Google Next ‘18 is Google’s biggest conference dedicated to the hardware and software infrastructure behind the Google Cloud Platform, which includes apps like Docs, Sheets, Calendar, and Gmail.
Tim Johns represented Tiller at Next ‘18. His frequent Slack messages kept the rest of the Tiller team informed (and slightly jealous) of everything he was hearing, seeing, and thinking.
Ahead of the conference, Google said Next ‘18 would go deep on two themes: AI and security, because “security is the number one worry, and AI is the number one opportunity.”
But along with updates that appealed most to hardcore Google nerds, there were several announcements relevant to anyone who uses Google's services.
Here's what stood out to us so far.
#1 - Connecting with Friends and Google Sheets Innovators
The best part of any conference is making new friends and professional connections while catching up with friends, partners, and fellow innovators.
In Grant Timmerman's tweet from a Google Apps Scripts meetup, from right to left you can see Tiller's Tim Johns, Google Sheets guru Ben Collins next to him, Supermetrics founder and CTO in red, Grant himself giving the big thumbs up, and the popular edtech writer Martin Hawksey next to Ben Collins.
(It's a veritable Justice League, except with Google Sheets superpowers.)
#2 - Google Sheets Updates!
Ben Collins is a true Google Sheets guru. He's also a Tiller collaborator and friend. Throughout the conference, he maintained an enthusiastic and useful Twitter feed. He published a post summing up "Exciting new features coming to Google Sheets." Highlights:
5 million cells in Google Sheets - upgraded from two million!
Slicers, a super-useful tool for building interactive reports and dashboards
Charting upgrades more granular control over how our charts look.
Pivot Table improvements, including updated UX and the option to group data
Native BigQuery data integration
Continued development of the AI-powered Explore feature
Get more details on Google Sheets at Next '18 over on Ben's site.
#3 HSBC Moves to Kubernetes
HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, will become an early user of Google’s Cloud Services Platform to provide next-gen banking services to business customers.
HSBC is already using Google Cloud for data analytics, but the move into applications hosting via Google is a new development.
"We’ve made a decision on applications hosting to partner with Google on building some next-gen applications in the full Google stack, top to bottom using Google tools, which is a big departure from our previous architecture," said Darryl West, Group CIO at HSBC.
There's been a lot of activity around banking applications based in the cloud for consumers, but development has been slower for businesses. It will be fun to follow progress here.
#4 - Google Docs Finally Gets a Grammer Checker
Google Docs is finally (finally!) getting a grammar-checking feature, along with a new interface for spelling and grammar review.
In typical Google fashion, the new Docs will use machine learning to help correct grammar errors in real time. It will identify mixed up words, incorrect tenses, improper uses of commas and clauses, and more. And it will improve over time to detect “trickier grammar issues.”
However, the grammar check isn't fully available yet. It’s launching first for business users, and it has to be enabled and approved by a GSuite admin for users to test.
GSuite Business users can sign up for access via Google’s Early Adopter Program.
#5 - Continued Laser Focus on Security
With the strategic statement “Nothing matters more than security,” at Next '18 there was a major focus on the myriad ways Google works to secure its Cloud tools for all users.
Some of the announcements include:
Starting in the latest version of Chrome (68), you’ll see a new “not secure” notification when visiting HTTP pages. (read more)
Context-aware access lets admins control access based on user’s identity, location, and the context of their request.
To help protect high-value users like admins, Google created the Titan Security Key, a FIDO security key with firmware developed by Google to verify its integrity.
Shielded VMs helps developers ensure their virtual machines have not been tampered with or compromised.
Enforced signature validation when deploying container images with Binary Authorization.
Container Registry Vulnerability Scanning helps prevent images from being deployed that contain vulnerabilities.
Geo-based access control in Cloud Armor, Google's DDoS and application defense service, to control access to services based on the location of a client trying to connect to an application.
Cloud HSM, a fully managed service to protect the most sensitive workloads without needing to manage a hardware security module (HSM) cluster.
Access Transparency, to provide an audit trail of actions taken by Google Support and Engineering when they interact with data and system configurations on Google Cloud.
Via The Registry, here is all the security news from Next '18 in 60 seconds.
You can read about Google’s security efforts in depth here.
#6 - Gmail for Business Customers Updated
In addition to the grammar check feature, Google is going to enable its Smart Compose feature inside of Gmail for business customers. It's also making the recent Gmail redesign available to G Suite customers. Read more.
#7 - BigQuery Updates (and a Native Google Sheets Connector)
Ben Collins tweeted "What am I really excited about from #GoogleNext18 so far? The excitement and potential around BigQuery (incl. a native connector to #GoogleSheets). They showed a demo this morning of BigQuery ML, building a regression model inside of BigQuery. Everyone's head exploded I think!"
Via Techcrunch: "Using BigQuery ML, developers can build models using linear and logistical regression right inside their data warehouse without having to transfer data back and forth as they build and fine-tune their models. And all they have to do to build these models and get predictions is to write a bit of SQL.
Moving data doesn’t sound like it should be a big issue, but developers often spend a lot of their time on this kind of grunt work — time that would be better spent on actually working on their models."
#8 - Google Drive as a Standalone Product
Google Drive is on track to hit a billion users this week. And while there are now four million paid customers of G Suite, not every business needs to use Google Docs, Calendar, or Gmail.
So Google will now let business accounts sign up for Drive Enterprise without having to also use other services like Docs or Google Sheets.
Drive Enterprise is a standalone offering for $8/active user/month + $0.04/GB. It includes sharing controls, Vault , data loss prevention , BigQuery data access, Apps Script , and Cloud Identity Basic.
Through the end of this year, if you purchase Drive Enterprise, you can use Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Sites at no additional cost.