Google Compute Engine – Not AWS Killer (yet)

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(c) Google

Google launched their new “Google Compute Engine” yesterday at I/O. Here’s more info about GCE on the Google Developer’s Blog, and a nice analysis by Ben Kepes on CloudAve.  If “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” then it’s clear the guys at Google hold the Amazon Web Services EC2 in very high regard. In many ways, GCE is a really good copy of EC2 circa 2007/2008. There are some differences – like really great encryption for data at rest and in motion – but essentially GCE is a copy of EC2 4-5 years ago.

GCE is missing a lot of what larger enterprises will need – monitoring, security certifications, integration with IAM systems, SLAs, etc. GCI also lacks some of the things that really got people excited about EC2 early on – like an AMI community, even the AMI model so I can create one from my own server image.

One of the key selling points that people are jumping on is pricing. Google claims 50% lower pricing, but that doesn’t hold against reserved instances at Amazon which are actually lower over time than GCE.  And price is rarely the primary factor in enterprise buying anyway. Plus, you have to assume that Amazon is readying a pricing response so whatever perceived advantage Google might have there will quickly evaporate

Other missing features that AWS provides today:

  • PaaS components – Relational Database Service (MySQL, SQL Server and Oracle), Elastic Map Reduce, CloudFront CDN, ElastiCache, Simple Queue Service, Simple Notification Service, Simple Email Service, Simple Email Service
  • Direct Connect – ability to run a dedicated network segment into AWS back to your data center
  • Virtual Private Cloud – secure instances that are not visible to public internet
  • Deployment tools – IAM, CloudWatch, Elastic Beanstalk, CloudFormation
  • Data Migration – AWS Import/Export via portable storage devices (e.g. sneaker net) for very large data sets
  • and others

Bottom line is that GCE is no AWS Killer. Further, I don’t think it ever will be. Even more – I don’t think that should be Google’s goal.

What Google needs to consider is how to create the 10x differentiation bar that any new startup must have.  Google Search was that much better than everybody else when it launched.  GMail crushed Yahoo Mail with free storage, conversation threads and amazingly fast responsiveness. Google Maps had AJAX, which blew away MapQuest and the others. And so on. You can’t just be a bit better and win in this market. You need to CRUSH the competition – and that ain’t happening in this case.

What would GCE have to offer to CRUSH AWS?

  • Free for production workloads up to a fairly robust level (like free GBs of GMail vs. Yahoo’s puny MBs, the ability to run most small apps for no cost at all would be highly disruptive to Amazon)?
  • A vastly superior PaaS layer (PaaS is the future – If I were rewriting The Graduate… “just one word – PaaS”)?
  • A ginormous data gravity well – think of if Google built a data store of every bit of real-time market data, trade executions, corporate actions, etc – they’d disrupt Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters too!  Or other data – what is the data that they can own (like GIS, but more broadly interesting) that can drive this
  • Enterprise SaaS suite tied to GCE for apps and extensions – what if Google bought SugarCRM, Taleo, ServiceNow and a dozen other SaaS providers (or built their own Google-ized versions of these solutions), disrupted the market (hello, Salesforce-like CRM but only free), and then had a great compute story?
  • A ton of pre-built app components (whatever they might be) available in a service layer with APIs?

No matter what the eventual answer needs to be, it’s not what I see on the GCE pages today. Sure, GCE is mildly interesting and it’s great that Google is validating the last 6 years of AWS with their mimicry, but if there’s ever going to be an AWS killer out there – this ain’t it.

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3 thoughts on “Google Compute Engine – Not AWS Killer (yet)

  1. Yang Jerng Hwa says:

    Oracle already bought Taleo :P

  2. Nikos Maravitsas says:

    Hi John,

    Great blog! Is there an email address I could contact you in private?

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