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What to expect from Google Compute Engine in 2015

To trump the competition this year, Google will likely soup up its Google Compute Engine with new features around containers, hybrid cloud, SDN and more.

As competition heats up and more enterprises move to the cloud, 2015 could be a tough year for cloud providers. Google, especially, will be interesting to watch -- and difficult to predict.

Google's management team has its hands in many projects, and literally struggles to keep its feet on the ground. But when it comes to cloud, it's possible to predict at least some of the provider's priorities for its Google Compute Engine infrastructure as a service (IaaS). As the market continues to benefit from containers, for example, Google will likely invest more in container technology. Containers compact virtual instances by sharing image memory, which eliminates the boot storm issue experienced in virtual desktops.

With Google leading in adoption, containers should provide considerable benefits to users. They should also drive more business for Google, especially at the expense of vendors who are slow to adopt the container approach. Container adoption will probably be the most discussed Google trend this year.

To complement containers, Google is rolling out a way to start and stop instances for Google Compute Engine, without the tear down or build process. Additionally, this should save users time and money.

Hybrid cloud, SDN to impact Google Compute Engine

Things are fundamentally changing in IT, with the focus shifting to hybrid cloud. The majority of enterprises plan to combine private cloud with one or more public cloud platforms. Public cloud providers can capitalize on the public aspect of these models, but WAN communications' latency weaknesses and concerns over hosting critical data in public clouds is making the co-location model more attractive.

Google and Amazon Web Services (AWS) both lack solid private cloud offerings. AWS is starting to address the issue, but Google has yet to announce any software additions for private cloud access. In some ways, they've been too caught up in their price war to notice this shift. Microsoft Azure, however, is attacking the private cloud market head-on and already has many of the required pieces. OpenStack, meanwhile, can handle both public and private, though some of its orchestration tools need to evolve.

Google is partnering with VMware to build out OneCloud to connect with some Google services, such as object storage, where VMware is lacking. This deal helps both companies, since VMware gains a credible public cloud connection, and Google gains access to VMware's enterprise install base.

However, the partnership's survival depends on VMware's plans to develop its own object store, and whether Google is concerned about being tied to expensive legacy gear such as EMC's ViPR storage front-end and legacy RAID.

It's also likely that Google and VMware both will want multiple partners. OpenStack is gaining in installations, including a few points on VMware; Google would be wise to tie into both public and hybrid clouds using that stack.

Google will also be aggressive with some new technologies. It will push ahead with its internal version of software-defined networking (SDN), which should include a policy- and script-driven setup that will enable greater agility to define secure VPNs. This should tie into Google's hybrid strategy, allowing VPNs to extend across hybrid environments.

Powerful ARM and GPU hybrid processors are starting to surface. For HPC and big data operations, these are attractive accelerators. However, there are substantial software implications for them to run well. The pressing need for real-time analytics will cause Google to offer instances running on these chips. The same hybrid processors potentially could power Google Search.

There's plenty of innovative opportunity left in cloud computing, and Google has a track record as an early adopter. This should pay off with some radical evolution in containers, hybrid clouds and SDN, as well as more horsepower in instances.

About the author:
Jim O'Reilly was Vice President of Engineering at Germane Systems, where he created ruggedized servers and storage for the US submarine fleet. He has also held senior management positions at SGI/Rackable and Verari; was CEO at startups Scalant and CDS; headed operations at PC Brand and Metalithic; and led major divisions of Memorex-Telex and NCR, where his team developed the first SCSI ASIC, now in the Smithsonian. Jim is currently a consultant focused on storage and cloud computing.

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