What is Google Cloud Next? What to know in 2020

If you’ve never attended Google Cloud Next—our annual gathering of the best and the brightest in the cloud community—you might be wondering what it is, how to get there, and what attending might do for you. To answer any burning questions, here’s a quick primer on all things Next.

What is Google Cloud Next?

Google Cloud Next brings together a global community of developers, leaders, influencers, customers, and partners across industries for three days of diving deep into all things cloud. At Next, you can connect one-on-one with Google experts, get hands-on in our showcase and labs, get to know like-minded peers, and get started with more than 500 sessions, panels, boot camps, and more.

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When and where is Google Cloud Next?

Building on the success of last year, Google Cloud Next is taking over the Moscone Center in San Francisco from April 6–8, 2020. The Moscone Center is located at 748 Howard Street in San Francisco.

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What happens at Google Cloud Next?

From panels to bootcamps, demos to discussions, you’ll take part in events focused on solving your most pressing challenges. Get to know Google Cloud experts and industry leaders, deepen your knowledge in 500+ sessions and learning opportunities, and make critical connections across all our events and meeting spaces.

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Here are just a few of the ways you can participate at Google Cloud Next:

  • DevZone Theater—Be inspired through deep technical talks, demos, and discussions. Topics range from beginner to advanced, and provide opportunities for you to learn from developers on the latest Google Cloud has to offer.

  • Showcase experiments—Explore our Google Cloud Showcase with a series of interactive installations and demos. Each is designed to teach and inspire you about how Google Cloud can help transform your businesses and industry.

  • Hands-on labs—Master Google Cloud and real-world use cases using the actual Google Cloud console. Explore topics like Kubernetes, AI, security, and more.

  • Bootcamps—Gain valuable insight directly from Google experts. Hone skills that will advance your career and add value to your organization.

  • Certifications—Show the world you can design, develop, and manage application infrastructure and data solutions on GCP by getting Google Cloud Certified.

Who should attend Google Cloud Next?

Google Cloud Next is our global exhibition of inspiration, innovation, and education. It’s where developers and anyone passionate about an accessible, scalable, socially responsible cloud come together to share challenges, solutions, 10x ideas, and game-changing technologies. In short: Everyone’s invited.

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How are you demonstrating your commitment to sustainability at Google Cloud Next?

We’re continually looking for ways to build sustainability into all we do, and Google events such as Next are no exception. In 2019, we sent 75% of our carpet for reuse, recycled badges, distributed refillable water bottles, and donated more than 1300 meals and 20 pallets of goods to local charities in an effort to cut down on emissions and waste. 

This year we’re taking these efforts a step further in a number of ways. We’re purchasing carbon offsets for all of our attendees’ travel, typically the largest contributor to the emissions footprint of any international gathering. We’re also reusing many of the elements we built for Next 2018 and 2019, and when we do build from scratch, we’re prioritizing local materials with low invested energy and fewer virgin materials. And we’ll be offering local, plant-forward meal options and working to reduce single-use disposables. 

How much does Google Cloud Next cost?

General admission is $1,699 USD. However if you register by March 31 with the code GRPABLOG2020, you’ll receive $300 USD off a full-price ticket. 

How can I stay informed on the latest about Google Cloud Next?

Be sure to check the Google Cloud Next website regularly for the latest on breakout sessions, speakers, and activities. You can also sign up to receive regular email updates, and follow Google Cloud on Twitter to join the conversation.

Google Cloud acquires Cornerstone Technology to help you migrate your mainframe

We are excited to share that Google Cloud has acquired Cornerstone Technology to better help customers migrate their mainframe workloads to Google Cloud. 

Cornerstone brings a wealth of experience and innovative solutions to our portfolio of products and services that help customers modernize their infrastructure and applications. Their capabilities will form the “cornerstone” of our mainframe-to-GCP solutions, and customers are able to take advantage of these new capabilities now through our Professional Services Organization and our partner network. 

For decades, companies have relied on a mainframe architecture to run their mission-critical workloads, but it often holds developers back from taking advantage of new technologies that enable them to innovate more quickly. Cloud computing presents the opportunity to modernize your applications and your infrastructure, resulting in better capabilities and allocation of resources so your organization can focus on your core business. 

As the industry increasingly builds applications as a set of services, many customers want to break their mainframe monolith programs into either Java monoliths or Java microservices. This approach to application modernization is at the heart of the Cornerstonetoolset. Through the use of automated processes, Cornerstone’s tools can break down your Cobol, PL/1, or Assembler programs into services and then make them cloud native, such as within a managed, containerized environment.

Cornerstone solutions bring a number of benefits to customers as they modernize their infrastructure and applications on Google Cloud:

  1. Migration roadmap development—Conduct an assessment on your entire mainframe environment, find the macro and the microservices, and create a roadmap to a modern services architecture, making it easy to plan your path to the cloud.
  2. Conversion flexibility (“any-to-any”)—Convert any language to any other language and any database to any other database to prepare your applications for modern environments.
  3. Automated data migration—Easily move your mainframe data, unlocking its value to drive new innovative use cases in data analytics and data warehousing. 

Boa Vista, a large financial services company in Brazil, is migrating to Google Cloud and modernizing their applications using Cornerstone’s toolset. 

“Migrating to a new services architecture helps us innovate faster and save on compute costs. We’re migrating both our AS/400 and z/OS systems to more modern technologies like Java and SQL databases,” said Ricardo Orlando, chief technology officer of Boa Vista. “Google Cloud is helping us realize new revenue streams and more effectively deploy our resources.”

This is one more example of how Google Cloud is helping enterprise customers modernize their infrastructure and applications as they transition to the cloud. We’ve been making great strides to better serve enterprise customers, including introducing Premium Support, better aligning our Customer Success organization, simplifying our commercial contracting process to make it easier to do business with Google Cloud, and expanding our partner relationships.

“Easy mainframe migration will go a long way as Google attracts large enterprises to its cloud,” said Matt Eastwood, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Infrastructure, Cloud, Developers and Alliances, IDC. “Google Cloud is listening to its customers and meeting them where they are, steadily improving its services and attracting businesses across industries.”

For help with your application modernization journey, please reach out to [email protected], and please join us in welcoming Cornerstone to Google Cloud!

Plan your Next ‘20 journey: Session guide available now

Get ready to make the most of Google Cloud Next ‘20: our session guide is now available.

At Google Cloud Next, our aim is to give you the tools you need to sharpen your technical skills, expand your network, and accelerate personal development. Across our hundreds of breakout sessions you’ll get the chance to connect and learn about all aspects of Google Cloud—from multi-cloud deployments, to application modernization, to next-level collaboration and productivity. Developers, practitioners, and operators from all over the world will come together at Next, and we hope you’ll join them.

This year we’re going deep on the skills and knowledge enterprises need to be successful in the cloud. Our catalog of technical content keeps growing, and this year we’re offering more than 500 breakout sessions, panels, bootcamps, and hands-on labs. These sessions will give you in-depth knowledge in seven core areas: 

  • Infrastructure—Migrate and modernize applications and systems on premises and in the cloud.
  • Application modernization—Develop, deploy, integrate, and manage both your existing apps and new cloud-native applications.
  • Data management and analytics—Take advantage of highly available and scalable tools to store and manage your structured and unstructured data, then derive meaningful insights from that data.
  • Cloud AI and machine learning—Leverage your data by applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform your business.
  • Business application development—Reimagine app development by helping you innovate with no-code development, workflow automation, app integration, and API management. 
  • Cloud security—Keep your systems, apps, and users better protected with world-class security tools.
  • Productivity and collaboration—Transform the ways teams grow, share, and work together.

This means you can troubleshoot and debug microservices in Kubernetes, get a primer on big data and machine learning fundamentals, then finish up your day by learning to build, deploy, modernize and manage apps using Anthos. Or pick from hundreds of other topics

Want to learn which sessions you don’t want to miss? Beginning in March, we’ll be publishing guides to Next from Google experts. Keep an eye on our blog.

Google completes Looker acquisition

I’m pleased to announce that Google has completed its acquisition of Looker. Together, we’re excited to offer customers a comprehensive analytics solution that integrates and visualizes insights at every layer of their business.  

Today, hundreds of joint customers already rely on Google Cloud and Looker to make smarter business decisions. And by joining together, we believe we will be uniquely positioned to address the data analytics and business intelligence demands of even more enterprises globally, across all industries. Looker will strengthen Google Cloud’s analytics and data warehouse capabilities, including BigQuery, enabling our customers to address some of their toughest business challenges, faster—all while maintaining complete control of their data

Google Cloud and Looker share a common philosophy around delivering open solutions and supporting customers wherever they are—be it on Google Cloud, in other public clouds, or on premises. As more organizations adopt a multi-cloud strategy, Looker customers and partners can expect continued support of all cloud data management systems like Amazon Redshift, Azure SQL, Snowflake, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and Teradata.

We’re thrilled to officially welcome the Looker team to Google Cloud. For more on what this means for Looker and its community of customers and partners, please read the blog from Looker CEO, Frank Bien.

Comments on the news:

  • “Companies across the globe are migrating to the cloud and adopting a multi-cloud strategy. For leading technology providers, it’s critical that we put customers first to help them achieve their digital transformation goals,” says Frank Slootman, CEO of Snowflake. “The combination of Google Cloud and Looker and their commitment to multi-cloud support will help deliver more value to customers faster. We look forward to our continued partnership with both companies.”
  • “There is no slowing in the data analytics and business intelligence market, in fact, it’s only growing as more and more data is created and enterprises across all industries look to use data to be better informed, make smarter decisions and digitally transform their organizations,” said Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer, Dresner Advisory Services. “Our research derived directly from customer feedback shows Google Cloud as a Leader in Analytical Data Infrastructure, and Looker as a Leader in enterprise business intelligence. We see synergy and nominal overlap between their solutions, and believe this acquisition should strengthen their ability to serve enterprise customers together.

How SAP users are achieving retail transformation with Google Cloud

The retail industry is in the midst of a transformation. Online commerce has emerged as a force to reckon with, commanding close to $6 trillion in market opportunity by 2022. With so much at stake, nearly half of all retailers are looking to the cloud to improve customer omnichannel experience and retail store performance. And retailers utilizing SAP solutions are no exception: 75% of retailers surveyed by the Americas’ SAP Users Group (ASUG whitepaper) expressed plans to increase digital investments in the next two years by at least 10% in order to accelerate digital transformation. Of those surveyed, 1 in 4 intend to increase investments significantly, by 50% or more.

Retailers know what they need to offer to evolve today: a customer-focused, data-driven, seamless customer experience. But that journey is filled with technological roadblocks that are leaving even the largest retailers in limbo. For retailers innovating with SAP technologies, these roadblocks can present difficulties while migrating, deploying, and running new software that’s expensive and challenging to scale on legacy, on-premises infrastructure. Central to making the transformation journey a success is leveraging the public cloud and choosing the right public cloud service provider (CSP) — remember that not all clouds are created equal. Here at Google Cloud, we’ve helped SAP customers and retailers achieve transformation success by:

  1. Giving customers a simplified cloud journey with access to our Cloud Acceleration Program (CAP), and our robust partner community

  2. Helping to accelerate innovation with industry-leading advanced analytics and AI/ML tools.

  3. Providing a scalable and elastic infrastructure to rightsize your applications and instances.

  4. Minimizing downtime with automated infrastructure maintenance with our Live Migration offering.

Let’s take a look at how three retailers using SAP on Google Cloud were able to face their technology challenges head-on and bring their visions for digital transformation to life.

Omnichannel: MediaMarktSaturn’s road to customer-centricity

Customers in the digital age expect personalized, seamless omnichannel experiences—from browsing online or via mobile to in-store and checkout. Most retailers are eager to deliver on this expectation, especially with rising technologies like AI, ML, and predictive analytics promising seamless omnichannel experiences. But contrast retail’s future tech landscape with today’s reality: 75% of SAP retail solution customers who participated in our recent ASUG study qualify as digital newcomers that are still in the early stages of transformation. In order to successfully offer personalized, customer-centric omnichannel experiences, retailers must generate customer insights in real time. However, this requires massive compute resources that are beyond the capabilities of most current on-premises infrastructures leveraging SAP.

MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group, one of the world’s leading consumer electronics retailers, recently encountered data pipeline challenges that prevented the company from modernizing its omnichannel and retail strategies. MediaMarktSaturn was looking to unify its large data sets and infrastructure across its SAP solutions to generate accurate and relevant insights for both its business and its customers. However, MediaMarktSaturn’s legacy hardware infrastructure was not only incapable of handling the data volumes required to realize its omnichannel goal, but it was also unable to scale up and then back down again to accommodate varying levels of traffic without disruption. 

To overcome these technical and infrastructural hurdles, MediaMarktSaturn chose Google Cloud to help modernize and migrate its SAP workloads into the cloud. Together with Google Cloud, MediaMarktSaturn decided to leverage Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), BigQuery, and BigTable to store, mine, cleanse, and analyze data to generate real-time, personalized insights that would better serve customers across all channels. The effort has so far yielded a 30% increase in conversion rates, due to optimizing their search technology and high-performance data handling. Looking to the future and equipped with the tools to modernize its retail strategy, MediaMarktSaturn has started to build analytics tools that explore price elasticity and price prediction based on multiple variables.

Store operations: How Loblaw is delighting customers with seamless experiences

Building on the omnichannel experience, retailers are also rapidly modernizing store operations, outpacing the agility of their on-premise SAP infrastructure. With optimized express checkout, on-shelf and intelligent inventory management, and dynamic assortment planning on the retail tech horizon, it’s becoming increasingly critical that retail businesses have the foundation to build, test, and deploy the emerging technologies that are critical to compete. Retailers that delay infrastructural modernization in favor of layering new swaths of code on top of legacy systems risk creating a highly complex, coupled, and unscalable monolith that’s prone to downtime and data inaccuracies. 

Loblaw, Canada’s food and pharmacy leader and the nation’s largest retailer, recently encountered data pipeline issues similar to those at MMS while leveraging SAP Hybris in traditional on-prem environments. It had the goal of enabling personalized product recommendations on ecommerce platforms, but the technology was missing the mark, as the quality of suggestions and response latency had room for improvement. Loblaw also wanted to enable marketers to run promotions at any time, without requiring conversations with IT to prepare ecommerce systems. 

Loblaw decided to leverage public cloud because achieving its vision on-premises would require expanding its data centers and creating dedicated IT maintenance and operations teams. Rather than investing even more resources to support dated, inflexible technology solutions, Loblaw picked Google Cloud:

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we offload all that effort to someone who’s doing it at scale, making the appropriate investments, and staying ahead in technology so that we can really focus our efforts on driving value to the customer,’ ” says Hesham Fahmy, Vice President of Technology at Loblaw.

The first phase of Loblaw’s migration to the cloud involved its online grocery store, QuickShop, that leverages transaction data from SAP Hybris. Google Cloud offers a certified infrastructure for SAP Hybris, removing the administrative burden required to create an architectural foundation for modernization. Loblaw also uses BigQuery to run real-time analysis of customer data across the buying lifecycle to serve customers with more relevant offers. 

As a result of the partnership between Google Cloud and SAP, Loblaw has experienced a four-fold improvement in QuickShop’s performance, a three-fold increase in site capacity, and a 50% time savings for its Site Reliability Engineers, allowing the company to focus on further innovations in customer experience. 

Logistics, fulfillment, and delivery: MultiPharma’s path to serving customer needs with automated warehouses 

They may not get as much attention, but back-end operations are critical to retail success. Real-time, accurate, automated warehouse management is one of those workloads. From robotics and RFID tagging to on-demand inventory management, warehousing systems require a vast amount of data from all across a retailer’s ecosystem, both online and in-store. Much like the issues that come with developing omnichannel and store operations innovations, modernizing a company’s warehousing can strain legacy, on-prem infrastructure, causing inaccuracies, downtime, and unfulfilled orders. 

For pharmaceutical retailer MultiPharma, a key value proposition is prompt delivery of medication orders to pharmacists, even during periods of high demand. This required heavy investments in warehouse distribution, robotics, and automation—technologies that need scalable, elastic, and extensible infrastructure. MultiPharma originally satisfied this need with a legacy back-end SAP system and its own private cloud. But issues with cost and flexibility prompted the company to leverage SAP HANA and move to the public cloud. 

While the company considered several cloud services providers, MultiPharma selected Google Cloud for its superior VM solutions, flexible sizing, and pricing structures. MultiPharma phased the migration of SAP workloads into Google Cloud, the first of which involved creating a development environment for teams to conduct agile testing before finishing the product environment. Within the first phase, MultiPharma is already reaping benefits, including greater flexibility and increased resources that allow it to concentrate on further business innovations, such as optimizing ecommerce and customer-facing applications. 

As the retail industry continues to transform, retailers that embrace cloud technologies are increasingly positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities. But in order for increased investments in digital transformations to pay off, retailers leveraging SAP need to ensure their infrastructure and data pipeline are ready for upcoming innovations. Although many enterprises may be tempted to temporarily solve this challenge by layering software in legacy, on-prem architecture, doing so almost certainly guarantees an inflexible, unscalable, inelastic, and costly monolith incapable of continuous modernization. Like MediaMarktSaturn, Loblaw, and MultiPharma, forward-thinking retailers should consider leveraging the cloud’s many offerings and managed services to not only remove the burden of infrastructure and data development and maintenance, but also to enable the best performance from their SAP and technology investments. 

To learn more about Google Cloud’s work with retailers utilizing SAP technologies and get key takeaways, read “Google Cloud Strategy Guide: 5 Learnings for Your SAP Retail Workloads.” You can also learn more about our SAP and retail industry solutions.

Google Cloud Documentation gets a new look and new functionality

New package, same great content

The Google Cloud documentation team has been hard at work to provide you with a better documentation experience. These changes help us create a more consistent experience across the developer documentation site, and they lay the groundwork for future improvements. We started this work in 2019 and are rolling out more updates in 2020. Here’s a roundup of changes that you’ll notice and some notes about why we’ve made them.

Refreshed layout

We’ve been making changes to the layout and organization of the documentation pages to make it easier for you to find the content you’re looking for. We started right with the home page for the Google Cloud documentation set. The new layout puts front and center some of the most popular information—basics, platform comparisons, enterprise onboarding, programming, and more:

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The navigation has also been reorganized to make it easier to find content. You’ll see tabs across the top (Guides, Reference, Support, and Resources) that pull together related content. Are you looking for a how-to guide? Click the Guides tab. What about API reference documentation? Click the Reference tab.

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Because content is organized using the tabs at the top, the left-hand navigation pane is easier to scan. It also now stays in place instead of scrolling up with the content.

Faster pages, offline pages

Under the hood, we reimplemented the site as a Progressive Web App. For our readers, this means:

  • Faster and smoother loading.

  • A good reading experience even under uneven networking conditions.

  • Eventual support for reading pages offline. This feature is still under development, but the framework is in place to make it happen.

Easier to provide feedback

We want to hear from you! We’ve made it easier to tell us what you think. If you want to leave a quick rating, you can leave feedback at the top of the page, the way you’ve always been able to:

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You can also leave us feedback when you get to the end of an article—you don’t have to scroll to the top:

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This feedback goes directly to the documentation team for that page, and we use it to make continuous improvements to the docs. 

Go directly to the Google Cloud Console

Let’s say you’re reading documentation about a Google Cloud feature, and, of course, you want to try it out. Did you know that you can click the Console button at the top of the documentation page and go straight to the console?

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Easier to switch languages

Do you want to read documentation in a different language? We’ve made the language picker easier to find and use by moving it to the header from the footer:

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More to come

We have more updates coming in 2020, all designed to make your documentation experience even better. Stay tuned! 

Code to Inspire brings developer skills to girls in Afghanistan with the help of G Suite

Born in Iran as a refugee during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, I understand the challenges many people face there to get access to formal education. I was one of eight children in a progressive, yet financially limited, family. We left everything behind in Herat to move to a new country. To make ends meet, my mother sold handmade clothing. She invested what little she earned in my education, which made it possible for me to finish high school. 

While opportunities for education in Afghanistan have increased over the past few decades, there are still many barriers that stand in the way of education for Afghan women—familial expectations, socioeconomic circumstances, cultural stigmas, societal norms and even safety issues. These circumstances make it challenging for women to find work and explain why only 19 percent participate in the workforce, 84 percent lack formal education and are often illiterate, and just 2 percent have access to higher education.

2001 marked the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and many Afghan families, including my own, found hope in their motherland again. The next year, I returned to Herat. Seeing my peers —women just like me with so much potential—I felt compelled to do something. But I knew that in order to help others, I first needed to further my own education. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and later a Master’s degree from the Technical University of Berlin in Germany. 

When I returned to Afghanistan after school, I hoped to share my newly-minted tech skills with Herat women by teaching at the local university. At the time, few women were participating in the public workforce and there were still many extremist, conservative views in the country. I was vocal about inequalities and faced backlash from the community; because of these threats, I came to the United States as an asylum seeker in 2012. 

After arriving in the United States, I was inspired to start Code to Inspire, the first coding school for girls in Afghanistan between the ages of 15 and 25 that provides free after school education in gaming, web development, graphic design, mobile applications and full stack development. Our goal is to empower women with the skills they need to program so that they can drive change in their communities and gain equal access to opportunities and financial independence.

Determined to make this coding school happen, I found myself faced with an interesting obstacle: how could I build an education center in Afghanistan without ever leaving the US? 

To make this possible, I turned to technology—just as I had hoped my future students would. I took a side job teaching Farsi to pay my bills, and built the blueprint for Code to Inspire from a laptop in Brooklyn. I managed everything from my computer working from cafes in New York: fundraising, shipping equipment, recruiting mentors, registering applicants, and developing the curriculum. To move things forward day-to-day, I use G Suite to communicate and collaborate with my team. I use Hangouts Meet to connect with students remotely during weekly calls and monthly check-ins. We use Google Docs, Sheets and Slides to create essential documents and keep track of our operations. We even used Slides for our first pitch deck, which I shared with my board to get their feedback. This power and connectivity enabled a refugee to make her dream come true, and built up the digital literacy of the women I was working with back home!

Since opening its doors, 150 girls have studied with us, and the students have created so many interesting projects. One inspiring example is the popular mobile game, Afghan Hero Girl, which has taken off in Afghanistan and abroad, and was even recognized by the local government. The girls developed the game to show a female protagonist dressed in traditional Afghan garb, who undergoes obstacles that are relatable to them.  

Over 50 women have graduated from Code to Inspire, and 20 have secured remote full-time employment and freelance projects. Many of these women are even out-earning their male relatives who have become huge supporters of the program.

By 2030, we hope to open two additional schools in Kabul and Mazar that can serve up to 500 girls and provide employment opportunities within six months of graduation. From the ruins of a shattered nation and shattered lives of refugees can come treasure, if we know where to find it. For me, the girls in Afghanistan are the treasure and investing in their education is the future of a peaceful Afghanistan.

Google acquires AppSheet to help businesses create and extend applications—without coding

Today, Google is excited to announce that it has acquired AppSheet, a leading no-code application development platform used by a number of enterprises across a variety of industries. 

The demand for faster processes and automation in today’s competitive landscape requires more business applications to be built with greater speed and efficiency. However, many companies lack the resources to address these challenges. This acquisition helps enterprises empower millions of citizen developers to more easily create and extend applications without the need for professional coding skills. 

According to “The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Platforms For Business Developers,” Q2 2019, “AppSheet has the most aggressive strategy and roadmap for empowering business people as developers. The platform had the highest score possible in the commercial model criterion and it shows in a stellar experience along with strong features for mobile app development, data design, application scaling, and documentation generation.”

AppSheet complements Google Cloud’s strategy to reimagine the application development space with a platform that helps enterprises innovate with no-code development, workflow automation, application integration and API management as they modernize their business processes in the cloud. AppSheet’s ability to power a range of applications—from CRM to field inspections and personalized reporting—combined with Google Cloud’s deep expertise in key verticals, will further enable digital transformation across industries like financial services, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, communication and media & entertainment. 

With this acquisition, customers will be able to develop richer applications at scale that leverage not only Google Sheets and Forms which are already popular with customers, but other top Google technologies like Android, Maps and Google Analytics. In addition, AppSheet customers can continue to integrate with a number of cloud-hosted data sources including Salesforce, Dropbox, AWS DynamoDB and MySQL.

For more information, you can read AppSheet CEO, Praveen Seshadri’s blog post. We look forward to sharing more with you soon!

Google Cloud Helps Retailers Win the Digital Race

As I attend NRF 2020, retail’s biggest annual event today and speak with a number of leading retailers, one thing is clear: digital transformation is more than just a requirement. It’s a race. Retailers that transform the fastest are the most successful. We see this with retail leaders like Kohl’s and Lowe’s, who continue to innovate and reinvent themselves, and also with digital natives like Zulily and Stitch Fix, who have come up with entirely new ways to deliver great customer experiences.

Technology is the fulcrum for this transformation, and Google Cloud is working with retailers in three important ways: 

  • We’re helping retailers accelerate digital and omnichannel revenue growth;
  • We’re helping them become more customer-centric and data-driven; and
  • We’re providing solutions that help drive operational improvement. 

Capturing digital and omnichannel growth—and eliminating interruptions 

In a recentsurvey, one in 10 retail executives said their company’s website experienced an outage during Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year, and 72 percent said they experienced an outage within the past five years. We all know even a second in lag time can mean the difference between a sale and an abandoned cart, so uptime and speed are critical when shoppers are spending billions of dollars in a single day. 

That’s why we’re excited to expand our Retail Acceleration Program (RAP) to a broader set of customers in 2020. RAP is a services offering that helps retailers optimize their websites, build a unified view of customer data, and drive increased foot traffic. Today, we’re also expanding the availability of Customer Reliability Engineering, a white-glove service that helps retailers plan and execute flawlessly during their peak shopping seasons. Customers such as Kohl’s, Wayfair, and Shopify have already turned to Google Cloud to help them stay worry-free during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Capturing omnichannel growth ultimately means creating better online experiences. Google Cloud offers several tools for retailers interested in providing more intuitive product discovery for consumers. We’re currently piloting one of these new tools—Google Cloud Search for Retail—and will bring it to the broader retail market in 2020. Powered by Google Search algorithms and leveraging state-of-the-art cloud AI technologies, Google Cloud Search for Retail provides retailers with high-quality product search results for their websites and mobile applications—giving them the ability to surface the right products, to the right customers, at just the right time.  

Retailers today are increasingly centralizing their user data in Google’s BigQuery data analytics platform, and then building personalization and recommendation models on top of this data. Today, we’re announcing Google Cloud 1:1 Engagement for Retail, a blueprint and best-practice guide on how to build these types of data-driven solutions effectively and with less up-front cost. Delivered by Google Cloud and our ecosystem of partners, 1:1 Engagement for Retail helps retailers create hyper-personalization at scale.

Helping retailers become more customer-centric and data-driven 

Google is the first place that shoppers go to discover new brands and products. Hundreds of millions of people shop each day across Google properties including Search, YouTube, Shopping, Google Assistant and Maps. We help retailers expand their reach with Google Ads, as well as empower them to better understand their shoppers with advanced analytics, so that they can optimize their spend across channels.

As digital influence on sales continues to increase—and newer fulfillment options such as “buy online, pick up in store” or “ship from store” continue to become popular—there’s even more pressure on retailers’ supply chains. Being accurate with inventory planning and operating a more streamlined supply chain can be the difference between success and failure. Google Cloud’s new Buy Optimization and Demand Forecasting service offering allows retailers to plan inventory and manage their supply chains to deliver the right products to the right channels.

One retailer using these solutions is Carrefour, one of the largest grocery retailers in France. Carrefour needed to ensure it had the right products, in front of the right shoppers, at the right store location. With Google Cloud, Carrefour developed an assortment recommendation tool that helped the chain support a more personalized selection at the store level, giving store directors the autonomy to influence inventory needs. The tool also gives Carrefour headquarters visibility into the merchandising decisions by each of their franchise stores. 

Driving operational improvement by merging online and offline

Retail customers are becoming more and more “channel-less” in their shopping. It’s imperative, then, to provide a consistent experience for customers as they move between channels in their shopping journeys. Our Google Cloud API Management for Retail solution, powered by Apigee, allows retailers to easily integrate the systems that power different sales channels, providing a more unified shopping experience for customers.

Retailers struggle with the real estate that bulky computer servers take up in their stock rooms, and also face challenges in centrally managing all of their server applications. Today, we’re piloting Google Cloud Anthos for Retail, which helps retailers streamline and modernize their store operations. Rolling out more broadly in 2020, Anthos for Retail enables retailers to consistently deploy, configure, and manage applications across their fleet of stores at scale—without sacrificing performance or reliability. 

Speaking of stores, nothing is more critical for retailers than ensuring their frontline workforce is able to collaborate efficiently and effectively. The demographics of frontline retail workers are changing rapidly. Even as a more tech-savvy workforce comes online, many retailers still lag in putting cutting-edge tools in the hands of their employees—and this translates to delivering poor customer experiences. In fact, according to one Google study, more than 50 percent of frontline workers say that technology at their workplace has not changed in the last five years. 

With G Suite, Chrome Enterprise, and Android, we can help drive this transformation. G Suite enables retailers to improve productivity with easy-to-use tools that foster collaboration across the organization. Chrome Enterprise allows retailers to deploy shared, cloud-native devices that are secure, mobile and allow any employee to sign in and pick up where they left off. And Android devices can power dynamic store associate apps that digitize processes like stock checking and reordering to both collect signals from your store and make information available in real time to your store associates allowing them to proactively service your customers better.

One example of this is Lowe’s. Using Android-based mobile devices and Google Cloud technology, the home improvement store, is giving its store associates the ability to view and update pricing and inventory on-the-fly. In fact, the company has recently rolled out 88,000 SMART Mobile devices to allow its associates to efficiently access real-time data without leaving the sales floor or losing engagement with a customer. 

Staying viable in the retail market today means using technology to solve big problems. Google continues to innovate and provide industry-specific tools that help retailers not just keep up with the competition, but also to win the ever-changing race.

Here’s where you can learn more on Google Cloud for retail.

Google Cloud and FDA MyStudies: Harnessing real-world data for medical research

Google Cloud is committed to helping customers conduct life-saving research that results in new medications, devices and therapeutics by unlocking the knowledge hidden in real-world data. That’s why we’re supporting the goals of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, by making the FDA’s open-source MyStudies platform available on Google Cloud Platform. By building on the platform developed by the FDA, we hope to stimulate an open ecosystem that will improve the ability of organizations to perform research that leads to better patient outcomes. This collaboration continues our long history of open-source work, and our commitment to producing easy-to-use tools that serve the healthcare and life sciences community.

Because of the FDA’s focus on real-world evidence, drug and device organizations are increasingly looking to incorporate patient-generated data into regulatory submissions for new products and treatment indications. But until recently, there haven’t been mobile technologies or methodologies to help collect, store and submit this kind of data in a regulatory compliant manner. In order to address this gap, the FDA developed MyStudies, an open-source technology platform that supports drug, biologic and device organizations as they collect and report real-world data for regulatory submissions.

Google Cloud is now working to expand the FDA’s MyStudies platform with built-in security and configurable privacy controls, and the ability for research organizations to automatically detect and protect personally identifying information. When an organization deploys FDA MyStudies on Google Cloud, a unique and logically isolated instance of the platform is created that only that organization and its delegates are authorized to access. These technologies will allow a research organization to select which of its researchers and clinicians are able to access what data, and to help optimize the use of that data as directed by participants. By leveraging Google Cloud as the underlying infrastructure for their FDA MyStudies deployments, organizations will have more safeguards in the ownership and management of data in their studies.

Further, Google Cloud is providing sponsorship to bring Stanford University’s MyHeart Counts cardiovascular research study onto the FDA MyStudies platform, enabling this groundbreaking virtual clinical study to begin enrolling users of both Android and iOS devices. Since it launched as one of the initial iOS research applications, MyHeart Counts has enrolled more than 60,000 participants and driven significant understanding of the feasibility of conducting large-scale, smartphone-based clinical trials. 

Enabling patient-reported data with MyStudies

The FDA relies on clinical trials and studies submitted by study sponsors to determine whether to approve, license or clear a drug, biologic or device for marketing in the United States. Historically, this information has been obtained almost exclusively through traditional clinical trials conducted under tightly controlled conditions. However, the increased digitalization of patient healthcare data may help to improve health with high-quality real-world evidence and more efficient clinical trials.

The FDA has recognized this opportunity. For example, the agency’s Patient Engagement Advisory Committee is now helping assure the experiences of patients are included as part of the FDA’s deliberations on complex issues involving the regulation of medical devices. And, in 2017, the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health released a guidance document addressing real-world evidence generation for medical devices. The FDA has also released several draft Patient-Focused Drug Development guidance documents addressing how stakeholders can collect and submit patient experience data to support regulatory decision-making. Finally, in 2018, the FDA also released a Real-World Evidence Framework which details the agency’s efforts to evaluate real-world evidence for drugs and biologics as mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act.

Originally launched as a publicly available resource in November of 2018, FDA’s MyStudies platform includes important features supporting patient accessibility and privacy. The patient-facing mobile application was built for Android using the open-source ResearchStack framework, and for iOS using Apple’s ResearchKit framework. By using these frameworks, developers can expand the capabilities of open-source mobile applications or create their own proprietary and branded applications. MyStudies mobile applications are configurable for different therapeutic areas and health outcomes through a web-based interface that reduces the need for custom software development. The overall platform has been designed to support auditing requirements for compliance with 21 CFR Part 11, allowing the platform to be used for trials under Investigational New Drug (IND) oversight.

Study sponsors have already leveraged the FDA’s existing MyStudies platform to build branded and customized mobile applications to administer questionnaires that assess patient-reported outcomes, patient reports of prescription and over-the-counter medication use, trial medication diaries and other patient experience data. Supporting MyStudies on Google Cloud will make it even easier for new study sponsors to benefit from the MyStudies platform.

New platform, new opportunities

Now, Google Cloud is equipping the FDA’s MyStudies platform with an additional set of capabilities that reduce complexity and overhead, allowing pharma and medtech organizations to get up and running fast. For study designers who do not want to configure a compliant environment from scratch, a ‘click-to-deploy’ option will be available in the Google Cloud Marketplace later this year. When deploying FDA MyStudies on Google Cloud using this option, a private MyStudies instance is built from the open-source repository. That instance is then configured following best practices to operate with selected Google Cloud services. This allows research groups to establish their own, preconfigured instance of the FDA’s MyStudies platform in minutes.

“Consistent with our obligations under the 21st Century Cures Act, FDA engages in public-private demonstration projects to advance the regulatory science around real-world evidence. The Patient Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund investment that launched FDA MyStudies is a step toward this goal,” said David Martin, MD, associate director for Real-World Evidence Analytics, Office of Medical Policy, FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “FDA MyStudies is publicly available, but it requires professional expertise and time to progress from open-source resources to deployment of a new re-branded platform. As a company may do, Google Cloud is taking these resources and creating a click-to-deploy option linked to additional health data management and analytics.”

Besides streamlined deployment of the open-source software, drug and device companies running FDA MyStudies on Google Cloud can benefit from integration with other Google Cloud offerings, such as managed services that support HIPAA compliance like the Healthcare API and our serverless data warehouse, BigQuery. More information about compliance on Google Cloud and an up-to-date list of products covered by our BAA can be found here.

In addition to HIPAA compliance, Google Cloud can support customer compliance with CFR 21 Part 11 regulations when using Google Cloud in a prescribed manner to handle related data and workloads. While Google has a cloud technology stack that is ready for many CFR 21 Part 11 compliant workloads, the ultimate compliance determination depends on configuration choices made by the customer.

MyHeart Counts + FDA MyStudies on Google Cloud

Stanford University made mobile health history when it launched MyHeart Counts in 2015 as part of the inaugural cohort of iOS research applications. As an open enrollment study, any eligible individual who downloads the MyHeart Counts app may consent to participate in cardiovascular research. Once enrolled, participants are asked survey questions related to their health and physical activity. Participants may allow MyHeart Counts to collect physical activity data from their phone and other wearable devices. If participants are physically able, they will be asked to perform a 6-minute walk test, then enter information about risk factors and blood tests, which is used to determine a cardiovascular risk score.

The current version of MyHeart Counts is only available on iOS devices. By using FDA MyStudies on Google Cloud, the Stanford researchers behind MyHeart Counts will conduct a multi-arm, randomized controlled trial that runs on both Android and iOS devices—the first of its kind. Additional improvements to the FDA MyStudies platform will allow researchers like those conducting MyHeart Counts to configure and deploy studies in days rather than months, without needing to develop any software.

The study is being overseen by Professor Euan Ashley, MBChB, DPhil, professor of medicine, of genetics and of biomedical data science at Stanford. “In this digital era where everyone uses a smartphone, hosting a trial on an app lets us tap into a huge population. We are grateful for Google’s support because it enables us to expand our reach to include Android participants in addition to iOS, and incorporate an open-enrollment randomized controlled trial into a mobile application for the first time,” Prof. Ashley said.

“MyHeart Counts and digital apps like it allow experts to connect directly to patients in a way that’s more immediate and more extensive, through direct, sensor-based measurement collection. Google Cloud’s support of these efforts not only helps researchers organize and deploy important research programs faster and more reliably, but ultimately will help patients and doctors notice health issues early, so they can address them sooner,” said Prof. Ashley.

What’s next?

In the spirit of our commitment to healthcare and open-source, Google Cloud will continue investing in MyStudies to bring general improvements to the platform, expand the number of supported assessments and enable integration with downstream analytics and visualization tools.

It’s a wrap: Key announcements from Next ‘19 UK

Next UK brought together more than 7,000 attendees to take part in discussions, breakout sessions, hands-on training and networking with industry leaders. And along the way there were a wide range of Google Cloud announcements and updates. Although a trip to London might not have been on everyone’s agenda, a trip through the week’s announcements is no further than this post. Read on for some of the highlights. 

Migrating, modernizing and managing infrastructure

Infrastructure is the foundation of your IT environment—and Google Cloud. Earlier this year, we announced new general purpose and workload-optimized virtual machine families, which means you can migrate and run even more applications including AAA gaming, HPC and even SAP HANA. Building on our compute momentum, we recently made a number of announcements to help you take advantage of our robust network infrastructure, faster and more efficiently.  

In the weeks leading up to Next UK, we announced major new networking functionality. Support for Bring Your Own IP (BYOIP) allows you to accelerate your cloud migration by carrying over your existing IP addresses to Google’s network infrastructure across all our 20 regions—we are the first cloud provider to make this feature globally available. Then, the new Network Intelligence Center provides comprehensive visibility into your global Google Cloud deployment, and lets you proactively manage your network operations, cutting down troubleshooting time and helping prevent network outages.

We also want to make sure that both operators and developers are able to easily monitor their infrastructure and services and identify incidents as quickly as possible. At Next UK, we announced that Stackdriver Monitoring is moving into the Google Cloud Console (beta), allowing users to access all operations management tools in one place for a faster, easier, and more integrated experience. And with Stackdriver Logging’s new Log Router, also in beta, we provide operators with the flexibility and reliability they need to manage and route their logs; Logs Router also supports customer managed encryption keys (CMEK) for your security needs. Finally, with the launch of SLO Service API in beta, we are empowering operators on Google Cloud or on-prem to focus on a set of service health signals that reflects the end-customer experience. SLOs can be set on container or VMs environments, giving developers and operators end-to-end visibility of the health of their entire fleet of microservices, in a single place.

And for specialized workloads that you aren’t ready to move to the cloud yet, we now offer via partners Bare Metal Solution, dedicated infrastructure on which you can run applications like Oracle Database that’s connected via a low-latency and highly resilient interconnect to Google Cloud.

Accelerating app modernization

You don’t just want to move your applications to the cloud; you want to modernize them too, much the way that new customers such as Kaeser Kompressoren SE and DenizBank are doing with Anthos.  

To help you get there, Migrate for Anthos is now generally available, allowing you to convert physical servers or virtual machines from a variety of sources (on-prem, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Compute Engine) directly into containers running in Anthos or Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). 

Or perhaps you want to connect applications via APIs. Apigee hybrid is now generally available, letting you deploy your API runtimes in a hybrid environment—both on-prem or in Google Cloud, including Anthos.

We’re also helping you modernize your software development processes. We announced the general availability of both Cloud Run and Cloud Run for Anthos last week, bringing the benefits of serverless to container-based applications. And building Kubernetes applications is now easier than ever, with the general availability of Cloud Code, which integrates directly into your IDE, so you can create cloud-native apps from the comfort of your favorite development environment.   

Unlocking data insights

Capturing and managing the data you need is essential to build an analytics foundation. We’ve made it easier with a few new tools.

This week we announced the general availability of Cloud Data Fusion, a managed, cloud-native data ingestion and integration service. It equips developers, data engineers and business analysts to easily build and manage ETL and ELT pipelines to cleanse, transform and blend data from a broad range of sources. Data Fusion shifts an organization’s focus away from code and integration to insights and action. Built on the open source project CDAP, the product’s open core ensures portability for users across hybrid and multi-cloud environments. CDAP’s broad integration with on-prem and public cloud platforms gives Data Fusion users the ability to break down silos and deliver more value than ever through Google’s industry-leading big data tools.

To make streaming analytics simpler and more cost-effective, we announced new features in Cloud Dataflow SQL, available in the public preview, as well as the general availability of Cloud Dataflow Flexible Resource Scheduling (FlexRS) for cost-effective batch event processing. Streaming analytics is an important part of modern data analytics, letting businesses better understand their customers in real time and make decisions accordingly. These new features make streaming analytics easier and more accessible to data engineers, particularly those with database experience. Cloud Dataflow SQL lets you use SQL queries to develop and run Cloud Dataflow jobs from the BigQuery web UI, and new features include Cloud Storage file support and a visual schema editor. The new Cloud Dataflow FlexRS feature reduces batch processing costs by up to 40% using advanced resourcescheduling techniques and a mix of different virtual machine (VM) types (including thepreemptible VM instances) to decrease processing costs while providing the same job completion guarantees as regular Cloud Dataflow jobs.

Increasing interpretability with Explainable AI

AI and machine learning are among the most transformative technologies of our era, and our aim is to put these tools in reach of more businesses, and do it in a way that’s fairer and more responsible. Our announcements at Next UK continue to further those goals.

We announced Explainable AI to increase interpretability of AI and help developers understand how their machine learning models reached certain outcomes. Explainable AI consists of tools and frameworks to deploy interpretable and inclusive machine learning models. AI Explanations for AutoML Tables and Cloud AI Platform are available now and to start making your own AI deployments more understandable with Explainable AI, visit cloud.google.com/explainable-ai. You can also learn more by reading our AI blog post.

Bringing more assistive features to the workplace

Speaking of AI, we’re introducing new ways to help people create high-quality, error-free documents. We’re bringing the Smart Compose feature to Google Docs(beta), which uses AI to suggest complete sentences as you type. And now with the help of neural machine translation, Docs can help prevent even more spelling or grammatical errors in your work. 

Beyond helping folks create top-notch Docs, we announced that we’re expanding the power of the Google Assistant for G Suite users (beta). When people are logged into their G Suite account, they’ll soon be able to accomplish more on the go, like using voice commands to manage their calendar, send quick messages, or dial into meetings.

Read more about how you can start using assistive features in Docs or expanded functionality of the Google Assistant in this post.

Advancing control and visibility in the cloud

Cloud security depends on a strong foundation. In the weeks leading up to Next UK, we, along with our partners, announced OpenTitan—the first open source silicon root of trust (RoT) project that provides RoT design and integration guidelines for use in data center servers, storage, peripherals, and more. Open sourcing silicon design makes it more transparent, trustworthy, and ultimately, secure.

Building on a secure-by-design foundation, we announced multiple capabilities to help customers increase control and visibility over their data and secure their cloud environments: External Key Manager, Key Access Justifications, Cloud Armor WAF, Packet Mirroring,andAdvanced Protection Program for G Suite users. In addition, we announced technical capabilities in Google Cloud that our European customers can use to meet their preferences for additional data residency, operational control, and access control.

Looking ahead

We’re grateful for the chance to spend two full days learning from our customers, collaborators and partners in EMEA this week, and hearing so many amazing stories. And while all good things must come to an end, we have Next ’20 to look forward to—April 6-8 in San Francisco. We hope to see you there.

To learn more, visit g.co/cloudnext.

From showroom to front room: DFS delivers smarter retail experiences with Google Cloud

Delivering smarter retail journeys that marry the personal service of a store visit with the wealth of choice available online has become a key ambition in the consumer goods industry. While we’ve come to expect digitally integrated shopping experiences when buying electronics or groceries, even shoppers of made-to-order products can benefit from the use of public cloud to enhance customer touchpoints across digital and physical channels.

This is what DFS, the UK’s leading upholstery retailer, is now doing with Google Cloud’s support. A household name, with a 50-year pedigree and more than 5,500 employees, DFS is highly regarded for the quality of its handmade-to-order sofas and soft furnishings, and for the service customers receive when visiting its showrooms. The company operates its own distribution network, with the support of 20 distribution centers, nearly 300 delivery vehicles and over 600 delivery specialists.

We’re working with DFS across its sales and distribution network, helping it to prepare for the future of retail via an unparalleled combination of cloud services, collaboration tools and digital devices.

Our relationship came about due to DFS’ acquisition of Sofology in 2017. The company had some decisions to make around how it should integrate IT infrastructure and applications as a group, DFS looked at what it could learn from its new brand’s technology approach. As part of this exploration, conducted with Google Premier partner NetPremacy, it also reviewed its existing environment in light of the traffic demands during the Christmas holiday.

DFS first followed Sofology’s example by trialing G Suite for employee communications, looking to effect broader culture change towards more seamless collaboration. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, prompting adoption and roll out across its network over a six-month period in 2019. The success of G Suite led DFS to investigate further Google products, resulting in the decision to adopt two additional solutions.

Firstly, DFS embraced Chrome devices to improve in-store systems and augment the customer experience.  The company rolled out 1,200 Chromebooks to its retail stores in late 2019, enabling salespeople to access key information in a convenient and secure way, while interacting with customers. Technical colleagues found that the tablets could be set up in a matter of seconds, with secure login and individual accounts for each member of staff on the showroom floor.

Secondly, DFS has made the decision to transition its web platform from a  private cloud environment to Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Once implemented, this will allow the technology team to deploy a number of new applications, and will result in a series of benefits, including:

  • Improved functionality and performance of DFS’ e-commerce platform. The site will have far greater capacity, providing a more responsive user experience and scalable resources to easily handle seasonal spikes in traffic.

  • E-commerce back-end improvements, including greater flexibility and the ability to deploy major upgrades seamlessly.

  • A commercial benefit in lowering hosting costs, compared with the previous approach. 

The transition to GCP took place in November 2019 and is expected to deliver a positive revenue impact over the busy Christmas season.

Russell Harte, Group Technology Director at DFS, said, “Our business relies on a lot of moving parts all working in harmony. Whether a customer visits us digitally or in person–or both–there needs to be a congruence in the offers they see and the service they receive. The work we’re doing with Google Cloud will ensure the best possible experience for end users, while also bringing efficiencies to our logistical capabilities.” 

“As we migrate to GCP and access the range of applications available, we’re gaining a better understanding of what’s possible with the platform and how we can use it to seize the opportunity to react better to new challenges.”

DFS is now looking at a range of other capabilities made possible by its new cloud environment. These include the adoption of containerization through Kubernetes for faster application development, and the use of Apigee as an integration layer to bring together supply chains from across the group and improve last-mile logistics for deliveries. The company is also putting more resources into leveraging data science capabilities within GCP infrastructure, to gain insights from large volumes of data. It’s anticipated that harnessing this data will enable DFS to predict demand and footfall more accurately, and to gain greater visibility over logistical data to improve the efficiency of customer deliveries.

“The relationship with Google Cloud has been excellent,” says Russell. “It’s also setting our business up for where the retail industry is going, enabling a smarter, more customer-centric approach. They understand our business challenges and have the unique expertise to help us drive forward. We’re excited about how the partnership will grow from here.”