Cloud Computing

Google Tries On IaaS for Size

Google announced this week the launch of the Google Compute Engine, an Infrastructure as a Service product that lets users run Linux Virtual Machines (VMs) on Google’s servers.

It promises to provide resources to businesses and other organizations that need intensive, short-term computing power to solve high-level problems, including those working in genome mapping, pharmaceutical research and engineering modeling.

“It’s much more comprehensive than I expected,” David Linthicum, CTO and founder of Blue Mountain Labs, told the E-Commerce Times. He noted that in addition to computing power it includes storage, networking and tooling, as well as the ability to launch Linux VMs on demand with one, two, four and eight virtual core VMs, using 3.75 GB of RAM per core.

“That’s pretty powerful out of the gate,” said Linthicum.

For businesses that have short-term intensive computing needs, Google Compute Engine might be useful.

“GCE is likely to be attractive to organizations needing short-term application of mass-scale compute-intensive workloads,” Ben Kepes, an analyst at Diversity Analysis, told the E-Commerce Times.

“Google even spoke to this in their launch when they gave the case study of a genome- mapping application,” he noted. “I doubt it will gain many customers from the other IaaS vendors — other than those organizations whose workloads meet the scope of Google’s current focus.”

GCE vs. Competitors

Google will face stiff competition in this arena, particularly fromAmazon Web Services and Rackspace, and it remains to be seen how well Google Compute Engine will hold its own.

“With its move into the application ecosystem arena, AWS is more and more becoming a threat to Google,” said Kepes. “Google has also not enjoyed great adoption of its Platform as a Service products.”

Google move into the IaaS fray has been anticipated.

“It’s not surprising to see Google dipping its toe in the water,” said Michael Sutton, VP of security research with Zscaler. “This has been expected for a while that it would compete with the likes of AWS and Rackspace.”

Google’s sheer immensity, however, just about ensures that the Google Compute Engine will be a powerful presence, despite the daunting competition.

“I think that it will be a force in the IaaS space, considering who Google is,” noted Linthicum. “They have the resources and the understanding to drive an IaaS solution into an already-emerging market. The initial offering seems strong. However, it’s certainly not as mature and feature-rich as AWS, and many of the features seem to be copies of AWS capabilities. Right now AWS dominates that IaaS market, and Google will have to run faster just to catch that market.”

Evolution of a Cloud

If Google Compute Engine is to succeed, it will have to evolve and improve, matching the market’s needs.

“Google is very late to the IaaS party,” said Linthicum. “The market does not seem to like those that attempt to jump in front of the parade.”

One of the concerns that will need to be addressed is security.

“It provides some rudimentary security mechanisms, much like the other IaaS players such as AWS and Rackspace,” Linthicum acknowledged. “They will need to partner with some more sophisticated security companies to provide the enterprise-class security, such as identity-based security, that most of the Global 2000 will require — as well as governments. Typically, security is enhanced later after the platform has gotten some traction. That seems to be the case here.”

Still, Google is viewed as having a pretty good handle on security in general, and that will likely be the case with GCE security as well.

“Since it’s as new as it is, no one has had a chance to kick the tires, so it’s hard to have any comment [about security],” noted Sutton. “They will face the same challenges as any other IaaS provider. The one thing that is Google-specific is a positive. Google has a fairly strong track record in terms of security. They have a history of being quick to respond and address security concerns when they emerge.”

It will also need to tailor its offerings to the demands of the marketplace for increasing amounts of computing power.

“I think that Google will focus more on the larger enterprises and the government than the SMB space and will tailor [its] features accordingly,” said Linthicum. “Count on more compute power, additional operating system support, and enhanced management capabilities to be on the short list. Figure you’ll see deeper integration with Google Apps and Google App Engine as well.”

The way the Google Compute Engine continues to develop will no doubt will be key to its long-term success.

“GCE needs to evolve rapidly,” said Kepes. “Google starts from behind the eight ball in terms of IaaS, and it needs to rapidly build a compelling offering and prove to users that it’s in the space for the long haul. Potentially GCE is a step change for Google and the wider industries. Google just needs to do things right.”

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