UPDATED 21:51 EST / AUGUST 22 2017

16042227002_1d00e0771d_z CLOUD

Report: Google to integrate Titan security chips with its cloud services

Google Inc. is set to announce additional details about its new hardware-focused security chip for its public cloud that it believes can help it differentiate its offering from rivals Amazon Web Services Inc. and Microsoft Corp.’s Azure.

The new chip is called Titan, and Google will announce full details in a blog post due out on Thursday, Reuters reported, quoting a company spokesperson.

According to Reuters, Titan is about the same size as a stud earring, and has been installed in each of Google’s thousands of servers and networking cards within its cloud data centers. The company is already said to be using the chips internally, to protect the servers that run services such as Gmail and YouTube, Reuters said.

The chip is designed to boost security by scanning the hardware in which it’s installed to ensure it hasn’t been compromised in any way. If the chip discovers any evidence that the server or networking gear has been compromised, that hardware is immediately shut down, preventing it from booting and thus ensuring attackers cannot do any damage.

Google believes the chips could help it to win more security-conscious customers from AWS and Microsoft, because of concerns that servers and other hardware, which are mostly manufactured in Asia, could be compromised even before they’re shipped out from the factory. The idea is that Titan will make Google’s cloud more appealing to customers in heavily regulated industries, such as the financial services and healthcare markets.

Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google Cloud, briefly wrote about Titan in a blog post in March, describing it as a “purpose-built chip to establish hardware root of trust for both machines and peripherals on cloud infrastructure, allowing us to more securely identify and authenticate legitimate access at the hardware level.”

Gartner Inc.’s most recent forecast says the public cloud market will be worth $50 million by the end of this year. Google’s public cloud offering holds just 7 percent of the market at present, but a differentiated security offering such as Titan could help to increase its slice of the pie.

“Security remains paramount for cloud success and it’s key that vendors address these concerns in new and innovative ways,” said Holger Mueller, principal analyst and vice president of Constellation Research Inc. “Putting security, or in this case tapering and malicious configuration changes on a chip, can be an elegant and efficient solution to stay on top of a sane cloud infrastructure.”

AWS and Microsoft – which enjoy a respective 41 percent and 13 percent share of the public cloud market, according to Synergy Research Group – do not appear to have anything comparable to Titan. When questioned by Reuters, both companies instead pointed to the encryption techniques and other measures they employ.

However, one analyst told Reuters she was skeptical that Titan could help Google in its quest to dislodge Amazon and Microsoft. “Security is a hallmark for both AWS and Microsoft,” said Lydia Leong, an analyst with Gartner. “Google has a lot more work to do.”

Image: Blue Coat Photos/Flickr

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