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Google Autoscaling fills major gap for Compute Engine

Google Autoscaling gives IaaS customers better control and more use cases as the public cloud vendor inches toward product parity with the competition.

Google’s cloud strategy may still focus on developers, but the addition of autoscaling is the latest example of a growing portfolio of infrastructure-side additions that could eventually lure in enterprise IT.

Google Compute Engine Autoscaling is now available in beta, on Google's infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform, akin to what Amazon and Microsoft have on their IaaS platforms. The tool adds to the autoscaling that was already available for Google App Engine, the company's platform as a service (PaaS) offering.

For Compute Engine customers, the new feature should improve their ability to handle spikes with volatile applications and find savings by having fewer virtual machines on standby, said Melanie Posey, an analyst with IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

This step is key as it moves Google toward feature parity with the competition, Posey said. "Their real play is platform as a service," Posey said. "That’s how they want customers to interact with Google Cloud Platform. You've got to play the IaaS-only game, but competing on that IaaS-only front is probably not as compelling to them."

Google customers previously used App Engine scaler for infrastructure autoscaling, but it was clunky and created functionality issues when ported over, Posey said. The App Engine scaler was developed five years ago to be tuned for Web applications, which have specific workload and load profiles.

If [Google continues] to be late and not speed up their releases on new features, they’re going to be in big trouble.
Paul Burnspresident of Neovise

Autoscaling was introduced in Amazon Web Services in 2009, while Microsoft did the same for Azure in 2011.

Google Compute Engine relies on different architecture with its virtual machines than the rest of the company's services, including the more popular App Engine and Storage, which scale fine, said Carl Brooks, an analyst with 451 Research, LLC, based in New York City.

"It's interesting to note that a lot of Google services that people already use don't need this," Brooks said.

Catching the IaaS leaders

Critics have questioned Google's commitment to IaaS, but several of the tools introduced this month, including the autoscaling and dedicated networking features, have quelled some of those concerns. Still, the company has a ways to go, analysts said.

Either Google misjudged the need for what is a fairly fundamental tool in IaaS, or it faced considerable challenges to implement it properly, said Paul Burns, president of Neovise LLC, an IT analysis firm based in Fort Collins, Colo. And while Google gets a bit of a pass because Compute Engine was introduced just last year, the current push must continue, he added.

"If they do continue to be late and not speed up their releases on new features, they're going to be in big trouble," Burns said.

Google has gotten closer to parity, but it's at least two to three years behind Amazon in terms of the scope of its features, Brooks said. Google still needs to add directory services, interoperability, identity and access management and managed security services, he added.

In some ways, however, it's unfair to compare the two because Google Cloud Platform is geared toward different audiences and it offers fairly advanced IT tasks for services outside the building-block infrastructure tools AWS is known for, Brooks said. But that might change in the next year or so as Google looks to turn the IaaS market into more of a horse race by utilizing its massive reach and sums of cash.

"With time and money they could be significant competitors," Brooks said. "There are only a few companies that have the ability to get up to this, but they just haven't done it at this point."

While some analysts said the service is comparable to those offered by Amazon and Microsoft, it's possible Google could market the tool as more granular than the competition because it relies on technology behind some of its most successful tools, including search and Gmail, she added.

"They might be using additional data points to make the decisions on how much and how fast an application has to autoscale given the request," Posey said. "If that’s the case, they might make argument that other providers autoscalers are more brute-force oriented."

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

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What other features would you like to see added to Google Compute Engine?
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I would still like to see the addition of further security measures. While GCE does use encryption on the fly, it still seems vulnerable.
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