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AWS shops eye Google Compute Engine live migration

Google will add live migration for VMs running on its IaaS platform, which just might signal itself as a legitimate threat to Amazon in the market.

LAS VEGAS – The buzz at Amazon’s conference here this week came from a competitor’s new feature.

Google Inc.’s Compute Engine (GCE) will add live migration for virtual machines (VMs) running on its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform to minimize the pain IT pros may feel with its two-week maintenance windows for GCE, which involves taking an entire data center offline at a time.

The only company that can kick AWS’s butt is Google, if they decide [IaaS] is really a business that they want to get into.

Bryson Koehler,
Bryson Koehler, CIO, The Weather Company

The us-central1-a and us-central1-b zones will not go offline again for scheduled maintenance, according to Google's post on a Google Groups forum this week. Google will continue to perform scheduled maintenance, only now, affected VMs will be moved out of the way automatically, and the zone itself will remain up and usable through the scheduled maintenance events, according to the post.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) by contrast, attempts to keep host maintenance minimal, but when necessary, will terminate and reboot instances used by Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) customers to perform host maintenance. AWS’ standard recommendation for customers is to build applications that run in multiple availability zones and regions  to survive these events.

But doing this requires that  customers pay for more instances, raising their cloud costs.

“It’s absolutely something Amazon should be doing,” said Adrian Cockcroft, cloud architect for Netflix, Inc., adding that he believes AWS will add this capability in the future.

Meanwhile, Google’s potential  in the IaaS market is very real, sources say.

“The only company that can kick AWS’s butt is Google, if they decide [IaaS] is really a business that they want to get into,” said Bryson Koehler, chief information officer and executive vice president at The Weather Company, based in Atlanta.

While GCE is the first non-VMware Inc.-based cloud service to add live migration, its service remains in beta, and analysts said the live migration is necessary to compensate for GCE’s lengthy maintenance windows.

“Even most cloud-native start-ups aren’t capable of easily executing this way,” wrote Gartner Inc. analyst Lydia Leong in a blog post. “A hard-line stance on taking zones offline for maintenance limited GCE’s market opportunity.”

Some companies are more comfortable going with the maintenance flow, however,“It forces us to revisit our thinking,” said Larry Phenow, senior technical operations manager for Capstone Publishers, based in Edina, Minn., citing an example in which a server scheduled for termination six months ago was actually not running on the right instance size.

“We rebuild and rethink our strategy on a weekly basis,” Phenow said. 

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter. 

Editor Alex Barrett also contributed to this story.

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