Google: Compute Engine now ready for prime time

A leading force in data center operations opens its doors to outside customers' computing needs. It's got a ways to go to catch up to Amazon, though.

Urs Holzle, senior vice president for technical infrastructure at Google, announces Google Compute Engine at the Google I/O conference in 2012.
Urs Holzle, senior vice president for technical infrastructure at Google, announces Google Compute Engine at the Google I/O conference in 2012. Stephen Shankland/CNET

For a company with as much expertise in running massive data centers packed with computing power, it's got to sting that Amazon Web Services gets all the glory when customers need cloud-computing infrastructure.

Which is doubtless why Google is happy that its Google Compute Engine is out of testing and now generally available to all comers. The service offers a pool of servers on which customers can run various versions of Linux, paying for usage and riding assurances that the systems will be up and running at least 99.95 percent of the time.

Ari Balogh, a Google vice president, announced Google Compute Engine's general availability on Monday night and said the company cut prices 10 percent for ordinary server instances, cut them 60 percent for storage fees, and dropped them altogether for storage input-output costs. He also said Google fired up a new 16-core server option for heavier-duty jobs.

Google has a ways to go to catch up to Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) service and S3 (Simple Storage Service), the fundamental elements of Amazon Web Services. Last month, researchers announced a computer simulation that used 156,000 Amazon processor cores around the globe, for example, illustrating the notable capacity available on Amazon's infrastructure.

Google has attracted some customers, too, though.

"In the past few months, customers like Snapchat, Cooladata, Mendelics, Evite, and Wix have built complex systems on Compute Engine," said Balogh, who previously was Yahoo's chief technology officer .

Google also is expanding the range of operating systems available. Initially, just the Debian and CentOS versions of Linux were an option, but "now you can run any out-of-the-box Linux distribution," Balogh said. "We're also announcing support for Suse and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (in Limited Preview) and FreeBSD."

Google announced the Compute Engine service in 2012. It already offered a higher-level option called Google App Engine that lets customers run software on Google servers, but it didn't grant customers control over the operating system and other lower-level elements.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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