Google’s Cloud Gets Bigger

Google, one of the big names in practically every corner of the internet, is the latest player to unveil a product offering raw computing power in the cloud.

The new service, Google Compute Engine, will compete directly with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. Developers can use the company’s Linux-based virtual machines to run whatever operations they want. So far the product is only in beta testing, but the company’s big name, combined with its promise of lower costs than competitors, seems likely to make it a major player fairly quickly once it goes live for everyone.

Already, Google is a big part of cloud computing. It’s well known for its free, user-friendly applications like Google Docs. It also offers Google App Engine, which lets developers build applications, and Google BigQuery, a service for analyzing large volumes of data. And it has an enormous amount of storage and processing capability. The company doesn’t disclose how much, exactly, but one estimate suggests it’s approaching 2 million.

Yet the market for cloud computing is less in platforms and services built on remove servers than in the servers themselves. Most institutional users are looking for infrastructure as a service—something they can use just like a real server to build whatever they need. That’s what Google Compute Engine is promising to deliver.

This is the third in a series of blog posts on major cloud computing players.

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Giant In The Clouds: AWS

If you use the internet, you almost certainly use Amazon Web Services.

The cloud computing arm of the dot-com dynamo is such a large presence online that an in-depth analysis by DeepField Networks this spring found that more than 1 percent of consumer online traffic goes through Amazon services, and a third of internet users access the company’s servers every day.

As those numbers might suggest, AWS is the dominant player in cloud computing. Big-name brands like Netflix, Dropbox, Instagram and Pinterest all use AWS for their streaming services.

In the relatively new world of cloud computing, AWS is also a veteran player that has been providing virtual computing power to businesses since 2006. Much of what it offers is raw processing and storage power of its huge data centers, provided through an Amazon service known as Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. That  model is often referred to as “infrastructure as a service,” as opposed to “platform as a service” or “software as a service,” which describe models that require less IT work from customers but provide them with less flexibility. Many of the companies that do business through AWS use intermediary vendors to turn that infrastructure into something they can easily use.

AWS offers the use of its servers in various ways.  Users can pay only a set hourly fee for each the processing power or storage space they use, or they can pay some amount up front and then spend less per hour, with tiers based on how heavy their usage will be.

Beyond EC2, AWS offers a variety of services for managing databases, billing, and so on, often in partnership with other companies. It also runs a marketplace site for cloud software sold by a variety of vendors that can run on its virtual servers.

In recent months, Google and Microsoft, which now mostly offer more structured cloud products rather than pure raw power, have both been working hard at competing infrastructure products. Still, most analysts say they’ll have their work cut out for them going up against the well-established AWS.

This is the first in a series of blog posts on major cloud computing players.

Photo of Amazon data center courtesy of xcorex/Flickr