Google is going to give Amazon AWS a run for its money. It’s the right move for Google and great news for everyone.
But that wasn’t plan A. Google was way ahead of everybody with a PaaS solution, Google App Engine, which was the embodiment of “forward compatibility” (rather than “backward compatibility”). I’m pretty sure that the plan, when they launched GAE in 2008, didn’t include “and in 2012 we’ll start offering raw VMs”. But GAE (and PaaS in general), while it made some inroads, failed to generate the level of adoption that many of us expected. Google smartly understood that they had to adjust.
“2012 will be the year of PaaS” returns 2,510 search results on Google, while “2012 will be the year of IaaS” returns only 2 results, both of which relate to a quote by Randy Bias which actually expresses quite a different feeling when read in full: “2012 will be the year of IaaS cloud failures”. We all got it wrong about the inexorable rise of PaaS in 2012.
But saying that, in 2012, IaaS still dominates PaaS, while not wrong, is an oversimplification.
At a more fine-grained level, Google Compute Engine is just another proof that the distinction between IaaS and PaaS was always artificial. The idea that you deploy your applications either at the IaaS or at the PaaS level was a fallacy. There is a continuum of application services, including VMs, various forms of storage, various levels of routing, various flavors of code hosting, various API-centric utility functions, etc. You can call one end of the spectrum “IaaS” and the other end “PaaS”, but most Cloud applications live in the continuum, not at either end. Amazon started from the left and moved to the right, Google is doing the opposite. Amazon’s initial approach was more successful at generating adoption. But it’s still early in the game.
As a side note, this is going to be a challenge for the Cloud Foundry ecosystem. To play in that league, Cloud Foundry has to either find a way to cover the full IaaS-to-PaaS continuum or it needs to efficiently integrate with more IaaS-centric Cloud frameworks. That will be a technical challenge, and also a political one. Or Cloud Foundry needs to define a separate space for itself. For example in Clouds which are centered around a strong SaaS offering and mainly work at higher levels of abstraction.
A few more thoughts:
- If people still had lingering doubts about whether Google is serious about being a Cloud provider, the addition of Google Compute Engine (and, earlier, Google Cloud Storage) should put those to rest.
- Here comes yet-another-IaaS API. And potentially a major one.
- It’s quite a testament to what Linux has achieved that Google Compute Engine is Linux-only and nobody even bats an eye.
- In the end, this may well turn into a battle of marketplaces more than a battle of Cloud environment. Just like in mobile.