Where Google Compute Engine fits in

At Google I/O, Google made it clear it will go head to head with Amazon. But how do you choose between their clouds?

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Still revving up the Engine
Google has taken care to underscore how Compute Engine is still officially a beta-level, "limited preview" product, and it may stay that way for some time. Consequently, it's not likely people are going to yank their machine instances from Amazon and park them with Google en masse. If they want to do that, though, it won't be hard. Crandell cited video transcoding tests performed on another cloud service, which was then moved (using RightScale's own technology) to 325 Google Compute Engine cores with minimal effort.

Among the elements that could be considered rough edges: the scheduled maintenance windows of Google Compute Engine, which are announced well in advance. These are not really an issue for large-scale data processing workloads -- the kind run by customers Google is trying to attract at first -- but require more sophisticated deployment architectures for persistent workloads. Also to be expected in the future are more instance types.

A key question that's come up about Google Compute Engine has been one of the simplest: What kept Google from offering this functionality before?

The first and most likely possibility is that the company wasn't fully confident it could do it in the form of a service open to others. Granted, Google has spent years refining and testing its in-house cloud to the point where it has become an immensely predictable quantity, albeit just for Google. Up until now, all of us have consumed Google's services in terms of applications hosted on top of the company's infrastructure. The nature of that infrastructure itself has been invisible to us. Even with the introduction of GCE, it's still invisible -- but we get to consume it in a rawer form, one that revolves around machine images rather than Google's predefined application sets.

The second possibility is that Google felt patience would be rewarded. The market is flooded with IaaS offerings right now, and perhaps Google felt that by biding its time and seeing what the market would become, it could better target its offerings. What Google has now, though, is very much like what Amazon's EC2 was in its early years -- in other words, it's clearly not mature yet.

Amazon Web Services offers a broader palette of instance types with higher CPU and RAM caps than GCE does right now, so there's little danger of GCE eclipsing Amazon in the short run even if GCE's pricing is highly competitive. Plus, the sheer level of existing adoption of Amazon's services, and the de facto standard Amazon has brought to IaaS, makes switching away (even with tools like RightScale's) that much tougher.

This story, "Where Google Compute Engine fits in," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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