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Cloud networking services at the forefront of Google's latest push

Google added a new service for secure cloud networking and a lower-cost network tier, as it works to keep pace with -- and, in some ways, surpass -- the competition.

Google continues to emphasize its network as a differentiator with services and features that fill gaps in its public cloud.

A new Dedicated Interconnect service for Google Cloud Platform (GCP) allows users to plug their private infrastructure directly into Google's network with a secure private connection that exceeds virtual private network (VPN) capabilities around latency, consistency and throughput. This service comes soon after Google became the first major public cloud provider to offer two distinct networking tiers for customers -- a cheaper alternative at the low end and what Google claims is superior networking performance at the high end.

Dedicated cloud networking services are critical to enterprises with workloads that require high throughput and availability, low latency and consistent performance. This Dedicated Interconnect service is an important move for Google to curry favor with users that maintain their private data centers, and to catch up with what its competition has offered for years: Amazon Web Services (AWS) Direct Connect and Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute.

But Dedicated Interconnect may have advantages over its competitors. One key difference is users can tap into Google's private fiber to access any GCP region, whereas other providers limit those dedicated connections to a single region.

That ability to plug in and keep consistency across regions is a major advantage, said Charles Allen, director of platform engineering at Metamarkets, a real-time analytics firm in San Francisco.

"It's not specific to one geolocation, so if you have a presence on the West Coast and need a direct connection to something on the East Coast, you don't need to worry about cross-country issues," he said.

Metamarkets has workloads in AWS and GCP, but has used GCP more heavily in the past four months, and Dedicated Interconnect was critical to that shift.

"To maintain certain levels of security, all our compute resources need to access each other over private network space," Allen said. "The only solution we had available that could solve these scale needs, the reliability and the private address space was Dedicated Interconnect."

The service comes in increments of 10 Gbps, with up to 80 Gbps by using multiple circuits, and it will offer up to 99.99% uptime service-level agreements once fully available in the coming months. By comparison, Azure guarantees 99.9% uptime with ExpressRoute, while AWS has no uptime SLA for Direct Connect. Both AWS and Azure cap out at 10 Gbps speeds.

Google charges $1,700 per month, per 10 Gbps link. Similar speeds in Azure cost $5,000 per month, and $2.25 per hour in AWS.

Metamarkets has even reduced its total cost of ownership by more than 60% by using Dedicated Interconnect compared to using the public internet, Allen said. Those additional expenses were more than offset by the reduced egress and transfer fees that would come with movement across a VPN.

The service isn't for everyone, however. Users must hook into Google at one of its 37 Dedicated Interconnect locations and provide their own encryption mechanism. It's also overkill for services with lower data requirements or latency demands, such as G Suite applications.

"It's part and parcel for them growing up as an [infrastructure as a service] provider and realizing these sorts of things -- in this case, the quality and range of network connectivity from the provider to the enterprise customer -- cannot be a potential paint point or inhibitor," said Brad Casemore, an analyst with IDC.

Google adds flavor to cloud networking services

In August, Google split its cloud network services options between standard and premium performance tiers. The standard tier is cheaper and piggybacks on third-party networks, while the premium tier is essentially a rebrand of its existing capabilities. The standard tier provides speeds and reliability that are comparable to its major competitors at a lower price, while the premium tier provides superior speed and performance, according to Google.

Google wants to offer options to customers, but it's still pushing its private network as a differentiator, said Dan Conde, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

"It's not sexy, but in reality, Google can say that without a network, there really is no cloud," he said. "Unless there's a reliable, high-quality network, you're not able to exploit the cloud for all it's capable of."

When Metamarkets looked at GCP, it wanted to see how much the network actually mattered. AWS is still superior in some areas, including more predictable and stable CPU resources, but in the end, the networking piece made a difference, Allen said.

"We have not seen many network-specific problems in GCP as AWS," he said, with the caveat that Metamarkets has a longer track record with AWS. "The network throughput and global network connectivity has been really good. It's essentially taken networking off the table, which is good."

Trevor Jones is a senior news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

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