Google's G Suite Gets Collaboration Upgrades

Google's first enterprise product, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) portfolio now called G Suite, was bulked up Thursday with several new storage and communications services to improve its collaboration capabilities.

At the Google Cloud Next 2017 Conference, Prabhakar Raghavan, leader of the G Suite team, delivered a keynote sharing the changes coming to the cloud-productivity suite that was first conceived in 2006.

G Suite boasts three apps installed on more than a billion smart phones, and has more than three million paying business customers, Raghavan said.

[Related: Google Leverages Its Consumer Tech To Bulk Up Enterprise Cloud Services]

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The product "went from applications crafted for consumers and outfitted for enterprises after the fact, to having an enterprise-first focus," Raghavan told attendees.

Soon to become Google's latest billion-user product is the storage service Google Drive, which currently has more than 800 million monthly active users.

"It can evolve from being personal storage to the needs of the enterprise for file sharing," he said.

That starts with Team Drives, for which he announced general availability. The new product is "one of the most-demanded features from customers."

Google Vault for Drive, which adds data management capabilities and protection tools, also hit GA, he said.

Kamal Puri, a digital innovation leader at Google partner MediaAgility, told CRN that Team Drives "bridges the gap from an IT administrative perspective for people who want to manage and control all their data."

The product gives a company access control over all their files, delivering to Drive the capabilities of traditional shared file systems.

Vault for Drive, which came out of Google's Postini acquisition, delivers to businesses important discovery and compliance capabilities, Puri said.

In the keynote, Raghavan also announced Google would be acquiring Vancouver-based AppBridge, a company that builds connectors from on-premises file servers to Google Drive.

A fourth new product revealed at NEXT, currently in an early access program, was File Stream, which simplifies access for users working with Windows and Apple client machines.

"The entire cloud is connected to your laptop," Raghavan said.

Also generally released was a new service called Quick Access, which leverages Google's machine learning capabilities to help users find files quicker.

And Google's Jamboard, a digital whiteboard to ship later this year, will benefit from a couple new updates to Hangout, Google's videoconference platform.

Hangouts Meet will streamline and simplify the process of joining meetings on the service. Hangouts Chat, a chat service built around Hangouts, was also demonstrated and is to be released later in the year.

Puri, of partner MediaAgility, said Hangouts Chat will make Google's collaboration platform serve business needs better, and is an option for "companies that don't like Slack."

And Hangouts Meet removes friction in joining a video call, Puri said, while also adding a new capability to dial in to a video conference that will be warmly welcomed by enterprises, especially those that spend a lot on Cisco for integrated communications.