Google battles cloud rivals with price cuts, advances

Company announces container-based platform, pricing and networking at Cloud Platform Live summit

Google renewed its push to lead the public cloud platform market today, announcing price cuts and offerings designed to help enterprises set up cloud services quickly and easily.

"IT departments are still bearing the burden of handling IT assets in the sky," said Brian Stevens, vice president of cloud platforms for Google . We want to be able to change what our users are able to do and not just where they're doing it. IT is spending far too much time and dollars on administrative aspects of the cloud."

Stevens made the comments at Google's Cloud Platform Live summit held in San Francisco and live streamed.

Speaker after speaker hammered in on one particular issue: The cloud isn't as easy to use, as quick to set up and as scalable as it has to be for enterprises to depend on it for their applications and data.

"The cloud of today is not yet where developers need it to be," said Stevens, who joined Google just two months ago. "The promise of cloud computing is only partly realized. Too many of the headaches of on-premise development and deployment remain. We want to do better. Today, we get one step closer."

It's a good time for Google to make a new push in the cloud space, since Amazon dominates the overall cloud market and challenger Microsoft 's Azure is making big gains.

Several months ago, Synergy Research Group released a study that showing that Microsoft and IBM were gaining momentum in the cloud infrastructure services market, putting pressure on Amazon and outpacing rival Google. Amazon remained the cloud leader but Microsoft has been showing a lot of momentum, outpacing Google in terms of growth.

Google, according to analysts, needs to step it up or loose its footing in cloud computing, an area where it has shown strength.

"Google needs to have a strong public cloud presence," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "Amazon has had much of this space to themselves for the last few years, and Microsoft is growing quickly, too. Google has the systems, expertise, and ability to build a compelling alternative to Amazon and Microsoft, and is finally starting to pull all the pieces together."

It's also a good time for vendors to put some muscle behind their public cloud offerings since a Forrester report last spring noted that the public cloud space is in position for what it called "hypergrowth."

The global public cloud market is expected to hit $191 billion by 2020, according to the report, a 20% jump from Forrester's last forecast released in April 2011 predicting that the market would hit $160 billion by 2020. It's also a big jump from the $58 billion the market reached at the end of 2013.

One of Google's first announcements was another cut in its cloud prices.

Jörg Heilig, vice president of engineering for Google's Cloud Developer Experience, said the company was the first to lower its prices, forcing competitors to follow suit. Google plans to continue cutting prices.

For today, the company announced a 47% price reduction for network egress; a 23% cut for BigQuery storage; a 79% reduction for persistent disk snapshots and a 48% cut for persistent disk SSD.

Company executives rattled off a list of new features and advances that included building out a container-based platform, announcement of Google Cloud Interconnect for high-performance network connectivity and using Firebase to build mobile and real-time web apps.

While Google Cloud Interconnect could turbo charge app performance, the company's container news – the launch of Google's Container Engine could be helpful for the enterprise.

"With the addition of Container Engine, Google is giving their cloud users the ability to easily move applications around in the cloud, or from the cloud to their private data center, and back again," Olds added.

Container Engine, based on the open source Kubernetes project for building distributed apps, is a system for running and linking application components on individual virtual machines.

"The clusters enable customers to move to almost a plug-and-play cloud environment," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "Now customers can focus on managing apps, instead of individual workloads."

Google also announced four new enterprise customers: OfficeDepot, online retailer Zulily, website creator WiX and Atomic Fiction, a movie special effects company.

Kevin Baillie, co-founder of Emeryville, Calif.-based Atomic Fiction, said the company needed the cloud infrastructure to give its artists the speed and compute power they required to create special effects efficiently and quickly.

"We love movies, not data centers," Baillie said on stage at the summit. "That's now why we got into this. No offense. We're just not data center geeks… [With the cloud], artists get their work back quicker and rendered in front of them. They can make changes and be creative and be more free flowing."

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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