Google Announces Always Free Tier and $300 Credit for Google Cloud Platform to Lure New Customers

Last week, Google announced details of Always Free, a free tier of Google Cloud Platform services that allow users to obtain familiarity with the Google Cloud Platform’s suite of offerings. The free tier of services allows users to take advantage of 15 Google Cloud Platform services that include Google Compute Engine, Google App Engine, Google Cloud Datastore, Google Cloud Functions, Google Stackdriver, Google BigQuery Public Datasets and Google Container Engine. In the case of Google Compute Engine, users have access to one 1 f1-micro instance each month, with the additional constraint that they can run a maximum of 8 cores of virtual CPUs concurrently as noted below, by the Google Cloud Platform:

You can have no more than 8 cores (or Virtual CPUs) running at the same time. For example, you can launch eight n1-standard-1 machines, or two n1-standard-4 machines, but you can’t launch a n1-standard-16machine. For more information about the types of virtual machines available and the number of cores they use, see Machine type pricing.

The availability of Google Cloud Platform is limited to U.S. regions and a 30 GB-months HDD and a 5 GB-months snapshot. As part of its Always Free tier, Google also elaborated details of a $300 credit that customers can apply to the usage of Google Cloud Platform products to further augment their ability to experiment with the capabilities of GCP services. The $300 credit applies to all Google Cloud Platform products and spans a duration of 12 months.

Announced by Sam Ramji, VP of Product Development at Google Cloud at the Google Cloud Next conference on Friday March 10, the Always Free Tier and the $300 credit represent an important sales and marketing initiative designed to lure new customers intro trying the features and functionality of the Google Cloud Platform. As enterprises increasingly leverage a multi-cloud strategy characterized by the use of multiple public clouds in an effort to minimize threats posed by vendor lock-in and the effects of cloud outages, Google Cloud Platform’s Always Free tier promises to increase its market share in a field dominated by Amazon Web Services but that additionally includes Microsoft Azure, Oracle and IBM. Meanwhile, Google’s ability to onboard new customers via its Always Free tier raises the obvious question around its ability to retain those customers in collaboration with an aggressive sales and customer satisfaction team capable of eliciting and responding to the needs of its growing customer base.

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Microsoft Azure Supports Kubernetes And Docker Technology

Microsoft recently announced support for Docker and Kubernetes technology on the Azure platform. Docker is an open source technology that enables developers to “build, ship, and run distributed applications” by means of container technology that facilitates application migration and deployment. Meanwhile, Kubernetes is an open source cluster management platform that can be used to deploy Docker containers. Azure customers can now use the Kubernetes platform to create and publish Docker containers to the Azure storage platform. In addition, Azure customers can deploy and configure Azure clusters using container images from Azure Storage or the Docker Hub. The Microsoft Azure team also built the Azure Kubernetes Visualizer which provides developers with a visual representation of the status of Kubernetes when managing Docker technology as illustrated below:

The Azure Kubernetes Visualizer is intended to “visually demonstrate some Docker and Kubernetes concepts such as containers, pods, labels, minions, and replication controllers.” Given that Kubernetes was open-sourced by Google in June, Microsoft’s decision to support Kubernetes and Docker represents a stunning example of the way in which container technology promises to drive product development as it relates to Infrastructure as a Service cloud computing. Amazon Web Services, for example, has yet to embrace Docker technology, and given its history of ignoring open source projects with the exception of Apache Hadoop, is likely to continue to withholding support for Docker. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s decision to support Kubernetes in conjunction with Google and its IaaS Google Compute Engine opens the door for the possibility of increased inter-operability between Azure and GCE, and subsequently promises to assert the criticality of Docker and Kubernetes to conversations about cloud computing inter-operability. The real winner from Azure’s support for Kubernetes and Docker, however, is Docker, whose container technology is likely to continue skyrocketing in adoption and affecting market dynamics not only within the IaaS space, but also the Platform as a Service (PaaS) landscape given its ability to reduce the gap between application development and operations by streamlining application migration across different cloud environments.

IDC Survey Results Rank IBM #1 Amongst IaaS Cloud Computing Providers

A recent IDC survey ranks IBM as the top IaaS cloud computing provider as measured by responses provided by over 400 companies and 1000 employees. IDC’s survey asked respondents which vendor is most capable of providing Infrastructure as a Service for public and private clouds. Survey results ranked Cisco second, HP third, AT&T fourth, Google fifth, Microsoft Azure sixth and Amazon Web Services seventh. Whereas IBM captured 35% of votes, Microsoft and Google claimed 16 percent and Amazon Web Services garnered 13%. According to IBM’s press release, factors used in IBM’s survey include cost, simplicity, provisioning speed and quality of service with respect to availability. Building on its July 2013 acquisition of the SoftLayer IaaS platform, Big Blue has launched a multitude of recent investments in its portfolio of cloud products and services including the IBM BlueMix Platform as a Service in February, the first BlueMix garage based in San Francisco’s Galvanize start-up community and the IBM Cloud Marketplace. While all available data suggests that IBM lags far behind Amazon Web Services in terms of IaaS cloud market share whether it be measured in revenue or installations, IDC’s recent survey underscores the positive perception had by IBM as a trusted provider of enterprise software and professional services. IDC’s report notes that “buyers selected IBM as their overall top preference among providers they believe can most effectively provision IaaS, whether private or public,”. Although the IDC report reinforces analyst concerns about the ability of vendors such as Amazon and Google to gain credibility amongst enterprise customers, its precise significance remains difficult to evaluate without more details regarding the 400 participants involved. What seems certain, however, is that IBM is progressively establishing its credibility with respect to cloud-based products and services and that its long history of collaboration with the open source community and developers, in conjunction with its infrastructure business, means that it will be a force to be reckoned with as the battle for cloud market share unfolds.

Amazon Web Services Continues To Increase IaaS/PaaS Market Share According To Synergy Research Group

A recent article by the Synergy Research Group (Synergy) claims that Amazon Web Services continues to dominate the IaaS and PaaS space in terms of revenue. According to Synergy, Amazon Web Services increased its quarterly revenue by 55% to over $700M in Q3 of 2013, whereas the aggregate of revenue for Salesforce, IBM, Windows Azure and Google was less than $400M for the same time period. Worldwide, total IaaS and PaaS revenues exceeded $2.5 billion for the quarter, with IaaS accounting for 64% of cloud revenues, a surprisingly small proportion given the limited penetration of platform as a service within the enterprise. Synergy Research’s John Dinsdale remarked on the company’s findings as follows:

We’ve been analyzing the IaaS/PaaS markets for quite a few quarters now and creating these leadership metrics, and the relative positioning of the leaders really hasn’t changed much. While Amazon dwarfs all competition, the race is on to see if any of the big four followers can distance themselves from their peers. The good news for these companies and for the long tail of operators with relatively small cloud infrastructure service operations, is that IaaS/PaaS will be growing strongly long into the future, providing plenty of opportunity for robust revenue growth.

Here, Dinsdale remarks that the “race is on to see if” Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft and Google can decisively secure second place in the battle for IaaS/PaaS market share. Strikingly, Microsoft, Google and IBM have revenues that are very close to one another, even though one might reasonably expect Microsoft’s Azure platform to edge out its competition given its earlier entry into the market than IBM and Google’s Compute Engine (GCE). That said, IBM’s sizeable IaaS revenue derives largely from its acquisition of SoftLayer, which itself had a rich and venerable history that predated IBM.

Synergy’s chart illustrating Q3 IaaS and PaaS revenues is given below:

Notable omissions from the findings include Rackspace, HP, Oracle, Pivotal One and Red Hat, the middle three of which (HP, Oracle and Pivotal One) are still relatively nascent, and hence justifiably excluded from the present calculation. As Dinsdale notes above, however, “the good news for these companies” and for remainder of the space is that revenues are set to increase significantly in the near term. Going forward, one of the key questions for subsequent IaaS market share analyses will be whether OpenStack’s momentum and gradual maturation propels disproportionate growth amongst OpenStack-based cloud platforms for vendors such as HP, IBM, Oracle, Rackspace and Red Hat.