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Google I/O - AWS rival Compute Engine unveiled, App Engine on Eurotrip

Away from Android and Project Glass stealing the limelight at Google I/O, a pretty big move has been made by the company to challenge Amazon in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) market.

Google may have held off but with their hand forced by Microsoft’s imminent Azure announcement and the might of Amazon Web Services, they’ve announced Google Compute Engine, allowing users to run large-scale workloads on Linux machines hosted by Google’s data-centers.

The cloud infrastructure move seems a logical one, with it nestling nicely alongside Google’s Platform-as-a-Service, App Engine and large data-cruncher, BigQuery.

Sound familiar? Well you’d be right - it’s bares similarities to Amazon’s EC2, Rackspace et al providing almost identical highly scalable, pay-as-you-go computation power. Key areas in which Google Compute Engine is focusing on include batch processing, large-scale data processing (hello Hadoop) and general high-performance computing.

Delving deeper, you’ll find all the associated Client API Libraries to get going with Compute Engine as well as a guide for using the RESTful API. The Google Compute Engine API is built on HTTP and JSON making it send requests and parse. All of it is open sourced, and Google are working with numerous partners to better their offering.

Google's primary infrastructure architect Urs Holzle revealed the reasons behind launching Google Compute Engine in Thursday’s keynote; the main one being the success with App Engine had given them the experience they needed to be successful in IaaS. He also mentioned the small fact of their "decade of experience in building and running Google search engine data centers”. Their vast network does give them a slight advantage over Amazon and the ability to hook up to App Engine and BigQuery at will. You can also expect them to make a big deal about their lack of downtime with App Engine, something which AWS can’t exactly boast.

Google are being tight-lipped on full availability, releasing Compute Engine in limited preview to only a select few, notably only the US during the preview period.

This would leave Europeans short-changed, but Google also revealed during I/O that an App Engine cluster is coming to the continent, greatly reducing latency and improving performance for customers using the formerly US-only hosted cloud platform. App Engine allows users to host Java and Python-coded Web applications right in the cloud, and is the ideal solution should you not have infrastructure needs.

We were awaiting Google’s own vanilla IaaS offering for some time, and this might be its undoing in the long run, as Amazon has such a tight grip on the market. It will need to diversify itself from its competitor, and no doubt sully the rival’s name, somewhat to gain traction. The whole package from Google’s cloud department is enticing and being allowed to cherry-pick the best parts could lead to Compute Engine mounting a respectable challenge.

Chris Mayer

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