Tag Archives: Google

Google’s Self-Driving Cars To Become A Stand-Alone Business

Google is shifting gear with its self-driving car project. The project, which has been run as part of Google X research lab, has spun out into its own business unit under Google’s parent company Alphabet. According to Wall Street Journal, the car group would likely be expected to soon begin generating revenue, though not necessarily a profit at first. X chief Astro Teller told WSJ that Alphabet will likely roll out its self-driving cars incrementally over the next several years as they improve with more time on the road.

This is another move in the race to the holy grail of a fully operational autonomous car. Google keeps a special watch over Uber’s aggressive self-driving car plans, with its plans to disrupt transportation. While Google’s cars have been driving around Google’s home town in Mountain View CA and other US cities, Uber has been swinging through Pittsburgh. And they’re not alone in this race. In fact, you find surprising newcomers each day: Just today Samsung acquired U.S. auto-parts supplier Harman for $8 Billion to get onboard with connected cars, probably as part of Samsung’s Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. When the lines blur between cars, mobile and online services, when transportation is up for disruption, everyone is out for the take.

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The Uber Plan To Disrupt Transportation

Uber has become the trademark for sharing economy. It’s the proverbial social win-win formula: You want to get somewhere, a driver is heading there, so he picks you up, and earns a friendly fee on the way.

But in fact Uber’s vision isn’t really about sharing economy. In fact, the “human factor” of the drivers is pretty messy for Uber: it involves costs, labor laws, contractual engagements, assault incidents, lawsuits… Uber would rather eliminate the “human factor” altogether. It has a whole other plan for us. And the plan goes through:

Autonomous cars!

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Which plan? Sit back and take a quick tour into our daily lives in the (not-so-distant) future:

You don’t own a car, you consume a service. car-as-a-service. Need a ride? Just tap your smart phone/watch/skin, and a ride will come and pick you up from your GPS-detected location, and you’ll be charged just for that ride. Just like electricity or water. no need for a large capital expense for purchasing a car, and extra cost for insurance, regular checkups and fixes for a car that sits idle most of the day. you’re not in the business of car fleets, you just need a ride.

This will also disrupt the automotive industry: the car design will no longer revolve around the driving experience. there simply is no driver now, remember? the car is now a ride service robot, and the focus is shifted to the passenger’s quality of experience. Now that the rider has his hands (and attention) free, focus will shift to making the ride more informative, more entertaining, more productive, with multimedia, games, work tools, with automated analytics learning the needs of the passenger, perhaps even offering some interesting goods… reminds you a bit of Google? Why isn’t that surprising…

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This is not Sci Fi. This is a concrete plan taking shape as we speak. Last Thursday Uber announced acquiring Otto, an Israeli startup less than a year old headed by ex-Googlers, which provides technology that turns regular trucks into driverless (autonomous) ones. In parallel Uber announced moving into commercial stage with its autonomous cars initiative, launching a pilot in the city of Pittsburgh.

Uber isn’t the only one setting eyes on this mark. Traditional car manufacturers such as GM, Ford and Fiat (jointly with Google) have also identified the upcoming disruption and are also racing to the commercial autonomous car. In fact, just a day before Uber’s acquisition Ford announced acquiring another Israeli startup, SAIPS, as well as investing $75 Million in startup Velodyne, both aimed to boost its autonomous car project.

We’re heading to a brave new world. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Programmable Networks – Is The Dream Finally Coming True?

One of the hottest trends in the Telecommunications industry is Software Defined Networking (SDN), the idea that you can control the logic of the data flow dynamically using central programmable logic, instead of having it hard-coded into every individual networking “box”.

Stanford Prof. Nick McKeown, one of the guys who invented SDN, and a serial entrepreneur in networking technology startups, now brings the next transformation: programmable switching chips. While in today’s networks special-purpose chips are used which are hard-wired to run specific protocols, the new switch chips can be programmed so that they could perform different functions such as firewall and load balancing, which currently require specialized networking equipment.

McKeown’s new startup Barefoot Network just completed its series C funding round with $57 million from Google (Alphabet) and Goldman Sachs. Google’s interest isn’t surprising as Google has been exploring next-generation networking for a while, and even earlier this year joined the Open Compute Project (in which Goldman Sachs is also a member).

The chips will be programmed by P4, a language for protocol-independent data packet forwarding. P4 is backed by a large open consortium of industry leaders, including tier-1 Telcos AT&T and Huawei, leading manufacturers such as Intel, Cisco and Juniper, and even software giant Microsoft. Reportedly the new chip can reach up to up to 6.5Tbps (terabits per second)—double the speed of the fastest comparable technology on the market, which is critical in making the new chips realistic for the high-performance standards of Telecom.

The vision of Software Defined Networking and that of programmable switching chips is basically one. As Barefoot puts it:

We envision a world where programmable networks outperform fixed-function networks. We believe that programming the network should be as easy to program as a server.

That’s a vision worth pursuing. And it may just about to come true.

You can read more on the latest announcement on this comprehensive coverage by the Wall Street Journal.

For a more technical deep-dive, download Barefoot’s whitepaper here.

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Prometheus Joins Google’s Kubernetes In Cloud Native Computing Foundation

Last August the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) was founded by important names such as Google, CoreOS, Docker, Weaveworks, Mesosphere and others, and was hosted under the Linux Foundation. The first contribution to CNCF was Kubernetes, which Google open-sourced for that end, and served as the cornerstone of CNCF’s open source stack.

Last week CNCF accepted its second project: Prometheus. Prometheus is a monitoring and alerting toolkit backed by a powerful time series database. Such monitoring and alerting is an important part of any large-scale system, which a cloud-native reference architecture needs to address. Kubernetes and Prometheus already play well together, as Kubernetes exposes Prometheus metrics natively. Nonetheless, Prometheus supports many other monitoring targets and service discovery integrations, from Graphite and Consul to simple SNMP and JMX that enable open-ended and custom integrations.

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Unlike Kubernetes at the time, Prometheus is already open source and backed by an active community. Among the impressive users of Prometheus you’d find several members of CNCF such as Google, CoreOS, Docker and Weaveworks, which probably made its acceptance easier. In its announcement Prometheus team said:

By joining the CNCF, we hope to establish a clear and sustainable project governance model, as well as benefit from the resources, infrastructure, and advice that the independent foundation provides to its members.

Another candidate to join CNCF is Data Center Operating System (DC/OS), which was open-sourced by Mesosphere last month. Seeing that Mesosphere is a founding member of CNCF, it’s reasonable to estimate they’d host DC/OS there. With an active community of more than 60 partner companies, this could be a serious tail wind for the foundation.

So who’s next in line for Cloud Native Computing Foundation?

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Can Hybrid Cloud Present An Alternative To Amazon, Microsoft, Google?

It’s not easy to be a public cloud vendor these days. The public cloud world has been undergoing serious consolidation in the past few years. Amazon, the pioneer of the cloud, has been keeping a clear lead, while Microsoft and Google have been pulling in, utilizing their accumulated experience, global data centers and software platforms, and positioned themselves as next in line. Together this trio serve the vast majority of the workloads running on public cloud.

This consolidation drove out many vendors, including some big incumbent names such as HP that shut down its cloud late last year and Verizon that did the same a couple of months ago.

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So what’s their answer? I’d say it’s threefold:

  1. Multi-cloud model: If you can’t beat them, join them. Support Amazon, Microsoft, Google public clouds. If done via a good generic platform, it can help avoid vendor lock-in.
  2. Hybrid model: mix the public cloud support with support for private cloud and bare-metal to offer public-private-hosted hybrid approach.
  3. Private model: concentrate on strictly private cloud. The popular open-source project OpenStack is a leading candidate for this strategy. This approach is useful for the customers insisting to run things on their own premises.

HP (now HPE), after shutting down its public cloud, moved to a hybrid cloud strategy with a series of acquisitions and by endorsing OpenStack private cloud open source project.  Verizon went for the private cloud approach.

An interesting case is Rackspace, which eased off on its own cloud and managed services, and started offering third-party support for the public clouds of Amazon and Microsoft, leveraging its Fanatical Support brand. Also, in parallel to supporting leading public cloud vendors, Rackspace keeps its longstanding support of private cloud deployments based on OpenStack, the popular open-source platform which it co-founded.

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Rackspace’s strategy seems to have hit well. quarterly results published this week show quarterly revenue $518 million, up 7.9% from the year-ago-quarter. Executives noted Rackspace’s success was buoyed particularly by a growing number of Fanatical Support customers for its Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings as well as customers on its OpenStack private cloud.

Hybrid cloud strategies gain traction with enterprises. While Amazon, Microsoft and Google try to convince enterprises to go all-in on the public cloud, it’s too big a change to swallow for most. Even Microsoft realized that hurdle and tried bringing its Azure cloud to the enterprise’s datacenter. Hybrid cloud seems to have demand, and may also be the focus of those who failed to take the lead in the public cloud.

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Mesosphere Open-Sources Its Containers Management System

The containers movement received major news yesterday when Mesosphere announced it has open-sourced  its Data Center Operating System (DC/OS). The core will be released under Apache 2.0 open source license, with enterprise-grade tools and features such as security, performance, compliance, and monitoring, kept for the paid enterprise version. The new DC/OS community already has more than 60 partner companies, including major names such as Microsoft, HPE, Cisco, Accenture and Verizon. There are also important names from the DevOps automation including Chef and Puppet.

Mesosphere’s open source strategy is primarily rooted in the fact it is the commercial backer of Apache Mesos open source project. But Mesosphere took additional steps and joined the founding team of the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) which were founded in the past year by big names such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and HPE to standardize on containers. In fact, on its announcement yesterday Mesosphere said it was considering hosting DC/OS externally under CNCF (among other alternatives).

Mesosphere’s open source move yesterday comes a month after Mesosphere joined the prestigious unicorn club when it finished its round C funding with $73.5 million funding at reportedly over $1 billion valuation. Not surprisingly, Mesosphere’s investors Microsoft and HPE, which also collaborate with Mesosphere at the Open Container Initiative, joined as founding members to the DC/OS project. In fact, Microsoft announced yesterday adding support for DC/OS in its Azure cloud, after it added support for Docker on Azure a year ago. This is part of the fierce cloud competition on containers (so fierce that it drove HP out of the race last year).

Google, a competitor of Microsoft in the public cloud, used a similar open source strategy last year when it decided to open-source its Kubernetes container management system and contribute it to CNCF on its foundation. Kubernetes powers Google’s Container Engine, Google’s own response in the cloud wars. While some consider Kubernetes a competitor for Mesosphere, Mesosphere took a collaborative strategy, providing support (namely package) for Kubernetes alongside its own Marathon product, as well as contributing code to the Kubernetes open source project.

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An Inside Peek At Google’s Data Centers

Google released last week at its GCP Next event a cool clip on YouTube which takes you on a virtual tour in their data center. You can even take a look around (a 360° view) by simply tilting your smartphone, which is pretty neat. The tour gives a glimpse of how Google’s data centers are built, from compute racks, storage and networking to power and cooling.

Why would Google bother giving such an intimate inside view? To increase credibility in its Google Cloud Platform, by providing visibility into aspects such as the design for scale, reliability, and security. As part of that effort Google recently started sharing its data center design, and even open-sourced some of it. Google’s recent strategic move in this direction was joining the Open Compute Project (joining Facebook, Intel, Microsoft and others) and donating its data center’s rack design to the open community.
For more on this, check out this post.

 

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