Total Pageviews

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Google: Let a Billion Supercomputers Bloom

Google's strategy to beat Amazon.com and Microsoft in the global business for public clouds is now clear: Swarm ‘em.

At last week's Google I/O developer's conference, the search giant was at pains to closely tie Google Compute Engine, or G.C.E., its competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure (and Rackspace, and a host of other public clouds) with Google App Engine, its Web application development service, as well as cloud storage. In effect, Google said it was a way for everyone to build really big businesses.

The plan seems to be similar to the way Google got big in search, maps and many other services: make the smallest developers worldwide into allies, and the competition won't even see you coming.

“The power comes from thousands and millions of developers that we don't see,” said Greg DeMichillie, the product manager for the Google Cloud Platform, which includes GCE, storage and Google App Engine.

The strategy has roots in the experience that Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, had from competing with Microsoft. At both Sun Microsystems, where he was chief technology officer, and Novell, where he was chief executive, Mr. Schmidt lost to Microsoft's ability to create a network of software developers who wrote applications for the Windows operating system. When he got to Google, Mr. Schmidt outmaneuvered Microsoft by using the Web the way Microsoft used Windows.

Even though Google is now a massive company, it still tries to enlist developers the same way. Google announced last week that App Engine would start to allow development in the PHP scripting language, a software language aimed at writing for broad distribution on the Web.

“Embracing PHP is a great way to lower the barriers to entry” for developers, said Mr. DeMichillie, a veteran of both Amazon Web Services and Adobe. Thanks to the connection to G.C.E., he said, “it's on Google App Engine, but it is ultimately scalable.”

Compute Engine and App Engine “will work together by applications that will become computationally intensive, or require a different function” that G.C.E. can provide, he said. “Then it will hand data to App Engine to work with.”

It's intriguing to think of individual developers using Google's systems to reach billions of people, or the number-crunching of supercomputers lashed together from Google's cloud. But competitors are wise to Google's “up from nowhere” strategy by now, however. Amazon also made its cloud business as a place where start-ups could buy cheap computing.

Microsoft, for its part, is combining its still-popular applications with Azure's capabilities in both computing and machine learning in the hope of bringing powerful new life to its installed base of customers.

At first, Amazon's technical resources were hard to use, but the service has become increasingly more accessible, much the way Google adopted PHP. Amazon Web Services, or A.W.S., still has more features than the Google offering. Microsoft, by most reports, is making slower progress.

With its monumental size, however, Amazon has also become interested in much bigger clients. On Tuesday Amazon said that its A.W.S. that runs for government agencies now meets security standards that will open it up to even more agencies. Amazon is also in the middle of a global tour aimed at the largest corporations, in addition to start-ups.

Google also said Google Compute Engine would move from “limited preview” for a few customers to “open preview” for everyone. “Open preview” is something like the “beta” sign that hung on Gmail and other Google services for years. When Compute Engine goes into general availability it will be a sign that Google is supremely confident about the product's reliability, which has been a knock on A.W.S..

“We are focused on performance,” said Mr. DeMichillie. “We will be able to start up in tens of seconds, not minutes, with consistent performance, and cost efficiency.”