Google Attacks Amazon With Cloud Storage Prices - InformationWeek
Cloud // Cloud Storage
10:10 AM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
Connect Directly

Google Attacks Amazon With Cloud Storage Prices

Google's 60% cut in block-storage pricing is a move intended to unseat Amazon's dominance in cloud infrastructure.

8 Great Cloud Storage Services
8 Great Cloud Storage Services
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

The highlight of Google's coming-out party for Compute Engine's general availability as supported infrastructure was the pricing on its virtual servers and storage. It shows a heretofore absent determination on Google's part to compete with the market leader, Amazon Web Services, and secondarily, Microsoft.

Amazon has made it difficult for competitors to attract customers by repeatedly lowering prices on commonly used virtual servers and storage. Microsoft has matched its moves, particularly on storage.

With its announcement this week, Google has come close to matching AWS's virtual server prices while, in a clever move, it has flipped prices around on storage to undercut Amazon. It cut the price for storage attached to working virtual machines by 60%, making it cheaper than Amazon's Elastic Block Store. It made up for that big cut by leaving prices on its long term storage -- the equivalent of Amazon's S3 -- at a little more expensive level. It has chosen the sometimes finicky Amazon Elastic Block Store as the Achilles' heel of the market leader, which it might or might not be.

For example, both Amazon and Google were charging 10 cents per GB per month for Elastic Block Store, or what Google calls Provisioned Storage under its Persistent Storage products. Either one is the disk volume that's attached to a running virtual machine, as opposed to the temporary disk assigned to it on the server rack. VMs are automatically assigned a chunk of temporary storage when they're commissioned, but it, like the user's data, goes away as soon as an instance is shut down. To preserve the configuration of the instance and its data, an Amazon user needs to sign up for EBS. When working with Compute Engine, the user needs what Google calls "provisioned space" on its Persistent Disk service.

[ Want more on cloud pricing? Read Why Cloud Pricing Comparisons Are So Hard. ]

Google cut the price of provisioned space from 10 cents per GB a month to four cents per GB a month. Cloud storage services have frequently been the focus of price cutting in the past. But to put Google's unprecedented 60% cut into perspective, Amazon reduced S3 long-term prices in March 2012 from 12.5 cents to 11.5 cents for the first GB, a drop of 8%. Google followed suit within two days, cutting its long-term storage from 13 cents to 12 cents, a drop of 7.7%. On Nov. 26, 2012, Google dropped storage prices 20% as Amazon opened its first Re:Invent user group show in Las Vegas. Two days later Amazon announced it would implement a 25% cut. Microsoft matched the cuts at the end of the month with a 28% cut on Azure cloud storage.

Now Google has dropped the price of block storage by 60%, going from 10 cents per GB per month to four cents. At the end of two days, Amazon and Microsoft remained silent -- one is tempted to say it has maintained a stunned silence.

Long-term storage, Amazon S3 versus Google Cloud Storage, is a different matter. Amazon charged 9.5 cents per GB a month for snapshot storage or the storage of a file containing many data objects. Google charges 12.5 cents per GB a month for snapshot storage, although the difference is less than the 3-cent price differential would seem to indicate. To get a guaranteed level of disk I/O, Amazon increases the price to 12.5 cents. Google appears to guarantee user-desired I/O levels at no additional charge.

Developers always looking for the lowest-cost infrastructure are sure to take notice. IT managers with responsibility for outsourcing enterprise workloads are likely to consider their options as well. The result of Google's cuts might eventually be a changed competitive lineup in cloud services. Google's 60% reduction in block-storage cost has the direct effect of bringing down the total cost of running a workload.

Amazon might have more vulnerability in block storage than generally perceived. One of the most frequent complaints about Amazon's operation is the sometimes-unpredictable nature of its EBS service. Virtual machines that normally run fine sometimes appear to slow down and take longer to complete a task, with EBS being the most likely wild card in Amazon's lineup of services. The "noisy neighbor" problem is often a reflection of waiting for data from EBS. This happens when one customer's busy virtual machine on a shared host uses up I/O channels and puts CPUs on idle, slowing output for another customer.

Google also heightened the competition on another front with its 10% cut in virtual-server pricing. It listed no examples, but working from Wednesday's posted prices, a Google n1-standard server with a single virtual CPU and 3.75 GB of RAM is available at 10.4 cents an hour, down from 11.5 cents an hour. A roughly equivalent Amazon m1.medium server with one virtual CPU and 3.75 GB of RAM goes for 12 cents an hour. Direct comparisons, however, are difficult. The virtual CPU on the Amazon machine is the equivalent to two 2007 Xeon cores running at 1 GHz. The Google virtual CPU is half of a double-threaded, modern Xeon core running at a higher clock speed.

Storage is the more easily compared service. There Google has chosen to strike in its bid to be taken seriously as a supplier of infrastructure-as-a-service.

Buying power and influence are rapidly shifting to service providers. Where does that leave enterprise IT? Not at the cutting edge, that's for sure: Only 19% are increasing both the number and capability of servers, budgets are level or down for 60%, and just 12% are using new micro technology. Find out more in the 2014 State Of Server Technology report. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 2 / 2
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 8:45:56 AM
Re: When "extra scaffolding" results in extra charges
I wouldn't bet against Google either but if I were buying in to the service now and I had the option to pay for an acceptable guaranteed level of service I think I'd go ahead and pay that premium.  While I don't think the first couple of months will result in a flood of new users I would want that hedge of protection and the peace of mind it brings. 
User Rank: Apprentice
1/2/2014 | 2:21:41 AM
Re: Amazon EBS < Google VS AWS - IMO the cloud war of 2014
 the GCP (Google Compute Platform) team managed to clearly identify their direct competition, the AWS cloud. Consequently, they realized that they also need to invest in their IaaS offering. With a great deal of research, they quickly focused their attention on cloud lock-in. They presented out-of-the-box tools that import large chunks of data and "surprisingly" do actually ease the one-way data transfer process from Amazon S3 and Google Cloud Storage. Moreover, the Google cloud team learned that granularity of cloud resources is a key in the cloud and presented the 'charge per minute' of the their compute which is definitely a game changer. They mastered AWS' weaknesses of AWS and presented replication between regions, high performance disks with excellent persistence and will undoubtedly have more to come.
<<   <   Page 2 / 2
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll