The obvious question raised by Google’s reorganization as Alphabet is whether Larry Page and Sergey Brin will decide to break out Google Cloud Platform into a separate business from Google, the search engine-focused subsidiary headed by CEO Sundar Pichai. Breaking out Google Cloud Platform (GCP) into a separate entity not only paves the way for more significant, dedicated investments dedicated to cloud computing on the part of Google, but also provides a means for investors to more accurately gauge the success of the Google Cloud Platform as measured by its financials and the growth of the entity more generally. The tricky part about breaking out Google Cloud Platform as a separate entity involves the depth of its inter-relationship with all of Google’s other businesses, and particularly Google Search, Google Maps, YouTube and Android. While assessing revenue generation from third party customers of the Google Cloud Platform is easy, the more challenging task involves quantifying the operational overhead of GCP, particularly given that it powers all of Google’s infrastructure already.
Google has reached a preliminary agreement qua memorandum of understanding to bring Project Loon, the initiative that delivers internet access by means of balloons that float high in the sky, to Sri Lanka, the island located just off the southern tip of India in the Indian Ocean. If an agreement is finalized, Sri Lanka will be the first country to boast universal internet access, all courtesy of Google. According to The Verge, Google plans to collaborate with Sri Lanka’s internet providers to bolster their services to collectively span every inch of the country. Project Loon aspires to bring access to all 20 million of Sri Lanka’s populace whereas currently, estimates indicate only 3 million people have internet access.
Here are three quick thoughts on Google’s recent decision to become a corporate sponsor of OpenStack:
1. Google’s support of OpenStack marks one of the biggest endorsements to date of OpenStack, and as such, bolsters the credibility of the platform even further. Even though OpenStack is currently endorsed by the likes of Platinum Members Red Hat, IBM, HP and Rackspace, Google’s announcement constitutes an especially significant announcement given its ownership of a competitor public cloud IaaS platform in the form of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Google’s endorsement suggests that the days of OpenStack’s segregation from proprietary public clouds such as the Google Cloud Platform, AWS and Microsoft Azure may well be numbered and that the IaaS space may well end up developing APIs from proprietary platforms to OpenStack in the foreseeable future.
2. The cloud computing industry is increasingly coming to terms with hybrid cloud infrastructures and the necessity for interoperability across different cloud ecosystems. By supporting OpenStack, Google embraces cloud hybridity and in particular, the necessity for Kubernetes to integrate deeply with the OpenStack ecosystem. Given that enterprises almost invariably embrace some combination of private and public clouds as part of their larger cloud strategy, Google’s support of OpenStack constitutes an emphatic affirmation not only of OpenStack, but also of the criticality of hybrid cloud infrastructures and management frameworks at this stage of the evolution of cloud computing.
3. Google’s collaboration with OpenStack on the Kubernetes project underscores the emerging ascendancy of containers to contemporary cloud computing as an alternative and complement to virtual machine based computing. By working with OpenStack to ensure the compatibility of Kubernetes as part of Project Magnum, Google is betting big on increased adoption of container technology throughout the industry. Furthermore, Google is placing its bet that Kubernetes, as opposed to other container management frameworks, has the pizazz to emerge as one of the premier container management frameworks in the industry, particularly in light of its forthcoming, deepened integration with OpenStack.
On Thursday, Google announced its sponsorship of the OpenStack Foundation as a corporate sponsor. As noted in a blog post, Google’s decision to join the OpenStack Foundation is motivated by industry trends toward adoption of hybrid clouds and container-based application development. By sponsoring OpenStack, Google is expected to contribute heavily to OpenStack Magnum, the project that aspires to ensure the compatibility of container orchestration platforms such as Docker and Kubernetes with OpenStack. Google’s contribution toward the integration of Kubernetes with OpenStack is expected to accelerate the adoption of container technologies and thereby facilitate development of more robust hybrid cloud infrastructures marked by the union of increasingly heterogeneous computing infrastructures. Google’s sponsorship of OpenStack represents a huge coup for the OpenStack Foundation and marks another notable twist in the ongoing battle for cloud market share amongst the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
At its annual I/O developer conference in San Francisco, Google announced the “Cloud Test Lab,” a platform for testing mobile apps that enables developers to automate the testing of applications on a multitude of Android devices. The Cloud Test Lab provides free automated testing on a tier of “top 20” Android devices and plans to expand the number of devices supported to more than 20 devices. Google’s Cloud Test Lab allows users to examine the compatibility of their applications on different devices by obtaining “crash reports” featuring video snapshots illustrating instances where the application crashed. To use the Google Cloud Test Lab, developers upload their application and run tests on multiple devices in parallel. At the end of testing, customers obtain a report summarizing the progress of testing across all relevant devices with testing results and log files. Based on technology from its acquisition of Appurify, the Cloud Test Lab attempts to both improve the performance of Android-based applications and respond to fragmentation within the Android community by giving developers a unified platform for testing. That said, Google will need to compete with more mature testing platforms such as Sauce Labs and Xamarin in addition to ever increasing fragmentation within the Android community. Google’s Cloud Test Lab for mobile applications is expected to be available later this year.
On Monday, Google introduced Google Compute Engine pre-emptible virtual machines. Pre-emptible machines enjoy a 70% discount on standard pricing but may be shut down at any time and have a maximum runtime of 24 hours. The larger vision behind pre-emptible machines involves Google’s objective of reclaiming computing capacity depending upon the intensity and duration of other workloads within its public cloud environment. By shutting down pre-emptible machines and recovering compute capacity, the Google Cloud Platform can maintain a high degree of performance without spinning up additional VMs, thereby saving operational overhead and concurrently passing along some of the attendant cost savings to the customer. Given the unpredictability with which pre-emptible virtual machines may be shut down, they are suited only for select use cases such as massive data processing, data analytics, visual effects and simulations that are not time sensitive with respect to the allotted time period for their completion. Pre-emptible machines are ideal for applications that are architected such that they can handle the termination of a few VMs on a periodic basis. Meanwhile, customers stand to enjoy fixed pricing in addition to the 70% pricing discount and may subsequently decide to allocate a designated percentage of their fleet of VMs to pre-emptible machines in recognition of the way in which their computational processing is only minimally impacted by periodic VM shutdowns. Google announced pre-emptible virtual machines in conjunction with significant price cuts for VMs for Google Compute Engine amounting to a maximum of 30%. Google’s elaboration of Google Cloud Platform price cuts and the availability of pre-emptible machines indicate the intensity of competition in the IaaS space where prices skyrocket downward as major players such as Microsoft and Google intensify their assault on Amazon’s stranglehold on the leadership position in the IaaS space.
On Wednesday, Google announced Google Cloud Bigtable, a NoSQL database that can be accessed via the Apache HBase API. Powered by Bigtable, the database that powers Google applications such as Google Search and Gmail, Google Cloud Bigtable delivers a highly scalable database that specializes in ingesting and performing analytics on massive datasets. Google Cloud Bigtable delivers latency on the order of single-digit milliseconds and twofold performance benefits in comparison to other “unmanaged NoSQL alternatives.” In a blog post, Google Product Manager Cory O’Connor revealed performance advantages of Google Cloud BigTable over Hbase and Cassandra with respect to both write throughput per dollar and read/write latency, in milliseconds. As a fully managed service, customers need not take responsibility for Google Cloud Bigtable’s infrastructure but can instead focus on populating Google Cloud Bigtable with data and subsequently refining the analytic insights needed to more effectively run business operations. The product integrates with Hadoop and subsequently supports the ingestion of big data in a variety of formats.
Because the platform’s underlying architecture has been used to power prominent Google applications for years, customers can reasonably expect Google Cloud Bigtable to deliver on its promises of low latency, high performance and scalability. The product targets organizations with massive data ingestion needs and embraces use cases related to the internet of things as well as verticals such as financial services that handle massive volumes of data, daily. By releasing Google Cloud Bigtable, Google renders the same technology used to underpin much of its commercial operations more broadly accessible and in so doing, draws a parallel to Amazon’s release of Amazon Machine Learning, a product that is similarly derived from the very technology used to run Amazon’s own internal business operations. Google’s decision to democratize the core technology of its BigTable application symptomatically illustrates a broader trend in enterprise IT whereby technology behemoths such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have the capability to monetize curated versions of products they have used to run their own business operations for years and thereby make available, to everyday enterprises, battle-tested technology that can be used for data ingestion, analytics and visualization.