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Google delivers IaaS cloud without Windows support

Google's IaaS platform will compete with Windows Azure and AWS, but a major limitation may prevent enterprises from adopting Google Compute Engine.

Google launched its IaaS platform last week to compete with AWS and Windows Azure, but the Web giant may have an uphill battle with a cloud offering that only supports open source operating systems.

The Google Compute Engine, revealed during the Google I/O conference in San Francisco last Thursday, is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform that allows customers to launch and manage virtual machines (VM) running either Ubuntu or CentOS Linux on one, two, four or eight virtual core instances with 3.75 GB of RAM per virtual core.

Being Linux-only cuts the number of potential enterprise users by a substantial percentage.

Roger Jennings, Windows Azure MVP and developer

Google executives emphasized its Compute Engine's scalability by demonstrating a genomics research application running on 600,000 virtual cores.

Some industry watchers said IaaS is the right direction, but others are a little confounded by Google's vision.

"The one thing that jumped out at me is they only support Linux in general -- and Ubuntu and CentOS specifically," said Mark Eisenberg, director at Fino Consulting, an enterprise application and cloud integration firm based in New York.

That seems pretty restrictive for an offering that is supposed to be based on empty VMs that customers configure in any manner they choose, he added.

Others agreed that a lack of Windows support will keep enterprise shops from using Google’s IaaS.

"Being Linux-only cuts the number of potential enterprise users by a substantial percentage," said Roger Jennings, a Windows Azure MVP and developer in Oakland, Calif.

Google, Microsoft and AWS bet on IaaS
In early June, Microsoft announced updates to its Windows Azure cloud service to make it an IaaS player akin to Amazon Web Services (AWS), which also supports Windows.

Though Google Compute Engine only offers open source OS support, industry watchers say that Google has entered the IaaS game for the same reason Microsoft did.

Customers are not buying into [Platform as a Service] and the money is all in IaaS until 2015.

Mark Eisenberg, director at Fino Consulting

“Customers are not buying into [Platform as a Service] and the money is all in IaaS until 2015," Eisenberg said.

PaaS providers have discovered they need to support existing application models, and in many ways, IaaS is more suitable for that than typical PaaS offerings, said Al Hilwa, program director for applications development software at research group IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

"While early adopters in cloud have been a lot of consumer, social and mobile apps, enterprise is where the money is ultimately, and offering a portfolio of IaaS and PaaS, including hybrid and compatible private cloud capabilities, is ultimately what is needed," Hilwa said.

Most analysts consider Google’s new service to be an Amazon competitor, but Jennings considers it more of a Windows Azure competitor, when compared to Microsoft's June rollout of Persistent VM Roles.

In fact, AWS has little to fear from Google, at least for the time being, said Jennings.

"Google Compute Engine is a fledgling no-frills IaaS offering from an organization that knows how to keep a massive big data infrastructure running in the cloud," he said.

Google Compute Engine is available only as a limited preview so far and is still a ways from commercial release.

Stuart J. Johnston is Senior News Writer for Contact him at

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