Google Compute Engine Drops Prices, Improves Migration, Maintenance

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-12-03

Google Compute Engine Drops Prices, Improves Migration, Maintenance

Google is now offering its Google Compute Engine services to all customers as part of a wider "general availability" offering that features lower prices and easier migration and maintenance services for users. Google Compute Engine was previously available in preview mode to some customers as its development continued and was refined.

"Today, Google Compute Engine is Generally Available (GA), offering virtual machines that are performant, scalable, reliable, and offer industry-leading security features like encryption of data at rest," wrote Ari Balogh, a Google vice president, in a Dec. 2 post on the Google Cloud Platform Blog. "Compute Engine is available with 24/7 support and a 99.95% monthly SLA for your mission-critical workloads. We are also introducing several new features and lower prices for persistent disks and popular compute instances."

Google Compute Engine (GCE) is part of the Google Cloud Platform, which allows developers to run applications with managed and unmanaged services on Google's infrastructure. The move from preview mode to general availability means that the services are now at a point where they are ready for any and all users, wrote Balogh. "We've been working to improve the developer experience across our services to meet the standards our own engineers would expect here at Google."

In preview mode, GCE supported two of the most popular Linux distributions, Debian and CentOS, which were customized with a Google-built kernel, wrote Balogh. Now GCE is expanding its support for other Linux distributions to make it easier to use for customers. "Now you can run any out-of-the-box Linux distribution (including SELinux and CoreOS) as well as any kernel or software you like, including Docker, FOG, xfs and aufs. We're also announcing support for SUSE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (in Limited Preview) and FreeBSD."

Also new to the GA release is an easier maintenance infrastructure for users, including "transparent maintenance that combines software and data center innovations with live migration technology to perform proactive maintenance while your virtual machines keep running," wrote Balogh. "You now get all the benefits of regular updates and proactive maintenance without the downtime and reboots typically required. Furthermore, in the event of a failure, we automatically restart your VMs and get them back online in minutes. We've already rolled out this feature to our U.S. zones, with others to follow in the coming months."

As part of the GA announcement, Google is also dropping the prices of all standard Compute Engine instances by 10 percent for all users, according to Balogh. In addition, Google has begun a limited preview of services that will for the first time allow developers to access more processor cores at once, using three new instance types that offer up to 16 cores and 104 gigabytes of RAM. "Developers have asked for instances with even greater computational power and memory for applications that range from silicon simulation to running high-scale NoSQL databases," wrote Balogh.

In a related move, Google is making its Persistent Disk data storage services cheaper, faster and more flexible for users of GCE. "Today we're lowering the price of Persistent Disk by 60 percent per Gigabyte and dropping I/O charges so that you get a predictable, low price for your block storage device," wrote Balogh.

Under the new Persistent Disk pricing model, storage will now cost 4 cents per GB per month, down from 10 cents per GB per month, while I/O fees that previously cost 10 cents per million I/Os per month are now included in the storage prices, according to Google.

Google Compute Engine Drops Prices, Improves Migration, Maintenance

In a Dec. 3 blog post, Gartner analyst Lydia Leong states that the new general availability status of GCE is adding to the options of users who want to use the cloud for essential services.

"Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains the king of this space and is unlikely to be dethroned anytime soon, although Microsoft Windows Azure is clearly an up-and-coming competitor due to Microsoft's deep established relationships with business customers," wrote Leong. "GCE is more likely to target the cloud-natives that are going to AWS right now—companies doing things that the cloud is uniquely well-suited to serve. But I think the barriers to Google moving into mainstream businesses are more of a matter of go-to-market execution, along with trust, track record, and an enterprise-friendly way of doing business—Google's competitive issues are unlikely to be technology."

Where Google will excel with GCE is in features, she wrote. "In fact, I think that Google is likely to push the market forward in terms of innovation in a way that Azure will not; AWS and Google will hopefully goad each other into one-upsmanship, creating a virtuous cycle of introducing things that customers discover they love, thus creating user demand that pushes the market forward."

While GCE "still lags AWS tremendously in terms of breadth and depth of feature set," Google's offering "has aspects that are immediately more attractive for some workloads," she wrote. "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."

In October, Google released several technical papers to help developers get better acquainted with Google Compute Engine services. The articles, "Overview of Google Compute Engine for Cloud Developers" and "Building High Availability Applications on Google Compute Engine," were created to help cloud developers learn more about the services and how they could use them.

In September, Google unveiled its second version update of the Google App Engine since August, with the latest release 1.8.4 including a host of features that the company says will make it more flexible and simpler for developers to use for their applications. Included in 1.8.4 is support for Dynamic Web Projects in Eclipse to better support Google Cloud Endpoints and App Engine Backends, as well as fixes for several bugs. One other important new feature is the ability of Google App Engine to handle differential snapshots of a Google Compute Engine persistent disk, so that only the most recently changed data is updated.

The August launch of the previous App Engine 1.8.3 was also accompanied by deeper features for Google Compute Engine and the Google Cloud Datastore as the search giant continues to add functions and robustness to the Google Cloud Platform. The new tools included Layer 3 load balancing for Google Compute Engine and improvements to the PHP runtime in the latest Google App Engine release. The Layer 3 load balancing capabilities were a key addition in the Google Compute Engine, to provide Google-scale throughput and fault tolerance to manage Internet applications.

In July, Google unveiled several new features in the Google Cloud Storage environment to make it easier for developers to manage, access and upload data into the cloud. Those new capabilities included automatic deletion policies, regional buckets and faster uploads as part of a wide range of services.

In June, Google unveiled a new Cloud Playground environment where developers can quickly try out ideas on a whim, without having to commit to setting up a local development environment that's safe for testing coding experiments outside of the production infrastructure. The Cloud Playground is slated as a place where application developers can try out all kinds of things, from sample code to viewing how production APIs will behave, in a safe, controlled place without having to manage the testing environment, according to Google. The new Cloud Playground initially supports only Python 2.7 App Engine apps.

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