Google Investigates the Cloud

Google wants to track down what really causes a rainy day in the cloud.

Photo courtesy of Google Cloud

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You probably won’t miss having to create a ticket to have your IT department tend to your urgent computer problem whenever they can get around to it. 

Google is seeking to patent a cloud network “failure auto-correlator.” Basically, this tech automatically detects what leads to a failure or breakdown in a cloud network by finding the “root cause of errors,” aiming to solve fundamental problems themselves rather than their symptoms. 

Essentially, Google’s system kicks into gear when it receives one or more “triggers for analysis,” meaning a notification that something, somewhere has broken down. The system then compares what’s broken down to any recent “configuration changes” within the network, using a machine learning model for analysis. When the root cause of the issue is determined, the system evaluates it to make sure that the machine learning model’s prediction is accurate.    

If you’re confused, think of it like this: Say you’re working from home and notice that your laptop has significantly slowed down in the last hour. Rather than closing out all of the tabs, going through every open program, or even using the old fashion “turn it off and on again” method, you’d use deductive reasoning to figure out what you did differently on your device just in the past hour or so. Google’s system does that on a much larger scale. 

“Troubleshooting misconfigurations is manually intensive for end users or network administrators, particularly when changing the configuration file,” the company noted in its filing. “In addition, a brute force or near brute force approach to analysis of every change and every aspect of the network … is computationally impossible or otherwise infeasible.” 

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Google’s patent could solve a problem that has long given IT departments’ a bad reputation: easily detecting a problem’s point of origin in a cloud network, Trevor Morgan, VP of product at OpenDrives, told me. And given the sheer amount of things that can go wrong, offering an efficient way to identify the issue so it doesn’t recur is key to “ultimately ensuring a good user experience.” 

“If it happens again and again, your end-user gets very frustrated, and you ultimately may have abandonment,” said Morgan. 

Google is considered one of the Big Three in cloud computing along with Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. But its market share still lags far behind competitors. AWS remains on top, controlling 32% of the market, with Azure sitting at 23% and Google at 10% in the first quarter. Google, however, is making big strides in terms of growth, seeing cloud revenue grow 28% in the quarter while Amazon and Microsoft sat at 16%. 

If this patent is any indicator, Google may want to use its prowess with user-friendly design to set itself apart from the competition, said Morgan. While AWS has a massive diversity of services, Google has a “known focus on the user experience” seen in its Android development and search capabilities, said Morgan, so making its platform the easiest to use among competition could be the best way for it to put up a fight. 

“AWS is kind of the industry mainstay – I kind of think of (Google Cloud) as either the L.A. or Chicago of cloud platforms, whereas AWS is New York,” said Morgan. “Anybody who watches the market realizes that Google is going to have to rely on what they’re good at.” 

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