray into bringing its own cloud services into the enterprise data center as a managed service. Today, the Cloud Services Platform (CSP) is launching into beta.

It’s important to note that the CSP isn’t — at least for the time being — Google’s way of bringing all of its cloud-based developer services to the on-premises data center. In other words, this is a very different project from something like Microsoft’s Azure Stack. Instead, the focus is on the Google Kubernetes Engine, which allows enterprises to then run their applications in both their own data centers and on virtually any cloud platform that supports containers.As Google Cloud engineering director Chen Goldberg told me, the idea here it to help enterprises innovate and modernize. “Clearly, everybody is very excited about cloud computing, on-demand compute and managed services, but customers have recognized that the move is not that easy,” she said and noted that the vast majority of enterprises are adopting a hybrid approach. And while containers are obviously still a very new technology, she feels good about this bet on the technology because most enterprises are already adopting containers and Kubernetes — and they are doing so at exactly the same time as they are adopting cloud and especially hybrid clouds.

It’s important to note that CSP is a managed platform. Google handles all of the heavy lifting like upgrades and security patches. And for enterprises that need an easy way to install some of the most popular applications, the platform also supports Kubernetes applications from the GCP Marketplace.

As for the tech itself, Goldberg stressed that this isn’t just about Kubernetes. The service also uses Istio, for example, the increasingly popular service mesh that makes it easier for enterprises to secure and control the flow of traffic and API calls between its applications.

With today’s release, Google is also launching its new CSP Config Management tool to help users create multi-cluster policies and set up and enforce access controls, resource quotas and more. CSP also integrates with Google’s Stackdriver Monitoring service and continuous delivery platforms.

“On-prem is not easy,” Goldberg said, and given that this is the first time the company is really supporting software in a data center that is not its own, that’s probably an understatement. But Google also decided that it didn’t want to force users into a specific set of hardware specifications like Azure Stack does, for example. Instead, CSP sits on top of VMware’s vSphere server virtualization platform, which most enterprises already use in their data centers anyway. That surely simplifies things, given that this is a very well-understood platform.

Arm expands its push into the cloud and edge with the Neoverse N1 and E1

For the longest time, Arm was basically synonymous with chip designs for smartphones and very low-end devices. But more recently, the company launched solutions for laptops, cars, high-powered IoT devices and even servers. Today, ahead of MWC 2019, the company is officially launching two new products for cloud and edge applications, the Neoverse N1 and E1. Arm unveiled the Neoverse brand a few months ago, but it’s only now that it is taking concrete form with the launch of these new products.

“We’ve always been anticipating that this market is going to shift as we move more towards this world of lots of really smart devices out at the endpoint — moving beyond even just what smartphones are capable of doing,” Drew Henry, Arms’ SVP and GM for Infrastructure, told me in an interview ahead of today’s announcement. “And when you start anticipating that, you realize that those devices out of those endpoints are going to start creating an awful lot of data and need an awful lot of compute to support that.”

To address these two problems, Arm decided to launch two products: one that focuses on compute speed and one that is all about throughput, especially in the context of 5G.

ARM NEOVERSE N1

The Neoverse N1 platform is meant for infrastructure-class solutions that focus on raw compute speed. The chips should perform significantly better than previous Arm CPU generations meant for the data center and the company says that it saw speedups of 2.5x for Nginx and MemcacheD, for example. Chip manufacturers can optimize the 7nm platform for their needs, with core counts that can reach up to 128 cores (or as few as 4).

“This technology platform is designed for a lot of compute power that you could either put in the data center or stick out at the edge,” said Henry. “It’s very configurable for our customers so they can design how big or small they want those devices to be.”

The E1 is also a 7nm platform, but with a stronger focus on edge computing use cases where you also need some compute power to maybe filter out data as it is generated, but where the focus is on moving that data quickly and efficiently. “The E1 is very highly efficient in terms of its ability to be able to move data through it while doing the right amount of compute as you move that data through,” explained Henry, who also stressed that the company made the decision to launch these two different platforms based on customer feedback.

There’s no point in launching these platforms without software support, though. A few years ago, that would have been a challenge because few commercial vendors supported their data center products on the Arm architecture. Today, many of the biggest open-source and proprietary projects and distributions run on Arm chips, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, Suse, VMware, MySQL, OpenStack, Docker, Microsoft .Net, DOK and OPNFV. “We have lots of support across the space,” said Henry. “And then as you go down to that tier of languages and libraries and compilers, that’s a very large investment area for us at Arm. One of our largest investments in engineering is in software and working with the software communities.”

And as Henry noted, AWS also recently launched its Arm-based servers — and that surely gave the industry a lot more confidence in the platform, given that the biggest cloud supplier is now backing it, too.

You can now register .dev domains

Google today announced that you can now register .dev domain names. Google acquired the .dev top-level domain when ICANN opened up the web to new generic top-level domains (gTLD) a few years ago. At the time, Google acquired gTLD’s like .app, .page and .dev (for some reason, Google also owns .soy).

Right now, the .dev domains are still in an early access program, though. That means you’ll have to pay an additional fee that decreases every day until February 28 — and that early access fee is pretty steep.

Registering a new domain on GoDaddy, which is one of the many resellers that offer the new domain names, will set you back over $12,500 in extra fees today. Tomorrow, that price drops to just over $3,100. Come February 28, you can register any available domain and it’ll just cost you about $20 per year. The idea here, of course, is to manage demand (and to extract a few extra dollars from the companies that really need to have a given domain name).

Some of the companies and organizations that are already using the new gTLD are Google itself, as well as the likes of GitHub. Women Who Code, Jetbrains, Codecademy and Salesforce. And because this is 2019, there’s also Kubernetes.dev.

Like its .app domains, .dev domain will require HTTPS connections to protect users from ad malware, tracking injections and WiFi snooping.

“We hope .dev will be a new home for you to build your communities, learn the latest tech and showcase your projects—all with a perfect domain name,” Google explains in today’s announcement.

I never got the sense that there was all that much demand for non-.com or country-level domain names (does the world really need .ninja domains?), but if you always wanted a .dev domain, now would be a good time to get our your credit card.

Google says it’ll invest $13B in U.S. data centers and offices this year

Google today announced that it will invest $13 billion in data centers and offices across the U.S. in 2019. That’s up from $9 billion in investments last year. Many of these investments will go to states like Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia, where Google plans new or expanded data centers. Though like most years, it’ll also continue to expand many of its existing offices in Seattle, Chicago and New York, as well as in its home state of California.

Given Google’s push for more cloud customers, it’s also interesting to see that the company continues to expand its data center presence across the country. Google will soon open its first data centers in Nevada, Nebraska, Ohio and Texas, for example, and it will expand its Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia data centers. Google clearly isn’t slowing down in its race to compete with AWS and Azure.

“These new investments will give us the capacity to hire tens of thousands of employees, and enable the creation of more than 10,000 new construction jobs in Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai writes today. “With this new investment, Google will now have a home in 24 total states, including data centers in 13 communities. 2019 marks the second year in a row we’ll be growing faster outside of the Bay Area than in it.”

Given the current backlash against many tech companies and automation in general, it’s probably no surprise that Google wants to emphasize the number of jobs it is creating (and especially jobs in Middle America). The construction jobs are obviously temporary, though, and data centers don’t need a lot of employees to run once they are up and running. Still, Google promises that this will give it the “capacity to hire tens of thousands of employees.”

C2A raises $6.5M for its in-car cybersecurity platform

Cars are now essentially computers on wheels — and like every computer, they are susceptible to attacks. It’s no surprise then that there’s a growing number of startups that are working to protect a car’s internal systems from these hacks, especially given that the market for automotive cybersecurity could be worth over $900 billion by 2026.

One of these companies is Israel’s C2A Security, which offers an end-to-end security platform for vehicles, which today announced that it has raised a $6.5 million Series A funding round.

The round was led by Maniv Mobility, which previously invested in companies like Hailo, drive.ai and Turo, and ICV, which has invested in companies like Freightos and Vayyar. OurCrowd’s Labs/02 also participated in this round.

Like most companies at the Series A stage, C2A plans to use the new funding to grow its team, especially on the R&D side, and help support its customer base. Sadly, C2A does not currently talk about who its customers are.

The promise of C2A is that it offers a full suite of solutions to detect and mitigate attacks. The team behind the company has an impressive security pedigree, with the company’s CMO Nat Meron being an alumn of Israel’s Unit 8200 intelligence unit, for example. C2A founder and CEO Michael Dick previously co-founded NDS, a content security solution, which Cisco acquired for around $5 billion in 2012 (and then recently sold on to Permira, also for $5 billion).

“We are extremely proud to receive the support of such outstanding investors, who will bring tremendous value to the company,” said Dick. “Maniv’s expertise in autotech and strong network across the industry coupled with ICV’s rich experience in cybersecurity brings the perfect combination of skills to the table.”

Microsoft really, really, really doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019

Microsoft launched a new ad campaign for its Office suite today. Usually, that’s not something especially interesting, but this one is a bit different. Instead of simply highlighting the features of Word and Excel, Microsoft decided to pitch Office 365 and Office 2019 against each other (as an extra gimmick, it used twins to do so, too). But here’s the deal: Microsoft really doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019, and the ads make that abundantly clear.

The reason for that is obvious: Office 365 is a subscription product while Office 2019 (think Office Home & Student or other SKUs) comes with a perpetual license, so that’s a one-time sale for Microsoft. Subscriptions are a better business for Microsoft in the long run (hence its recent focus on products like Microsoft 365, too).

For the longest time, the annual non-365 Office release was simply a snapshot of the state of the Office apps at a given time. That changed with Office 365. Now, Office 365 users are the ones who get all the online features, including a bunch of AI-driven tools, while the Office 2019 versions don’t get any of these.

Office 365 subscriptions start at $70 for personal use and $8.25/month for business users. Office Home and Business is a one-time $250 purchase.

Unsurprisingly, in the new ads, which give the actors twins various challenges to perform in the likes of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Office 365 beats Office 2019 every time. Yawn. The ads aren’t very good and you will cringe a few times (though sadly, they are no rival to Microsoft’s worst commercial ever, 2009’s Songsmith debacle), but you’ll definitely come away with a sense that Microsoft really wants you to subscribe to Office 365 and not buy a perpetual Office 2019 license and then maybe buy the next update in 2025.

Google brings Chrome OS Instant Tethering to more Chromebooks and phones

Tethering your laptop and phone can be a bit of a hassle. Google’s Chrome OS has long offered a solution called Instant Tethering that makes the process automatic, but so far, this only worked for a small set of Google’s own Chromebooks and phones, starting with the Nexus 6. Now Google is officially bringing this feature to a wider range of devices after testing it behind a Chrome OS flag for a few weeks. With this, Instant Tethering is now available on an additional 15 Chromebooks and more than 30 phones.

The promise of Instant Tether is pretty straightforward. Instead of having to turn on the hotspot feature on your phone and then manually connecting to the hotspot from your device (and hopefully remembering to turn it off when you are done), this feature lets you do this once during the setup process and then, when the Chromebook doesn’t have access to a Wi-Fi network, it’ll simply create a connection to your phone with a single click. If you’re not using the connection for more than 10 minutes, it’ll also automatically turn off the hotspot feature on the phone, too.

Tethering, of course, counts against your cell plan’s monthly data allotment (and even most “unlimited” plans only feature a limited number of GB for tethering), so keep that in mind if you decide to turn on this feature.

You can find the full list of newly supported devices, which include many of today’s most popular Android phones and Chromebooks, below.

Microsoft Azure revenue growth slows in Q2

Microsoft announced its quarterly earnings today. For the most part, those earnings came in around Wall Streets expectations, without any major surprises and a total revenue of $32.5 billion. Given the company’s bets on cloud computing, what’s maybe most important, though, is that Azure recorded revenue growth of 76 percent. That’s the same growth the company booked in the last quarter and still respectable growth, but depending on your perspective, you can also read it as growth flatting out.

“Our strong commercial cloud results reflect our deep and growing partnerships with leading companies in every industry including retail, financial services, and healthcare,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “We are delivering differentiated value across the cloud and edge as we work to earn customer trust every day.”

Azure falls into Microsoft’s “Intelligent Cloud” category, which includes other server products and enterprises services. In total, those services booked $9.4 billion in revenue, up 20 percent. Commercial cloud revenue was up 48 percent year-over-year.

As for the rest of the earnings, it’s worth noting that revenue from Microsoft’s Surface devices was up 39 percent, but that was expected, given the time of the year and the fact the company released a number of new devices in recent months. Gaming, too, was a strong area, with Xbox software and services up 31 percent.

You can find the full release here.

Google will start retiring Hangouts for G Suite users in October

Google’s strategy around its consumer messaging services remains baffling, especially since it killed off Allo (yet kept Duo on life support). Today, the company clarified the timeline of the transition from classic Hangouts to Chat and Meet for its paying G Suite customers. For them, the Hangouts retirement party will start in October of this year.

For consumers, the situation remains unclear, but Google says there will be free versions of Chat and Meet that will become available “following the transition of G Suite customers.” As of now, there is no timeline, so for all we know, Hangouts will remain up and running into 2020.

As for G Suite users, Google says it will start bringing more features from classic Hangouts to Chat between April and September. Those include integration with Gmail, the ability to talk to external users, improved video calling and making calls with Google Voice.

Google originally started migrating Hangouts users to the Meet video conferencing service last year. The story there was pretty straightforward, though, given that Meet was a new service with new functionality. For Hangouts, the story is far more complicated, and Hangouts Chat isn’t currently available to consumers. They do have the choice between dozens of other messaging apps, though, and all of this confusion is likely to cost Google quite a few users.

Google raises its G Suite prices

Google today announced that it is raising the price of its G Suite subscriptions for the first time. In the U.S., the prices of G Suite Basic and G Suite Business editions will increase by $1 and $2 per user/month, respectively, while increases in other regions will be adjusted according to the local currency and market. G Suite Enterprise pricing will remain the same.

The new pricing will go into effect on April 2; those on annual plans will pay the new price when their contract renews after that date.

Usually, a $1 or $2 price increase wouldn’t be a big deal, but this is the first time Google has raised the price of its G Suite subscriptions. The company argues that it has added plenty of new services — like video conferencing with Hangouts Meet, team messaging with Hangouts Chat, increased storage quotas and other security and productivity tools and services — to the platform since it first launched its paid service with its core productivity tools back in 2006.

That seems like a fair argument to me, though a 20 percent price increase may be hard to swallow for some small businesses. It’s also worth remembering that G Suite is now big business for Google. There are now more than 4 million businesses on G Suite, after all, and while some of them are surely on enterprise plans with a price point their teams negotiated privately, the vast majority of them are surely on the standard monthly or annual plans.