Google Targets Amazon, IBM, Microsoft with Broader Cloud Platform

3 minute read
David Roe avatar

After more than a year in preview, Google has finally made its Google Compute Engine (GCE) Generally Available (GA). The GA release also comes with a 10 percent price cut for standard instances and a guaranteed uptime of 99.95 percent.

The announcement, which appears in a blog post by Ari Balogh, vice president of storage infrastructure products at Google, pits Google against the likes of Amazon, IBM and Microsoft for a share of the public cloud computing market.

Google’s Compute Engine

While Google has been offering its Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) since 2008, it only launched GCE, which offers Infrastructure-as-a-Service, last year. With GA, Google is offering a range of new features, including bigger instance types as well as wider support for Linux, like SELinux for improved security, or CoreOS. For the moment, however, it does not support Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

It is also offering live migration of virtual servers during scheduled maintenance. According to Balogh this will include automatic restart in the event of a failure:

We’re introducing transparent maintenance that combines software and data center innovations with live migration technology to perform proactive maintenance while your virtual machines keep running. You now get all the benefits of regular updates and proactive maintenance without the downtime and reboots typically required."

The restart will only take a few minutes, he wrote, and while this feature already available in the US, other regions will get it in coming months. What this means is that if Google has to carry out maintenance on GCE servers, it will move the jobs to other servers so that users don’t experience performance problems or, even worse, service downtime.

Google’s Market Position

Although GCE is only being made generally available today, it has already attracted a number of heavy hitters in preview.

According to Balogh, companies like Snapchat, CoolaData, Mendelics, Evite and Wix have already built complex systems on GCE, while partners like Red Hat, SUSE and Scalr have joined the Cloud Platform Partner Program, with new integrations for Compute Engine.

The question is whether it can make any inroads into a market dominated by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which offers considerably more services than GCE.

Learning Opportunities

Gartner analyst Lydia Leong said no, at least not for the moment. AWS is the top dog in this space with Microsoft Azure the “up-and-coming competitor,” largely because of its deep association with business customers, she explained.

However, there is a place for GCE in the market, particularly for those companies that are working natively in the cloud. Google’s main problem, she said, will be “trust, track record and an enterprise-friendly way" of doing business. She added:

It is now at the point where it is a viable alternative to AWS for organizations that are looking to do cloud-native applications, whether they are start-ups or long-established companies. I think the GA of GCE is a demarcation of market eras — we’re now moving into a second phase of this market, and things only get more interesting from here onwards.”

What happens in the short term is anyone’s guess. However, the long term prospects are for the ongoing development of this market as the big vendors fight over public and private sector contracts to provide cloud computing services.

For the moment though, Google is trailing the pack and is likely to continue to do so until such a point as it offers support for Microsoft’s Windows operating system, which limits the applications customers can run on its servers. This, however, is likely to change sooner rather than later.