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Jockeying for the lead against AWS and Microsoft in the public cloud race, Google this week slashed prices and delivered a host of new features including a managed service for containers.
Containers will be critical to a transition that allows developers and IT operators to deliver across platforms without having to worry about nuance and configuration details, the company said.
Based on the open source Kubernetes project Microsoft, IBM, VMware and others back, Google delivered the Google Container Engine in alpha. The managed service for building and deploying Docker containers and container-based applications will run on Compute Engine virtual machines (VMs).
Workiva, a financial reporting software developer based in Ames, Iowa, uses Google App Engine and AWS. While its AWS instances run fine and there's no reason to switch, Google Container Engine's ability to build applications that work across cloud platforms and run on any software could change that, said Dave Tucker, senior director of platform development for Workiva.
John Rymeranalyst with Forrester Research
"When you see something like Google's container management story, it becomes a pretty compelling reason to look at how to leverage Cloud Platform," Tucker said.
Other additions include real-time queries and triggers to enable developers to define webhooks sent to external APIs when certain conditions are met, as well as partner integration with Bitnami, Ubuntu and Fastly.com. Projects that have already moved into beta include managed VMs, Google Cloud Debugger, Google Compute Engine Local SSD and Google Compute Engine Autoscaler.
Google also continued its price cuts, dropping Network Egress 47%, BigQuery storage 23%, persistent disk snapshots 79% and Cloud SQL 25%. These cuts follow 10% Google Compute Engine cuts last month.
Google steers cloud conversation
Previously, some saw Google as the No. 1 or 2 cloud vendor, despite market research that showed them as the clear No. 3, said John Rymer, an analyst with Forrester Research, Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass. Perception was starting to catch up with reality, so it was important for Google to make a statement.
"The theme is they're serious," Rymer said. "They've been behind and they had to play some catch-up. They're coming on pretty strong here."
Most of the additions are answers to what the competition already offers, including solid-state drive and autoscaling, analysts said. The container orchestration service is the exception, but it probably won't find much of an audience yet and Amazon and Microsoft could match it.
The container rollout is more about differentiating in a three-way competition, said Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research, based in New York.
"The biggest takeaway is that Google is taking actions that are shaping the narrative around cloud computing and infrastructure as a service," Brooks said. "They're attempting to start taking the conversation back from Amazon in a way that plays to their strength."
Part of that strength is what Google can offer developers by filling a perceived hole in the competition's services, said Robert Mahowald, an analyst with IDC, based in Framingham, Mass. A year ago potential customers were disenfranchised AWS users, but now developers come to Google's cloud with a clean slate.
"There's just more choice, especially because all the things they offer are really aimed at developers," Mahowald said. "It's a distinguishing factor."
Interconnect a nod to enterprise
The new service with perhaps the most enterprise intrigue is Google Cloud Interconnect, with options of VPN-based secure connectivity over the public Internet, direct peering from over 70 points of presence worldwide, and connections via carrier partners Verizon, Equinix, IX Reach, Level 3, Tata Communications, Telx and Zayo.
Interconnect is a signal that Google is trying to talk to enterprise IT, rather than enterprise developers or desktop users, Brooks said.
"The interconnect capabilities are table stakes for any serious customer, not just enterprises, so not having them has been a hindrance for Google," said Lydia Leong, an analyst with Gartner, Inc., based in Stamford, Conn.
Google has long-term ambitions to go after the enterprise, but plenty of work must be done to get there, Leong said. The additional interconnect points are convenient for customers, but more important is the number of partners that were included, because customers want to be able to use their existing carrier.
The broader partner ecosystem still pales in comparison to Amazon's and remains one of Google's biggest shortcomings in the cloud, Mahowald said. While Google may argue that it's all about new things in cloud, there are still plenty of customers who want help with migration of existing workloads and third-party licensing, and it will have to get better if it wants to lure in the enterprise market.
Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at email@example.com.