August 22, 2012, 9:09 AM — You're sitting around. You have some computing to do. Ten years ago, you would ask your boss to buy a rack or two of computers to churn through the data. Today, you just call up the cloud and rent the systems by the minute. This is the market that Google is now chasing by packaging up time on its racks of machines and calling it the Google Compute Engine.
Google took its sweet time entering this corner of the cloud. While Amazon, Rackspace, and others started off with pay-as-you-go Linux boxes and other "infrastructure" services, Google began with the Google App Engine, a nice stack of Python that held your hand and did much of the work for you. Now Google is heading in the more general direction and renting raw machines too. The standard distro is Ubuntu 12.04, but CentOS instances are also available. And you can store away your own custom image once you configure it.
[ Move over, Amazon -- IaaS providers are elbowing into the cloud. See how they compare in InfoWorld's slideshow. | Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in the InfoWorld editors' "Cloud computing in 2012" PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]
Google's big selling point Why rent machines from Google instead of Amazon or Rackspace or some other IaaS provider? Google claims its raw machines are cheaper. This is a bit hard to determine with any precision because not everyone is selling the same thing despite claims of computing becoming a commodity. Google sells its machines by the Google Compute Engine Unit (GCEU), which it estimates is about a 1GHz to 1.2GHz Opteron from 2007.
All of Google's machines rent for 5.3 cents per GCEU per hour, but that isn't really what you pay. The smallest machine you can rent from Google today, the so-called n1-standard-1-d, goes for 14.5 cents per hour. That's because the n1-standard-1-d -- which comes with one virtual core, 3.75GB of RAM, and 420GB of disk space -- is equivalent to 2.75 GCEUs, according to Google. You can get machines with two, four, and eight virtual cores all at the same price per GCEU.