With Google's announcements, it's 'Game On' in the cloud

Amazon now faces real competition in the cloud

Amazon Web Services basically invented the go to market strategy for infrastructure as a service public cloud when it launched Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Today, Google took big steps toward giving Amazon some of its most aggressive competition in this market.

Google today announced a variety of new features, significant price reductions on its major services and some clear shots across the bow to Amazon Web Services today at the Google Cloud Platform Live event in San Francisco, which was also streamed online. "It's clearly game on," says Randy Bias, CEO of Cloudscaling, a company that distributes a version of OpenStack that integrates with both AWS and Google. "There isn't really a feature gap between AWS and GCE anymore."

Others agreed:

Finally, the great cloud war begins #GCPLive

— Floyd Strimling (@PlatenReport) March 25, 2014

Taking a closer look at the announcements though shows that Google is really building up feature parity with Amazon, more than offering truly unique capabilities to its cloud platform. Many of the new features announced by Google today can already found in Amazon's cloud, but the fact that Google now has them make Google's platform even more of a true alternative to AWS's cloud.

Perhaps the biggest news from Google today was a significant price reduction.

The last bullet point on there, the "sustained usage" is one of the advancements Google announced that is unique to its cloud. Google today announced sustained usage discounts, which give customers lower costs the more they use Google's cloud. Whereas AWS provides discounts if customers agree to buy more capacity upfront, Google gives customers the discounts as they buy it.

"Once you use a VM for >25% per month, every minute becomes cheaper". 53% price drop with 24x7 use. Very clever #GCPLive

— Ariel Tseitlin (@atseitlin) March 25, 2014

The other unique feature to Google's cloud announced today is its Managed VM service. This tool allows Google cloud users to specify that a virtual machine in its IaaS named Google Compute Engine (GCE) can now be assigned to an application in the company's PaaS, Google Application Engine (GAE). This essentially gives developers much greater control over how their VMs are managed. It also represents a blurring of the lines between IaaS and PaaS, which is something we've seen from various other cloud players as well.

Google also announced some impressive live migration features, which allow its cloud VMs to continue running while they are updated for security patches, OS upgrades or to add memory capacity to them, for example.  

The other announcements Google made today are also important, but they're not unique to the company's cloud. Google announced support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE and Windows operating systems, for example. All of those are already available in AWS's cloud.

Google announced a Cloud Domain Name Service (DNS), which AWS also already has. And Google launched a command line tool for controlling its cloud services, also something AWS offers.

Google announced some impressive new features for its big data management tool named BigQuery. The application can now ingest 100,000 rows of data per second. While that is impressive capacity, Amazon at its cloud conference announced Kenesis, which is a live streaming data processing service.

Even though both Google and Amazon have similar products in many of these categories, there are nuanced differences between the two platforms. Bias, of Cloudscaling, notes that Google seems to be aiming its cloud specifically at a developer audience, for example.

Amazon, meanwhile, has a much larger marketplace of applications and services that are certified to run on its cloud. That gives AWS users access to literally hundreds of options at their fingertips.

With news earlier this week that Cisco is making a $1 billion investment in its cloud strategy, along with an event later this week that Microsoft is conducting, it's clear that the cloud industry is heating up.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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