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Data Analytics, AI and Machine Learning, Sustainability

2Gather Chicago: Google Cloud Next '23 in Review

By Nick Sharafinski | November 6, 2023

On October 10, hot on the heels of Google Cloud Next '23, customers, partners, and Googlers were invited to Google's office in Chicago to recap critical takeaways from the event. This gathering allowed for a nuanced examination of the emerging technologies that had been discussed and gave partners and customers further ideas and implementations to build on. 


A Special Focus

Compared to Google Cloud Next '23, 2Gather was a smaller event that created a conversational atmosphere. While the event included the panels and fireside chats that attendees have come to expect, the more intimate setting encouraged more interaction and questions regarding some of the biggest news to come out of Next. 

This was especially true for those who were newer to events like Next. "This was a great opportunity to meet customers and get a recap of the San Francisco event I previously attended," said Kyle Wheat ( @Kwheat17 ), a software engineer for CDW Amplified Education. "This was a great event as well because it felt like it had a more specific focus, and it was a little less overwhelming."


Google Panel

After a brief welcome, the event started with a Google Panel moderated by Geoff Kramer, Head of Customer Engineering. Panel participants included:

  • Eric Strader, Principal Architect, Google
  • Fiona Egube-Waters, Cloud Customer Engineer, Google
  • Rick Westrate, Principal Architect, Google
  • Rikin Asher, Cloud Architect, Google

The panelists discussed the takeaways and announcements they found to be the most important coming out of Next '23, primarily surrounding the role that AI will play in organizations in the coming years and how AI can be used to take advantage of an organization's data.

Panel members explained how there is a very low bar of entry to break into generative AI today. Because of this, there are still some "off-the-wall" solutions that organizations can find in its use, thereby increasing productivity across the board. For example, instead of writing endless painstaking lines of code, developers can point Google's LLM (PaLM 2) at databases. 

While AI is slowly being implemented by organizations across all spectrums, Google's Panel made one thing clear: it's here to stay. Every day AI makes data management easier (BitQuery and Salesforce even work together seamlessly now). In the next three to five years alone, AI is projected to help organizations increase their productivity by 20%. 


Fireside Chat - Lytics

After the panel, Google's Customer Engineer Manager Todd Sheetz ( @tsheetz ) sat down with Jascha Kaykas-Wolff ( @kaykas ), President of Lytics, to further discuss the relationship between AI and data management. Jascha stressed that the real acknowledgment for him coming out of Next '23 was the importance of thinking about how we structure and organize data and the critical importance of security when experimenting with AI. 

"In an age where predictive and generative AI technologies are transforming the very fabric of enterprise operations, it's imperative to underscore the significance of data security," Jascha said after the event. "As companies deploy these intelligent algorithms to forecast market trends, optimize supply chains, create content or even design new products, the data feeding into these systems is both voluminous and sensitive." 

Jascha explained how business intelligence, proprietary algorithms, and customer data all represent an invaluable asset to an organization. "But it's a double-edged sword," he continued. "The very data that empowers us can be exploited if not rigorously safeguarded. So, when you're experimenting with predictive or generative AI, we must take a multi-layered approach to security."

In today's world, the security required to safeguard these assets goes far beyond encryption practices, though. According to Jascha, "it involves real-time monitoring, stringent access controls, regular security audits, and confidence that the hyperscaler you are working with can uphold your privacy posture. Failure to do so not only risks the integrity of the AI models but also jeopardizes the trust and compliance we have built with our stakeholders."


Customer Panel - Q&A

To round out the event, Geoff Kramer took the stage again to moderate a customer panel to focus on the customer journey. The panel included:

  • Andy Goodfellow, CTO Zoro
  • Gaganpreet Randhawa, Assistant VP, Enterprise Architecture, CNA Insurance
  • Joel Vasallo ( @jvasallo ), Senior Director, TAG - The Aspen Group

This panel was an excellent resource for other customers who are recently learning about Google Cloud and who want to know more about the capabilities they could use for their own organizations. More a community conversation than an informative panel, it gave attendees insight into wins and challenges that industries are facing when adopting AI for data management. 

There were two things that all panel members agreed on. First, any organization's data structure and management could always be better (especially when using AI). Second, it's imperative when organizations are starting out (or restarting) their data management journeys to modernize and understand what they're building toward. Organizations should have a deep understanding of how data will be accessed, how it can be segmented, and which data is most important. 


Fostering a Community

The conversations kept rolling after the customer panel during a happy hour, where customers and partners networked and discussed the ideas that were mentioned and expanded on during the panels. Whether during the Q&A or during the networking opportunities before and after the event, everyone got a chance to discuss their challenges, ideas, and solutions. With a focus on cultivating a community for both partners and customers, it's crucial to ensure no one leaves an event with more questions than answers.

When the audience can ask questions and network with panelists and other partners, it encourages idea generation around broader topics such as AI and BitQuery, two of the biggest topics of the night at this 2Gather event. 

"The main benefit to me is not only the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the panels," Kyle explained, "there were also a lot of topics covered that we can go back and use in our own organization, like the BitQuery implementations."


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