Google Compute Engine: Mountain View's Amazon EC2

Google is doubling down on cloud computing, further opening up its infrastructure to developers. Google Compute Engine supports "Linux virtual servers at Google scale," according to the company's announcement at its Google I/O developer conference. The new offering sits alongside the Google App Engine API as part of its infrastructure-as-a-service Cloud Platform initiative. Google Compute is also the closest competitor the search giant has to Amazon EC2.

Here's how Google pitches the new product in its official blog post:

Today, in response to many requests from developers and businesses, we're going a step further. We're introducing Google Compute Engine, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service product that lets you run Linux Virtual Machines (VMs) on the same infrastructure that powers Google. This goes beyond just giving you greater flexibility and control; access to computing resources at this scale can fundamentally change the way you think about tackling a problem.

Google Compute is in limited preview, meaning developers need to register to be invited. However, all of the information about the platform is available on the Cloud Platform website.

The use cases described in both the keynote and on the website are focused on batch processing, data processing and high-performance computing. Since Google Compute uses Google's own infrastructure, most web developers may be thinking first of hosting websites, rather than processing data. Hosting sites and mobile infrastructure has been a core use of Amazon Web Services. For example, Netflix hosts its infrastructure on Amazon. With Linux virtual machines, developers can move between Amazon and Google with minimal lock-in.

"It's notable that Google feels the need to tout the lower unit prices and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a response from Amazon at some point," said Mat Ellis from the cloud spending tracker company Cloudability. "Cost only becomes important at scale, which might explain the focus on pricing. I can run my app on half a million instances on Compute Engine if I want to," Ellis said.

Compute pricing starts at 14 cents per hour, compared to 8 cents (update: and lower, as a commenter pointed out) on Amazon. It's unclear if these can really be compared head-to-head, due to the different way the companies describe the size of each instance.