Announced at Google I/O 2012, Google Compute Engine (GCE) competes with Amazon EC2 and other infrastructure-as-a-service offerings from the likes of Rackspace, SoftLayer, Savvis and Terremark. It provides computational infrastructure on demand in the form of virtual Linux machines that can perform sustained processing tasks. It's a lower-level service than Google App Engine, a platform-as-a-service offering that is simpler to use but is suited for a narrower range of tasks.
Until Thursday, CGE had been available only by invitation. It's now available to Cloud Platform customers paying $400 per month for Google's Gold Support package. It's also less expensive: Google dropped Compute Engine prices 4% across the board.
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When Google introduced GCE, Urs Holzle, SVP of technical infrastructure, claimed that Google Compute Engine delivers 50% more compute per dollar than other cloud providers, but he did not provide the data to support his assertion. Google didn't immediately respond to a request for further information about this.
In addition to its price reduction, Google has enhanced GCE with several new features. These include the ability to boot from persistent disks that have been mounted as the root file system, capture persistent disk snapshots, record and restore the content of network-resident persistent disks on demand, and attach and detach persistent disks from active instances.
Google has also improved its administration console, dubbed the Google Cloud Console. And it is providing five new instance type families and 16 new instance types.
European GCE customers now have two new supported zones in the area, which should improve performance and latency. Users who had maintained instances elsewhere can migrate their instances to the new zones with the gcutil command line tool.
As an example of how GCE compute power can be put to use, the company's Chrome team in Japan has created a demonstration game in Node.js called World Wide Maze Chrome Experiment that uses the structure of any website submitted to build a 3D marble maze.
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