Google cloud pricing drops, HTTP load balancing added

Google continues to add features and cut costs -- don’t expect either to disrupt the status quo in the cloud market.

Enterprise customers win every time Google adds features to its Cloud Platform product portfolio while, at the...

same time, cutting its overall prices.

The company recently offered an HTTP load balancer in preview, and reduced the price of Google Compute Engine by 10% across the board.

The overall impact of Google's efforts, however, is likely to be limited, experts said. The cuts might sway people who use cloud for spot instances, but for enterprises, and anyone relying on the technology for regular workloads, it won’t move mountains, said Lydia Leong, an analyst at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

"I don't think the price drop is going to change a lot of peoples' mind," Leong said. "This is not a space that's intensely commoditized."

The price break from Google that should be more meaningful to customers was the $100,000 platform credit for startups disclosed last month, Leong said.

I don't think the price drop is going to change a lot of peoples mind.
Lydia Leonganalyst with Gartner, Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.

Google said in a blog post that the latest cuts result from increased data-center efficiency and falling hardware costs. In March, Google slashed its cloud costs by a much greater margin. The move had a domino effect on the market, as Amazon and Microsoft followed with their own price drops.

It is conventional thinking that the large cloud vendors will continue their price war for some time. Leong, however, is not so sure. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was going to drop its prices earlier this year anyway, but Google may have forced it into a bigger cut. But since Google's impact has been minor, AWS may take a wait-and-see approach, Leong said.

The price war among cloud giants has led smaller cloud vendors to refer to Google and the others as providing commodity cloud. At the same time, the big cloud vendors have rushed to add more tools and fill the gaps between infrastructure and platform services -- products that don’t follow the same downward pricing trajectory and are often seen as the real profit driver for these vendors.

Google load balancing

The latest addition to Google's services is HTTP load balancing, which adds to its existing network load balancer. The former uses a single IP address globally so data sets are routed by proximity to the nearest data center to improve stability and performance, said Morgan Dollard, product lead for Google Cloud Networking.

"For geo-location and latency, DNS isn't well suited," Dollard said. "A single IP address uses the closest front-end solution and reaches the virtual machines and applications in the closest way possible."

Google says its orchestration and network layer separates it from the competition. The configuration is unique and still secretive, so it's hard to fully evaluate it, said James Staten, an analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass.

Not all cloud hardware is the same, and some don't use load balancers at all, Staten said. Still, providing basic load balancing isn't difficult and most tools fit the bill for customer demand. Differentiation comes when customers want to bring their own algorithms and fine-tune the triggers, but Google's initial product is behind more advanced services from Rackspace and AWS, Staten said.

When used as a global load balancer, however, benefits customers who want to achieve global workload balancing and fast geographic scale, Staten said. Most applications don't need it, but it is important for mobile back-ends and certain websites and ecommerce applications.

The network load balancing is similar to the TCP-based EBS load balancing at AWS, but Google's offering could provide an advantage in cross-region load balancing, according to Ryan Bonham, lead, IT infrastructure at Workiva, in Ames, Iowa. The financial reporting software developer is a customer of both vendors.

"This would be good for us as we often have backup services in alternate regions as a failover strategy," Bonham said. "This could allow us to maintain some active services in multiple regions and balance between them."

Workiva will use load balancing from both vendors, but not Google's latest addition because it doesn't support HTTPS and only allows balancing on port 80 and 8080, Bonham said.

"EBS Load Balancers at AWS support HTTPS load balancing as well as SSL Termination support -- two features we utilize heavily," Bonham said.

The lack of load balancing prior to this release held back customers from deploying certain applications, Forrester's Staten said. This move, along with the larger maturation of Google Cloud Platform, broadens the service to a wider set of apps.

All cloud vendors need these core pieces in networking, Leong said. Google may offer greater flexibility than Amazon in a trade-off for ease of use, but the real differentiator for customers comes higher up in the stack.

"Are the differences meaningful enough for users to definitively switch?" Leong asked. "I doubt it."

Senior news writer Beth Pariseau also contributed to this story.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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