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3 cool Google cloud features

Brandon Butler | Aug. 13, 2014
In the increasingly competitive cloud IaaS market Google is attempting to distinguish its platform by arming its cloud with unique features and cutting-edge technology that customers can't quite find anywhere else in the market.

Google offers this through manual settings through a UI, or through an application programming interface (API), meaning that users can create templates and have VMs automatically spun up at the same time with specific qualities. For developers who may be working with lots of VMs and need many copies of them, this can be a great tool. Replica Pools are also in limited availability, but more information about them can be found here.


Google is embracing all types of technology beyond the VM though. Specifically, the company uses a lot of containers. According to Julia Ferraioli, a developer advocate at Google - almost all of the company's products, including search, Gmail and its cloud services, all heavily use containers. She says the company creates more than 2 billion containers every week.

For background, containers can be thought of as an operating-system level virtualization. Whereas a virtual machine slices up a server into multiple operating systems, containers take it one step further and slice up an OS into multiple parts, allowing many different "containerized" applications to run on top of a single OS. Multiple containers therefore can run on top of a virtual machine and because they are in a container, they can move from VM to VM. Containers have captured a lot of buzz in the market recently for their promise of portability and agility.

To manage all its containers, Google uses a platform named Kubernetes, which the company has open sourced. It's a management framework that helps schedule how containers are created and used. Already companies like Red Hat, Docker and IBM have signed on to support it. Using Kubernetes, many containers can be managed across multiple virtual machines, allowing applications to be spun up and down automatically and transferred across various VMs. Within Google's cloud the company has even designated a set of its virtual machines to be optimized for running containers that can be managed using Kubernetes.

Like the other projects mentioned here, Kubernetes is also in limited preview, but the fact that Google is open sourcing this project shows that it wants to be a big player in the Docker community of containers.

 As the race between cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft and Google continues to heat up, Google appears to be carving out a strategy to release unique features to its cloud that are born out of the company's own use of its infrastructure, and make those available to users. The goal is to appeal to savvy developers in a way that Amazon and Microsoft are not. Combined with other innovative features like pay-by-the-hour pricing, discounts being applied based on the volume of resources being used and a Cloud Debugger tool, Google is looking to use its technological-prowess to take on the giants of this industry.


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