Google Compute Engine: What took them so long?

Google says it was perfecting its IaaS offering, but an accidentally leaked analysis suggests alternative explanation

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Why might the software take a while to develop? Last fall, a Google engineer by the name of Steve Yegge unintentionally shed some light on that subject. Yegge, a former Amazon employee, wrote a revealing internal blog post for Googlers only, but accidentally made it public on Google+ (it's still there if you want to read it in full).

In that post, Yegge detailed how the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, had mandated in 2002 that "all teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces." That is, Bezos forced Amazon to become service-oriented. When SOA is properly implemented, shared services can drastically reduce development times because you call existing services through APIs rather than coding from scratch and duplicating functionality. When you do it right, you turn a company's application infrastructure into a platform.

By contrast, said Yegge, Google "doesn't get platforms." Referring to the company's internal development practices, he says:

It's a big stretch even to get most teams to offer a stubby service to get programmatic access to their data and computations. Most of them think they're building products. And a stubby service is a pretty pathetic service. ... The problem we face is pretty huge, because it will take a dramatic cultural change in order for us to start catching up. We don't do internal service-oriented platforms, and we just as equally don't do external ones.

It's pure speculation on my part, but the problem Yegge outlines may have been part of the reason it took Google so long to produce the software for Google Compute Engine.

It seemed clear from my conversation with McLuckie that he doesn't feel Google needs to build an IaaS brand. After all, it's Google, which has the most advanced infrastructure on earth, and everyone is going to want a piece of it, right? At least, they will whenever the Google Compute Engine goes from limited preview to beta and finally to production and actual SLAs, which McLuckie says Google will eventually offer.

Make no mistake, I think Google will be a player to be reckoned with in the IaaS game, and quite a bit of the attraction may be Google's mystique, which persists despite various outages and missteps. Yet this is a more competitive cloud world than the one in which App Engine launched four years ago. Google will have not only Amazon and Rackspace to contend with, but also HP, Microsoft, Dell, and even the telcos (Verizon/Terremark, anyway). Google is going to have to prove itself in the IaaS space like any other provider.

This article, "Google Compute Engine: What took them so long?," originally appeared at Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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