Google Launches New Cloud Compute Engine, Enhances Google Apps, Drive

At day two of its Google I/O developers’ conference, Google announced a new infrastructure-as-a-service offering as well as enhancements to Google Docs and its Google Drive cloud storage service.

Google is stepping up its game in the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) space by introducing Google Compute Engine for hosting applications on the company€™s massive computing infrastructure.

Compute Engine, which Google said June 28 is available as a limited preview for now, was introduced on the second day of the Google I/O 2012 developer€™s conference in San Francisco. Also revealed were new capabilities in various Google Apps products that can now be integrated with the recently released Google Drive for cloud storage. Google also detailed updates to the Chrome Web browser and the Chrome operating system.

Google already offers App Engine, which enables application developers to create their own applications and have Google host them in its data centers. App Engine currently hosts more than 1 million apps. Compute Engine is intended to serve a wider audience, said Urs Hölzle, senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google.

Hölzle demonstrated Compute Engine€™s capabilities with the example of the Institute for Systems Biology, a research organization that tests potential new cancer drugs against the human genome. He explained that the Institute€™s own data center has only 1,000 compute cores for processing these tests, which is too slow. Access to Compute Engine increased that to 10,000 cores.

But then Hölzle went further: €œWe know that some of you need even more scale and we have the technology to help in instances that are very computationally intensive, but don€™t need that much [input/output].€

In that instance, the capacity for the Institute project could reach more than 770,000 cores, of which the project used 600,000.

€œThat is how infrastructure-as-a-service is supposed to work,€ he said.

Other Google executives shared updates on Google Apps for creating and managing documents, spreadsheets and presentations, all of which can now be stored in the cloud with Google Drive, which the company launched about 10 weeks ago.

Google Drive enables collaboration among various people on Google documents and other content from different computers, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome and Apps at Google.

He shared a humorous video imagining how the pop music duo Hall & John Oates would have written the lyrics to one of their hits, €œManeater,€ in a document on Google Drive with Darryl Hall writing one suggested line and John Oates erasing it and suggesting another.

€œThis is a fundamental and radically different way to collaborate. Try doing that with SharePoint,€ said Pichai, taking a dig at rival Microsoft€™s SharePoint document collaboration software.

The company said at the conference that Google Drive is now available on Apple€™s iOS mobile operating system; it€™s already available on Windows, Mac and Chrome OS.

Google Drive is €œdeeply integrated€ in Chrome OS, said Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps, who also demonstrated the ability for a user to save a Google Doc on their device for offline viewing, such as when they are on a plane. They can edit the document offline and when they get reconnected to the Internet, the edited document automatically synchronizes with the earlier version in Drive. Google also announced a new SDK for creating apps in Drive.

In addition, Google provided an update on the Google Chrome browser, with Pichai reporting that Chrome now has 310 million active users, almost double the 160 million users in 2011 and up from 70 million in 2010.

While Pichai touted Chrome€™s growth, it still trails in market share, according to global figures for May 2012 from Net Applications. On desktop computers, Microsoft Internet Explorer still leads with a 54 percent share with Mozilla Firefox and Chrome tied for second at a respectable 20 percent each. On smartphones and tablets, the leader is Apple Safari with a 64 percent share€“owing to all those iPhones and iPads out there. Google Android€™s browser followed at 19 percent and the Opera Mini at 13 percent.