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6/26/2012
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Google Compute Engine Challenges Amazon

At Google I/O, Google Compute Engine debuts, bringing Google into more direct competition with infrastructure-as-a-service market leader Amazon Web Services. But don't forget about Microsoft.

Google, on the other hand, keeps expanding how its App Engine works with the outside world. It may not be trying to bring its primary compute workloads into App Engine, an environment that runs Python and Java (or languages, such as JRuby, that run in the Java Virtual machine). Rather, it appears to be matching up App Engine with third-party services that can bring it on-premises workloads. That would allow App Engine to function as an extension of customer's infrastructure without needing to transform into general-purpose infrastructure on its own.

App Engine, like Azure, is also primarily a PaaS platform, with Google enhancing it with Google Gadgets, Google Apps, and other services. Its just-announced partnership with Cliqr Technologies is aimed at customers who are creating on-premises clouds and looking for them to interoperate with a public cloud.

Driving A Hybrid

Interest in hybrid cloud computing, where workloads may run either on premises or in the public cloud, is growing. Cliqr makes it easier for them to move those private cloud workloads somewhere else. In entering a partnership with Cliqr, Google is positioning App Engine as a destination for those seeking operations in the public cloud.

Google has restricted itself to offering a compute platform highly compatible with the way it likes to produce applications. In a sense, it's offered its spare capacity as a compute platform and provided tools it built for its own use to the rest of the world.

Both Microsoft and Google PaaS could migrate into something big, a direct head-to-head competition with Amazon to provide general purpose IaaS. Then again, the principals may be engaging in evolutionary baby steps, afraid to do a self-transformation through a major DNA transfusion.

Google's cloud environment started out able to host applications written in the language its developers most frequently use, Python, a high-speed language in which programs may be quickly modified. It later expanded App Engine to be able to run Java or the other languages geared to run in the Java Virtual Machine, such as JRuby. But Google did not produce a plain vanilla, "send us anything to run and we run it" platform.

In Microsoft's case, it looks like IaaS, with the ultimate goal of moving the customer to PaaS, including some Windows parts and products. The way it implemented Linux support suggests that it wants to keep developers engaged with its platform and is making it easier for them to move a Linux project into the Azure setting.

In Google's case, it looks like hybrid cloud operation--a customer on-premises system that works with Google's public cloud--to bring more business to Google App Engine. Google has not only built out an extensive chain of data centers but has learned to minimize user response times through experience with its search engine.

Rent The Spike

Cliqr is a Google Ventures and Foundation Capital-backed company that can give a hybrid cloud user the means to view workloads running in either setting and project their expense. Cloud users such as online gaming company Zynga are major proponents of the hybrid approach. Companies should only build enough data centers to run their applications in steady state, off-loading heavy traffic demand into the public cloud. Zynga's cloud architect Allan Leinwand sums up the approach as, "Buy the base, rent the spike."

Other companies may wish to offload public-facing functions as website operations and marketing promotions to the cloud because little sensitive corporate data is involved. They would maintain in-house the jobs that require strict data privacy and compliance.

Cliqr is a startup that aims to bring in house the operational smarts now found in outside third parties, such as RightScale, which can move its customers' workloads around from cloud to cloud, handling the compatibility issues within its automated processes. Cliqr would perform a similar function for App Engine, mediating between an on-premises workload and its export to the public cloud, where its console can help manage it.

Expertise, automation, and silo busting are all required, say early adopters of private clouds. Also in the new, all-digital Private Clouds: Vision Vs. Reality issue of InformationWeek: How to choose between OpenStack and CloudStack for your private cloud. (Free with registration.)

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