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, October 1, Google slashed price for its Google Compute Engine platform by 10% for all instances. The price cut represents yet another iteration on the trend of decreasing price cuts in the IaaS space as evinced by recent price reductions from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google itself. In a blog post announcing the change, Urs Hölzle, Senior Vice President, Technical Infrastructure at Google, noted that decreases in price in the IaaS industry were such that “only 20% of time is spent how it should be — building new products or systems that will be platforms for growth,” thereby allowing for increased time for application development. The results of Google’s IaaS cuts are reflected below:
Google’s price cuts render it increasingly competitive against the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and the increasingly vibrant community of commercial OpenStack vendors. Holze proceeded to note how Snapchat, Workiva and sponsors of the 2014 World Cup differentially leverage the Google Compute Engine Platform to simplify their infrastructure needs. Meanwhile, Google’s Sundhar Pichai, SVP of Android, Chrome and Apps, reported at Atmosphere that Google Drive now claims 240 million users, or an increase of 50 million active users from June. The bottom line here is that Google is beginning to amplify its assault on enterprise cloud computing customers by cutting prices and rolling out educational campaigns to inform users of the benefits of its cloud platform. Google has the capital and cash position to cut prices further, so Amazon Web Services will need to take pay close attention to ensure that Google does not catch it off guard with an aggressive forthcoming price cut or promotion that brings in a slew of customers which cascades into a sizeable dent in AWS IaaS market share.
Ravello Systems today announced the general availability of its cloud hypervisor platform for Google Compute Engine. As a result of the announcement, Ravello customers can use its SaaS nested virtualization technology to migrate workloads to the Google Compute Engine (GCE) public cloud with a few clicks of the mouse and thereby take advantage of the agility of public cloud environments to accelerate their development and testing efforts. Ravello’s process for the migration of workloads to public cloud environments simplifies migrations by preserving network topologies as well as storage and computing configurations. Customers use Ravello’s user interface to upload their virtual machines into Ravello’s private library, drag and drop them onto an “application canvas,” specify the requisite network configuration, publish the configuration of VMs to the cloud and then create an “application blueprint” that serves as a snapshot of the application at the time of upload. Developers can use the blueprint to spin up the application for parallel testing and QA purposes or connect Ravello to a continuous integration server that synchronizes the blueprint with changes to the on-premise version of the application to ensure that development and testing efforts are performed on the latest version of the application.
Today’s announcement means that Ravello now supports four public clouds in the form of Amazon Web Services, HP Cloud, Rackspace and Google Compute Engine. Integration with Microsoft Azure remains on the product roadmap as told to Cloud Computing Today in a phone interview with Shruti Bhat, Ravello’s Director of Product Marketing. The general availability of Ravello’s nested virtualization technology on GCE represents a particularly special moment for Ravello insofar as its leadership team built the KVM hypervisor that constitutes the basis of virtualization within the Google Compute Engine platform. Ravello’s partnership with Google affirms the threat Google Compute Engine poses to the IaaS market supremacy enjoyed by Amazon Web Services and additionally promises to provide data about cloud deployments within the public clouds it supports by means of the Ravello Cloud Dashboard, which features data about VM provisioning time and VM provisioning-related error rates per cloud provider. From an industry perspective, Ravello’s integration with GCE continues to underscore the importance of public cloud environments for accelerating development and testing. Other use cases for the platform include disaster recovery, backup and replication, but the core use case will revolve around an embellishment of the platform’s capabilities for dev and test in ways that leverage the flexibility of the public cloud to disrupt contemporary protocols for software testing in favor of the massive, algorithmic parallel testing enabled by Ravello’s “blueprint” concept and cloud-based, nested virtualization platform.
Today, Red Hat announced a partnership with Google that allows Red Hat customers to transfer Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) licenses from on-premise workloads to Google’s cloud platform. The partnership builds upon Google’s acceptance into the Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider program in November 2013 whereby Google, like other Red Hat Certified Cloud Providers, was certified by Red Hat as “a trusted destination for Red Hat customers, independent software vendors (ISVs), and partners to use Red Hat technologies on public clouds.” Red Hat has certified 29 Red Hat Certified Cloud Providers including the likes of Amazon Web Services, Autonomic Resources, IBM, Savvis, Tier 3, Verizon Terremark and Virtustream in addition to Google, to date. With today’s news, however, Google becomes only the second Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider to enjoy the Red Hat Cloud Access-enabled partner designation alongside Amazon Web Services. Red Hat Cloud Access-enabled partners such as Google can offer their customers a “bring your own subscription” (BYOS) model that enables them to transfer RHEL subscriptions from on-premise environments to Google’s Compute Engine platform. The announcement of Google’s graduation to the status of Red Hat Cloud Access-enabled partner represents a huge coup for Google Compute Engine (GCE), which recently slashed prices and announced product enhancements that elicited a corresponding price cut from Amazon Web Services, within days. GCE customers now have enhanced flexibility with the deployment of their RHEL licenses in relation to on-premise and public cloud deployments and can more easily create hybrid cloud infrastructures. More importantly, today’s announcement is likely to accelerate public cloud adoption amongst enterprises by transforming the economics of porting RHEL licenses from on-premise to public cloud environments such as Google Compute Engine.
At Google Cloud Platform Live, Google just announced a range of enhancements to its Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Big Data analytics platforms. For starters, Google announced price cuts to its Google Compute Engine platform ranging from 30-85%. Prices for Google’s Infrastructure as a Service offering will be slashed by 32% for all “sizes, regions and classes.” Meanwhile, Google Cloud Storage and Google BigQuery experienced price reductions of 68% and 85% respectively. Google simplified the pricing of its platform as a service, Google App Engine, and reduced it by roughly 30%. In addition to price cuts, Google unveiled an analogue to the Amazon Web Services product reserved instances which provides deep discounts on VM pricing in the event they are used for one or three year time periods. Branded “Sustained-Use Discounts,” Google offers price cuts on top of its already announced reduction for customers who use a VM for more than 25% of a given month. Customers who use a VM for an entire month can see additional discounts of up to 30%, resulting in price cuts of over 50% compared to original prices given today’s other price reductions. Google is also launching BigQuery Streaming, an enhancement that enables the BigQuery platform to consume 100,000 rows of data per second and render the data available for real-time analytics in ways comparable to products such as Amazon Kinesis and Treasure Data. Moreover, Google announced a Managed Virtual Machines service that allows users to configure a virtual machine to their own specifications and subsequently deploy the VM to the Google App Engine infrastructure, thereby giving developers more flexibility vis-à-vis the type of machine managed that can take advantage of App Engine’s auto-scaling and management functionality. For developers, Google announced integration with Git featuring automated build and unit testing of changes committed as well as aggregated logs of testing results. Finally, Google revealed the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Windows Server 2008 R2 in limited preview for VMs.
All told, today’s price cuts and news of functionality represent much more than a price war with Amazon Web Services. Just a day before the AWS Summit in San Francisco, Google confirmed the seriousness of its intent to increase traction for its development-related cloud-based products. The variety of today’s enhancements to Google Compute Engine, Google App Engine, BigQuery and the introduction of its Managed Virtual Machines service indicate that Google is systematically preparing to service the cloud computing needs of enterprise customers. Despite all the media hype over the last two years about companies gearing up “take on Amazon,” no other cloud vendor has even been close to the depth of IaaS features and functionality possessed by Amazon Web Services with the exception of Google as it revealed itself today. All this means that we now have a two horse race in the Infrastructure as a Service space until the commercial OpenStack community convincingly demonstrates the value of OpenStack-based cloud inter-operability in conjunction with richness of features and competitive pricing.
On Monday, Google announced the general availability of Google Compute Engine, the Infrastructure as a Service public cloud platform that Google first announced in June 2012. Unlike many of Google’s product offerings, which are not targeted toward enterprise customers, Google Compute Engine comes with 24/7 customer support and a 99.95% SLA. Moreover, the platform boasts encryption of data at rest in an effort to respond to customer concerns about data security, particularly given Google’s vaunted reputation for mining every piece of data touched by its hardware and range of software applications. Monday’s general availability release features a 10% price reduction on standard, server instances and a 60% price reduction in storage pricing per gigabyte for its persistent disk service.
At the level of functionality, the GA release of Google Compute Engine claims the following three notable features:
Expanded Support for Operating Systems
Whereas Google Compute Engine supported the Linux distributions Debian and Centos in preview mode, the GA version supports a range of Linux distributions including SELinux, CoreOS, SUSE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (limited preview). This release also features support for Docker containers that enable users to spin up containers instead of virtual machines to accelerate automated testing, continuous integration and deployment.
Transparent, automated maintenance and live migration
Google Compute Engine is now the beneficiary of ongoing, transparent maintenance routines and processes in order to ensure the effective functioning of the GCE infrastructure. Transparent maintenance operates by working on “only a small piece of the infrastructure in a given zone” such that “Google Compute Engine automatically moves your instances elsewhere in the zone, out of the way of the maintenance work” with the help of live migration technology. Customer instances continue to operate as usual while maintenance is performed.
Three New 16 Core Instances
In order to serve the needs of customers that require greater computational power, Google Compute Engine now boasts three 16 core instances for the standard, high memory and high CPU instance types. Use cases for the computing power delivered by these instances include advanced simulations and NoSQL platforms that require high degrees of scalability and performance.
Gartner analyst Lydia Leong reflected on a comparison between GCE and Amazon Web Services in a blog post and concluded:
GCE still lags AWS tremendously in terms of breadth and depth of feature set, of course, but it also has aspects that are immediately more attractive for some workloads. However, it’s now at the point where it’s a viable alternative to AWS for organizations who are looking to do cloud-native applications, whether they’re 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.
Leong sees the general availability of Google Compute Engine as the “second phase” of the IaaS market, whereby Google and AWS stand poised to out-innovate each other and subsequently push each other to new technological heights. The challenge for Google, however, as Leong rightly suggests elsewhere in her blog post, is that it will need to earn the trust of enterprise customers. The industry will not expect Google to deliver the “fanatical support” which became the hallmark and differentiator of Rackspace, for example, but it will expect degrees of white glove support and professional services that are not familiar parts of the Google apparatus, just yet.
Moreover, as part of the project of gaining the support of the enterprise, Google will need to deliver more explicit guarantees of the safety of data hosted within its IaaS platform from the prying eyes of its repertoire of tools for analyzing structured and unstructured data stored in every conceivable format and structure. Finally, Google will ultimately need an outward facing CTO comparable to Amazon’s Werner Vogels that can evangelize the platform and sell customers on a roadmap that ultimately achieves feature parity, if not superiority, as compared to Amazon Web Services. Technology and innovation has never been Google’s problem. Capturing the confidence of the enterprise, however, has been a different story entirely for Google, although as Leong notes, Monday’s announcement may signal a fork in the road for the IaaS space and the Mountain View-based, search engine and technology behemoth. Current GCE customers include Snapchat, Evite and Wix.