In June 2012, Google introduced its IaaS offering, Google Compute Engine (GCE). GCE allows users to deploy Linux Virtual Machines on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s world-class data centers and IT infrastructure. GCE complements Google’s related cloud offerings such as Google App Engine, Google Cloud Storage, and Google BigQuery and represents a significant competitive play to grab market share from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the undisputed market leader in the IaaS space. GCE’s value proposition rests upon Google’s reputation for scalability, performance, ability to compete in price and the allure that Google’s global technical infrastructure may prove itself virtually immune to the service disruptions that have affected both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure over the last year.
Upon its launch in June, GCE offered users instances in four sizes constituted by 1,2,4 and 8 virtual cores with 3.75GB of memory per virtual core. Since then, GCE has added a constellation of additional instance options that include high memory and high CPU instances in addition to a diskless option for users that do not need dedicated disk storage attacked to their server. Pricing is competitive with AWS: the AWS medium Linux instance featuring 3.75GB costs $.130/hour in comparison to GCE’s $.138/hour. Similarly, AWS’s extra large, 15 GB instance runs at $.520/hour in comparison to GCE’s $.552/hour.
Cloud Computing Today spoke with Floyd Strimling, Technical Evangelist and the Senior Director of Marketing & Community at Zenoss, about the positioning of Google and its Google Compute Engine IaaS platform in relation to AWS:
Cloud Computing Today:
Which vendor poses the biggest threat to the market share leadership had by Amazon Web Services?
The reality is Amazon’s biggest threat comes from themselves as they must keep innovating while improving performance, availability, and reliability. Surprisingly, Microsoft has both the technical implementation and pricing structure to threaten Amazon. However, they have a perception problem that could be the subject of another article. Finally, Google has all the pieces to compete but must answer questions about their privacy, customer support, and long term commitment to the enterprise.
One last thought, Rackspace is really the wild card as they have all their bases covered. The main threat for Rackspace is the maturity of OpenStack and the effort it will take to get their cloud offerings to match Amazon’s solutions. Given how fast Amazon is innovating, this is not an easy feat.
Cloud Computing Today:
What advantages does Google have over other vendors, or even over Amazon Web Services?
Google is simply an overwhelming powerhouse that has great admiration and respect within the industry. They own/lease their own fiber connections, are building out Google Fiber in Kansas City, have the dominant search engine and mobile platform, are threatening Microsoft/OpenOffice with Google Docs, and maintain everything from file sharing to email and everything in between. Yet their greatest strength may lie within their ability to monetize their services via advertising.
Cloud Computing Today:
What are the most significant challenges Google faces as it gears up to pose a competitive, IaaS challenge to Amazon Web Services?
Privacy – Google must prove to the Enterprise that they will safe guard and not abuse the information they are collecting.
Customer Support – Google must understand that customer support is the key to Enterprise market. Customer support is more than simply posting questions on a forum and waiting for answers. If I was Google, I’d take a trip out to San Antonio and learn from the best, Rackspace.
Long-Term Commitment – Google has a history of endless betas and, now, shutting down services. They must prove to the Enterprise that they are in this for the long haul and will work with their customers to refine any and all solutions.
Market Mobility Within The IaaS Space Remains Significant
Although Amazon Web Services has clearly differentiated itself from the pack of IaaS vendors by way of its pricing and breathtaking track record of innovation, its rate of innovation represents a double-edged sword insofar as the industry expects AWS to roll out feature after feature and relentlessly redefine the meaning of the much maligned phrase “cloud computing”. That said, AWS’s record of innovation generates a converse pressure on potential rivals such as Rackspace and the commercial OpenStack community to similarly innovate at a rate faster than currently permitted by OpenStack’s six month release cycle. Nevertheless, Rackspace’s experience in the IaaS space and impeccable customer support pedigree renders it a key player that could well leverage OpenStack’s inter-operability to good measure.
Microsoft and Google both have the capital and wherewithal to compete with Amazon Web Services in price, but both struggle with “perception problems” of different flavors. The bottom line is that the IaaS race still remains wide open, particularly given the commitments made by tech giants and startups alike to platforms with similar functionality and visions. Strimling makes no mention of CloudStack, here, but one can assume they constitute a major player as well.
Google Will Need To Overcome Multiple Perception Problems To Compete With AWS
Even though Google has the technological infrastructure to pose a significant threat to AWS, it will need to shed its reputation for lack of dedication to enterprise customers. Admittedly, Google Docs has done some of the work of orienting Google towards the enterprise, but there is still much work to be done if Google wants to be perceived as less than fickle with respect to its history of rolling out products in Beta that it subsequently retracts. Moreover, given Google’s virtually unparalleled capability for searching through machine data, customers are likely to be wary of placing sensitive information in an infrastructure that permits Google to indulge its penchant for data mining. Google will need to appease customer concerns about privacy and security with strong, unequivocal customer agreements and licensing terms that guarantee the safety of its data from prying eyes qua search algorithms. Finally, Google will need a thought leader in the form of an outward facing CTO that can explain its technology and infrastructure to the enterprise in terms that CIOs, CTOs and the blogosphere understands and trusts. Just as Werner Vogels became the face of Amazon Web Services, Google will need to brand another cloud visionary with the ability to build trust amongst enterprise customers, developers and the “cloud computing” community more generally.