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(Cross-posted on the Google Cloud Platform Blog.)

At Google Cloud Platform, we strive to deliver innovative cloud computing technology to developers at low costs with massive scale. Currently, our cloud offerings are powered by best-in-class data centers, virtualization software and container-based applications, but as we consider the future of cloud computing, we realize there’s a major opportunity ahead that would allow us to deliver an unprecedented improvement in the power, efficiency and reliability of our infrastructure. We can elevate cloud computing like never before.

We’re answering the question that’s been in front of us the whole time: why isn’t cloud computing built in actual clouds? Well, as of today, it is. We’re excited to announce Google Actual Cloud Platform: all of our incredible services and products running in actual clouds in the troposphere.

Starting on April 1, Google Actual Cloud Platform brings with it a number of exciting new features:

  • New compute zone: We’ve added a new compute zone, troposphere-1a, to make it easier than ever to provide your app with non-earth-bound availability. Now, you no longer have to make a choice between high availability and high altitude.

  • New machine types: Alongside our current machine types, we’ve added a new category of “physical” devices: actual-cloud machine types. Choose from cumulus-16gb, cirrus-32gb and stratocumuliform-64g (created specifically for data intensive workloads).

  • Stormboost: Drawing on charges from electrical fields during thunderstorms, we’re able to supercharge read/write performance on all persistent disks and offer 50% higher IOPS.

  • CloudDrops: A new, game-changing content distribution system. CloudDrops can provide blazingly fast content delivery to all of your users using—you guessed it—rain drops.

  • Weather Dashboards in the Developer’s Console: With new weather-dependent performance features, you need a way to monitor the atmospheric conditions of your servers. Now, you can monitor humidity/request, watch your app’s altitude and see a 7-day forecast right next to the rest of your stats.

  • Bare-metal container support: Applications deployed on Actual Cloud Platform can run in containers too. The lightweight shared kernel model of containers makes them ideal for non-terrestrial deployments.

From all of us on the Google Cloud Platform team, here’s to clear skies ahead.

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Since we launched Drive for Work 9 months ago, we've watched as more and more businesses moved to the cloud — and seen that they prioritize data security as much as we do. Security ranks at the top of the list of concerns that companies have about moving to the cloud, which is why we’ve put security front and center in our products from the beginning. And to keep your company’s data even more secure in Drive, we’re launching new sharing controls, alerts and audit events to Google Drive for Work and Google for Education over the next several weeks.

For Google Drive for Work customers:
Set sharing settings by department
Sometimes different file settings make sense. You might, for example, have a research department that needs to keep information confidential and a sales team that needs to share presentations with their clients. To help manage these different sharing needs, now when you make selections in Drive settings from the Admin console, you can turn off sharing outside the domain for one organizational unit, while still allowing others to work and share files with anyone they need to.

Create custom Drive alerts and track more events with Drive audit
To keep track of when specific actions are taken in Drive, you can set up custom Drive alerts. So if you want to know when a file containing the word “confidential” in the title is shared outside the company, now you’ll know. And there are more events coming to Drive audit, including download, print and preview.
For all Google Apps for Work customers:
Set up custom admin alerts to find out when things change
There are lots of moving parts to running a company, and now it’s easier for IT to find out about the things they care about with custom alerts — like when a new app is installed or a shared calendar is deleted — and get those right in their inbox.

Let people reset their own passwords
Recovering passwords isn’t the most pleasant thing we do in our lives. But now IT can let employees securely reset their own passwords, so they don’t lose valuable time being locked out of their account. If this doesn’t make sense for your organization, admins can simply turn this ability off.

Available for all to use:
Disable downloading, printing and copying of any file with IRM
With Information Rights Management (“IRM”) you can disable downloading, printing and copying from the advanced sharing menu – perfect for when the file you’re sharing is only meant for a few select people. This new option is available for any file stored in Google Drive, including documents, spreadsheets and presentations created in Google Docs.

Share quickly with anyone outside your organization
When it comes to sharing, like giving final inventory lists to your caterer or last minute logos to your design agency, you want to make sure people can see it right away — whether they use Drive or not. Now, you can share with any email address and they’ll be able to view the files you share —without having to sign-in to a Google account. Admins can disable this feature for certain departments that want to require sign-in before , while enabling it for others.

All the above are rolling out over the next month.

Stay tuned for more
We’re also working on the ability to establish trusted domains, so businesses and schools that have multiple Google Apps domains or want to work with trusted partners or customers, can select multiple Google Apps domains that are OK to share with from Drive and Classroom. And on expiring access, because occasionally you only want to share files for a temporary amount of time. With expiring access you can set a future date when access will be removed. Stay tuned, there's more to come from Drive and Drive for Work.

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(Cross-posted on the Google for Education Blog.)

Editor's note: Leading up to Education on Air, we asked you what topics you’d like to discuss at the conference. The clear winner was “innovation in schools,” so we asked Kevin Brookhouser, a Google Certified Teacher and director of technology at York School, to share his innovative practice of giving students freedom in what and how they learn. Kevin is the author of the new book The 20Time Project and will share his methods during an Education on Air session on May 9. Register here for the free online conference today.

The 20Time Project stemmed from the collision of several fortunate events: I met a number of inspirational teachers through the Google Teacher Academy, spent time at the Google campus, and read a book by Daniel Pink called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us about how to encourage innovative thinking. Inspired by Pink and Google’s “20 percent time”— a practice that allows employees to take time out of their “day job” to work on a side passion project— I created my own version and applied it to the classroom.
Guest blogger Kevin Brookhouser speaks around the world about empowering students with time and choice. He'll lead a conference session at Education on Air on May 9th


20Time is a simple concept that anyone can execute, as long as you give students the choice to design their own learning experience and support them throughout. Give students one day a week to work on a project of their choosing — one that serves a real audience and solves a real-world problem. Help students discover great ideas, write a thoughtful proposal, blog about their progress, craft an elevator pitch, and demonstrate their work through a final presentation.

20Time affords students the opportunity to follow the three critical ingredients essential to innovation as described in Drive:
  1. Autonomy: freedom in what they learn and how they learn it 
  2. Mastery: the ability to track their learning growth 
  3. Purpose: meeting the needs of an audience outside the walls of the classroom
When given the freedom to control their own learning, it turns out that students can come up with incredible ideas. The experiences they created are bigger than any I could’ve imagined — like Maria’s YouTube channel, which inspires young people to love books, or Maddie’s Recycling Closets project, which spreads awareness about sustainable consumerism.

I’m fortunate to work at a future-oriented school that supported the experimental project from day one. But wherever they teach, I recommend that teachers who want to try 20Time give it a go — dive in and present the reasoning behind it. Transparent communication to parents, students and administrators can go a long way toward getting buy-in. For example, I send this letter to students and parents at the beginning of the year, and welcome other teachers to modify it to fit their needs.

I’ll be sharing more about what I’ve learned about innovating in schools during my session at Education on Air on May 9. Register here to get updates about the conference. You can find 20Time resources, including five steps to get started, at 20Time.org. The 20Time Project is now available on Amazon, and if you’re looking to purchase multiple copies for your school or would like me to speak about 20Time or Google for Education, I welcome you to contact me directly. See you on May 9!

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Editor's note: It’s been just over a year since we launched Chromebox for meetings, and to celebrate the milestone we’re sharing stories about our customers and their approaches to business, culture and productivity that are bringing them success. In today’s post, online accounting software provider Xero tells how it manages to keep its startup-like efficiency, innovation and feel while expanding globally. To learn more about Chromebox for meetings, join us online at Chrome Live on April 22 and see how companies scale face-to-face meetings across the globe.

Xero was started by several developers nine years ago in an apartment above a coffee shop in Wellington, New Zealand. Today, we have more than 1,000 employees in 15 cities across the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand and provide online accounting software to more than 400,000 global customers. With more than 200 percent five-year average sales growth as of June 2014, our biggest challenge now is managing the fast-paced growth while maintaining our nimble, tech-forward startup culture.

We like to keep work in small groups and move quickly. Our teams work closely on projects even when they’re located in different offices around the world. And since we like to stay on the cutting edge of technology, we’re using Google Apps, which allows us to stay coordinated and productive.

Our pain point in IT was finding a way for teams in different cities and offices to meet and collaborate at the same time. We used a variety of video conferencing technologies, including PCs, HDMI/VGA and projectors. They were difficult to set up, meetings were delayed and productivity suffered. As we continued to grow, this struggle intensified, and we realized that we needed to find a solution fast. We needed to streamline our meeting room setups and get the most out of Hangouts. When we heard about Chromebox for meetings, we jumped at the chance to try it out.

We started with six Chromebox for meetings units. Today, we have nearly a hundred. They’re in every meeting room. We use them for room-to-room conferencing and all hands meetings. The global team uses them to connect every two weeks and the CEO addresses the entire company via Hangout on Air.

Chromebox for meetings allow us to keep things simple. There’s very little infrastructure or wireless connections needed on our side, so no cables necessary. Setup is fast and the integration with Gmail makes joining Hangouts as easy as clicking a button. It’s easy to share documents and work on them together. Then there’s the cost savings. Instead of spending between $40,000 and $60,000 on a video conferencing system, we spent one-tenth of that on a Chromebox and a display.

We may be a larger company now, but we still want to move and act quickly. No matter how large we become, our values align with those of fresh innovative companies that respond rapidly to market demand, customer needs and competition. Thanks to Chromebox for meetings, we can keep the startup feel and agility while growing at breakneck speed.

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Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Daniel Scrivano, former lead developer for the UC Davis EV Explorer. See how EV Explorer and other developers rely on Google Maps APIs to bring unique location experiences to their users.

Most people know they can help the environment by driving an electric vehicle, but they often don’t realize they can save money, too. As a student at UC Davis, I started a research project to make these savings clearer. The EV Explorer website, launched last summer, lets drivers compare fuel costs for electric and gas-powered vehicles.

EV Explorer uses the Google Maps APIs and a database called fueleconomy.gov to give drivers information about the fuel economy of 34,000 different vehicles. EV Explorer visitors enter their commuting starting points and destinations, along with how often they commute. Based on that data, the site calculates the annual energy costs for up to four vehicles.


We built EV Explorer using several of Google’s mapping APIs: JavaScript, Directions, Places and Geocoding. EV Explorer downloads the appropriate map and helps people visualize the data they’re inputting. If people don’t know their work address, they can type in the name of their business and Places API geolocates it. The Geocoding API converts any address into latitude and longitude. We query the Directions API when we’ve got the specific points for home and work. The app then draws the route using polylines between the two locations.

We chose Google Maps APIs because we knew we could rely on Google’s mapping database to be comprehensive and up to date. The database is also incredibly user-friendly. With Google Maps, a user can type in “Safeway” and “San Francisco” to see all the Safeway locations in the city and choose among them. If they mistype something or include incomplete information, auto-correcting tools offer suggestions and corrections.

In building the site, I kept one thing in mind: You won’t make it until you break it. That means you need to experiment, try new things, get your hands dirty, and make random stuff. You’ve got to push the APIs to their limits. And by doing just that, we delivered what we set out to do: Help people understand the wider benefits of electric vehicles and show them how much they could save by switching to electric.

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A year ago, we partnered with loads of great developers to showcase their add-ons for Google Docs. Add-ons have opened up a world of extra features for our users, from a student needing a powerful tool for diagrams to a project manager looking for a handy way to keep their team on track.

Today we’re releasing a couple of updates to help developers share their add-ons with an even wider audience and give Google Apps IT admins more consistent control over which add-ons are used in their organizations.

Developers can now choose to make their add-ons for Docs, Sheets and Forms available for installation across entire domains, which automatically creates a Google Apps Marketplace listing that's easy for customers to find. It also means that admins can install these handy add-ons for their whole organization using just a couple of clicks.


And speaking of admins, we want to make sure they have the control they need when it comes to deciding which add-ons are best suited for their organizations and teams. For example, in particular cases — like in education — it might not be desirable to let all end-users install their own add-ons. With this update, admins will continue to have a “disable add-ons” option for their users, but they can also whitelist add-ons via the Google Apps Marketplace for their entire domain or a specific team.

With these updates, customers can now get all the add-ons they want with all the control they need. Learn more about managing Google add-ons for your organization.

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Today at Enterprise Connect in Orlando, Avaya announced their new OnAvaya™ cloud-based contact center solution, built exclusively on Google Cloud Platform. Avaya provides solutions that help companies increase their engagement within a contact center across multiple channels and devices. Their new product – Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ Powered by Google Cloud Platform – provides a low-cost solution that allows customer service agents to work from anywhere, right in the browser. Aiming to meet the specific demands of a communications platform, Avaya chose Google Cloud Platform for its reliability, performance and scalability – and our simple pricing structure. OnAvaya™ runs on Google Compute Engine and utilizes Google's advanced networking capabilities to provide Unified Communications services running in the public cloud. The Chrome device based agent endpoints communicate using WebRTC with their cloud infrastructure.
“Google is one of the world leaders in cloud environments,” says Tony Pereira, director of business development at Avaya. “They have built an impressive architecture with security features that they are constantly evolving to make the most of cloud efficiencies.”

OnAvaya™ takes advantage of the unique capabilities of Chrome devices. You simply provision a Chromebook and headset and your customer service agents can work from home or wherever there's an Internet connection and have full Avaya contact center functionality. In the event of a snowstorm or network interruption, you can shift your support operations to any site that has Wi-Fi. Since employees no longer need a physical phone, you'll save costs on additional hardware.

With Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ Powered by Google Cloud Platform, customers will be able to support growth in their business and seasonal spikes without huge capital investments. And since we manage the technology on our end, implementation time for OnAvaya™ customers should drop from months to weeks – or even days.

The solution will be available to certified Avaya business partners as well as Google for Work service partners starting in the spring of 2015. Learn more about the OnAvaya™ solution on their blog.

We’re thrilled to welcome Avaya to the Cloud Platform family!