Google Compute Engine: It's a Microsoft Windows Azure target (too)

Google Compute Engine: It's a Microsoft Windows Azure target (too)

Summary: It's not just a two-horse race between Google and Amazon in the infrastructure-as-a-service space.


When rumors of Google getting into the infrastructure-as-a-service business began percolating (largely thanks to Om Malik) last week, I started writing this post in my head.

I knew if Google announced this -- which happened on Day 2 of the Google I/O conference on June 28 -- almost every report out there would focus on the IaaS space becoming a two-horse race between Google and Amazon.

Guess what guys and gals? There's a third horse here. And I'd argue that horse, Microsoft, is more of the real Google Compute Engine competitor than Amazon is here (even though both Microsoft and Google are trying desperately to catch up to Amazon's runaway No. 1 position in public-cloud hosting).

Google's initial cloud offering was in the platform-as-a-service space with Google App Engine (GAE). I wrote back in April 2008 when Google fielded GAE that Microsoft was rumored to have a competitor up its sleeve which it hadn't yet launched. GAE ws designed to allow developers to create and host applications using infrastructure in Google’s own datacenters.

Microsoft had been working on its own PaaS platform, codenamed Red Dog, since 2006 or 2007. The company publicly presented Windows Azure in the fall of 2008 and began billing for Azure in February 2010. Microsoft officials have said that they considered Azure to be a direct competitor of GAE and, two other PaaS platforms. Amazon's EC2 platform isn't really considered more than an IaaS play, but Amazon has been trying to increase its appeal to developers, as of late.

Cut to 2012. After notifying its partners of its intentions months before, Microsoft took the plunge and jumped into the IaaS waters. The company is doing this by adding a new, persistent virtual machine role to Windows Azure that will allow developers and customers to host Linux and Windows Server, as well as applications (including SharePoint Server and SQL Server in these VMs).

On June 28, Google said it would be doing the same, but for Linux and Linux-based apps only. Google Compute Engine will encompass compute, storage, network and tooling elements. (The tooling part, at least so far, looks pretty thin.)

Windows Azure looks to me to be more of a mature and full-fledged cloud offering, with compute, storage, network, tooling, content distribution, media services, management, messaging and a host of other piece parts. Microsoft also is -- surprisingly to many -- making sure its open-source tooling, framework and application support is a priority, going forward.

Both Google and Microsoft are looking for ways to harness big-data processing power as part of their respective cloud platforms. Google is talking up Big Query; Microsoft is in the midst of testing Hadoop on Azure.

Bottom line: While most of what you read out there may act like it's now an Amazon vs. Google cloud race, the real one to watch may be Microsoft's Windows Azure vs. Google Compute Engine. May the best PaaS+IaaS win.

Topics: Cloud, Amazon, Google, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • The competition is great for everyone.

    I have used AWS and Azure. I had never used AppEngine because it wasn't ever really ideal for our enterprise. We have shifted most of our work over to Azure, especially with all the fantastic new features that have been rolling out. Plus, we required SAS 70 and ISO compliance certifications which Azure provided to us.

    Right now, If I had to pick a winner, I'd probably have to choose Azure. That said, I'm watching the competitive race very closely.
  • Not really

    They cater to different markets. Unless you think Linux users would flock to Azure en mass. Highly unlikely in my opinion. Both Google and MS are competing with Amazon though.
    Now if we talk about PaaS that is a different story.
    MS embrace of open source just shows how far back they are with respect to cloud(grid) computing.
    • Successful business do not engage in political or religous zealotry

      That Google Compute is Linux only and is feature poor with poor options puts it behind the curve. Even companies with a rich Linux environment will be hard pressed to justify Google Compute when both Azure and AWS offer more mature options.
      Your Non Advocate
    • RE: Not Really

      "Unless you think Linux users would flock to Azure en mass. "
      You mean developers, right? From a cloud perspective, users won't care, open a browser to the right URL, access the application. What cloud provider is running it is really irrelevant. The same can be said for development though, Amazon, Google and Microsoft will run applications developed on Java, .NET, Node.js, Ruby on Rails...whatever. Microsoft has a disadvantage of the perception that all of the cloud applications will be tied to's just not the case.
      • oops

        Google only runs Java and Python...shame.
  • Azure retired

    I read that Microsoft retired Azure as a product name?
  • This Forrester Tweet sums it up:


    Linux only, limited geo regions, few options. ???#GoogleComputeEngine??? is like ???#AWS??? circa 2008. Well, at least they got the model right.
  • Google Compute: a predictable imitation

    Google's "Compute Engine" cloud service is a blatant attempt to copy Amazon's EC2 service, and to an extent also copying Microsoft's Azure.

    The corporation could have come up with a name more imaginative and less similar to Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Computing, but presumably the similarity is a deliberate attempt by Google to portray their GC as an alternative to Amazon's EC2. Yet, because Google carries an anti--Microsoft chip on its shoulder, unlike EC2 Google's offering won't even offer the Windows servers that most companies actually use and need -- it's a joke.

    Can you guess what Google's strategy us for trying to make their service competitive against Amazon's? No, not some clever innovation as fanboys would like to think. Google's big new idea is simply to undercut the competition on price. As always, Google's entire strategy is dependent on the cash from search, their one great innovation -- albeit old news a decade ago.

    Thus, Google Compute is another classic example of imitation instead of innovation. Google's has become "cheap" in both senses of the word.
    Tim Acheson