Ina Fried

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Taking on Amazon, Google Announces Compute Engine

Google on Thursday announced Compute Engine, its expanded effort to allow businesses to run their applications on servers in Google’s data center.

“You benefit from the efficiency of Google data centers and our decade of running them,” Senior VP Urs Hölzle said Thursday. The announcement came during Day 2 of Google’s I/O developers conference.

The company has been beta testing the service with a range of customers, including the Institute for Systems Biology, which is using it for a Genome Explorer app. Hölzle demonstrated that app running on hundreds of thousands of cores.

Google already had a service, known as App Engine, but Compute Engine represents a more full-featured rival to cloud-computing services, such as those from Amazon and Microsoft.

The company said that the new service will offer 50 percent more computing power per dollar than rivals, but didn’t offer a ton of specifics, at least onstage.

Essentially, Google is offering a similar kind of computing horsepower-for-hire that Amazon does, but at the sort of scale that Google has been working at for years. The heart of it is the ability to access a large number of Linux virtual machines.

That scale is pretty impressive. While Hölzle was speaking, a counter was increasing behind him. As he concluded his remarks, it stopped on 771,886. That was the live number of processor cores available in Google Compute Engine, suggesting the scale that a customer could call upon when needed. Who couldn’t stand to use an extra thousand or 10,000 cores when running a computationally intense application?

Hölzle also said that Compute Engine customers will benefit from Google’s decade of experience in running lean-and-mean data centers. Google is legendary for running stripped-down machines that run only with the necessary bits, and doing it at such enormous scale that just getting one’s head around the economics of it all is pretty mind-boggling, though the precise details are all Google trade secrets.

Anyway: Google Compute Engine customers will be the benefactors of that experience. As Hölzle said, “We’ve worked very hard to get the cost of computing down for a decade, and we’re passing the savings on to you.”


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work