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Google today at Google Cloud Next 2021 revealed that Workspace (formerly G Suite) is expanding with enhancements to Google Meet, Chat, and Spaces. In a related announcement, the company detailed Distributed Cloud, a portfolio of solutions designed to extend infrastructure to datacenters and edge hardware.

The updates come as organizations embrace digital collaboration, motivated by pandemic-related migrations toward remote work. According to Omdia, only 24% of employees will be permanently based in an office and working at a single desk, while 58% will either be pure work-from-home or hybrid workers.

The shift to digital was accelerating cloud adoption even before the pandemic — IDG reports that the average cloud budget rose from $1.62 million in 2016 to a whopping $2.2 million in 2018. But some workloads can’t move to the public cloud entirely or right away due to industry- and region-specific compliance and data sovereignty needs, as well as low latency and local data-processing requirements.

Distributed Cloud

Distributed Cloud is built on Anthos, Google’s open source-based platform for managing infrastructure and apps in on-premises, edge, and public clouds. Customers can use it to migrate apps and process data locally with Google Cloud services in addition to products from third-party vendors like Cisco, Dell, HPE, and NetApp.


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Distributed Cloud is architected to run in multiple locations including the network edge, operator edge, customer edge, and customer datacenters. Google points out that the solution can leverage its over 140 edge locations around the world. Distributed Cloud can also take advantage of 5G and LTE services from communication service providers (CSPs), whether deployed across retail stores and factory floors or on-premises server banks and colocation facilities.

Available in preview, Distributed Cloud Edge allows companies to run 5G core and radio access network functions at the edge alongside enterprise apps. It supports use cases such like computer vision and AI inferencing, local data processing, low-latency edge compute workloads, and deploying private 5G and LTE solutions. For example, retailers can provision apps at a Google network location using Distributed Cloud Edge, while CSPs can offer high-speed bandwidth with private 5G and localized compute to their clients.

Meanwhile, Distributed Cloud Hosting, which is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2022, supports public-sector customers and enterprises that have strict data residency, security, or privacy requirements. It doesn’t require connectivity to Google Cloud to manage infrastructure, services, APIs, or tooling, according to Google, and it uses a local control plane provided by Anthos for operations.

The rollout of Distributed Cloud follows Anthos’ general availability two years ago, and expanded support for Amazon Web Services and Azure a year ago. Alongside services like Anthos Config Management, Anthos Service Mesh, and Migrate for Anthos, Distributed Cloud is a part of Google Cloud’s reported, ambitious plan to beat market rivals by 2023 as the public cloud computing market barrels toward $482 billion in value.

“Now more than ever, organizations are looking to accelerate their cloud adoption. They want easier development, faster innovation, and efficient scale, all while simultaneously reducing their technology risk,” Google wrote in a blog post. “As work continues to evolve, we’re especially committed to the concept of collaboration equity: the ability for everyone to participate and drive impact no matter their location, technical ability, language preference, or device … We continue to empower frontline workers and IT teams alike.”


On the Gmail side, Google is bringing AppSheet, its no-code app and automation development platform, to email inboxes with a new integration. Using it, customers can perform tasks like approving budgets and vacation requests, updating inventories and asset management systems, and more directly from Gmail.

Google Workspace

Google acquired AppSheet in 2020 for an undisclosed sum. At the time, Google Cloud VP Amit Zavery said that the purchase would complement Google’s strategy to “reimagine the application development space” by “help[ing] [businesses] innovate” with workflow automation, app support, and API management. “Customers will be able to develop richer [apps] 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,” Zavery wrote in a blog post.

And on the Workspace front, Google is releasing a new Atlassian-codeveloped Jira integration for Google Chat and Spaces that enables users to create new tickets, see previews, and monitor active issues. It builds on Atlassian’s Trello integration with Gmail, which Atlassian chief product officer Joff Redfern says has been installed by more than 7 million people to date.

Google Workspace

“Modern work requires people to switch contexts and tools faster than ever before. We believe an open ecosystem and tight integrations among the tools that users rely on every day is vital to their success,” Redfern said in a statement. “[We] are excited to build on the partnership between Atlassian and Google to propel work collaboration further with the integration of Jira with Google Chat and Spaces.”

Google says that Workspace now has over 3 billion users and 5,300 public apps. To date, those users have completed 4.8 billion app installs in Workspace.

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