Google's BigQuery moves from beta to preview

After getting an update, Google's cloud analytics service is now open to a wider audience, as a proprietary solution to problems already dealt with by the popular Hadoop
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Google has opened its BigQuery cloud analytics technology to more users after a year of limited beta, putting it in a better position to catch up with data analytics leader Hadoop.

The free Google BigQuery Service has undergone a few improvements and has now moved into wider preview, Google said at its Atmosphere cloud conference on Monday. The service launched in an invite-only beta at Google I/O in May 2010. Since then, the company has added a graphical user interface to make it easier for developers and analysts to browse mined data, and has broadened the capabilities of the API.

"We developed Google BigQuery Service for large-scale internal data analytics," Ju-kay Kwek, a Google product manager wrote in a blog post on Monday. "Today we're releasing some big improvements, and putting one of Google's most powerful data analysis systems into the hands of more companies of all sizes."

The tool can scale to handle datasets of billions of rows, and its potential uses include data exploration, analysis and application prototyping, according to Google. Query results can be exported to CSV spreadsheet files in Google cloud storage.

Chasing Hadoop

The service lags in adoption behind Hadoop, the open-source data analysis framework created by Yahoo after Google released some whitepapers describing the structure of its Google MapReduce and Google File System technologies in 2004.

"Hadoop is open-source code, whereas what Google is offering here is a service," James Governor, co-founder of analyst firm Redmonk, told ZDNet UK. "[Hadoop] is going absolutely gangbusters out there and being embedded all over the place and has a huge amount of momentum... I do think to some extent Google is playing catch-up here."

At the moment the BigQuery service is free, and Google said it will give users a 30-day warning if pricing is introduced. In September it rejigged the pricing for its Google App Engine platform-as-a-service (PaaS), which sparked complaints from developers.

"Given questions about pricing, particularly given people were so surprised by the pricing increases in Google App Engine, there could be some concerns for people about relying on this service," Governor said. "Developers in the PaaS space certainly seem to be making choices that say they do want access to open-source code."

Other major cloud analytics providers include Microsoft, with its Windows Azure PaaS, and to a lesser extent Amazon, via its Amazon Web Services' Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

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