Google’s Compute Engine Hits General Availability, Drops Instance Prices 10%, Adds 16-Core Instances & Docker Support

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Google today announced the general availability of the Google Compute Engine, the cloud computing platform it launched in the summer of 2012. As part of the GA launch, Google also announced expanded support for new operating systems, a 10 percent drop in pricing for standard instances, new 16-core instances for applications that need a lot of computation power and a new logo to update its branding.

Compute Engine is the cloud platform Google has developed on top of the vast infrastructure it manages to run its own search engine and its other properties. The company offers 24/7 support and promises a 99.95 percent update in its SLA.

Besides lowering the price of all standard instances by 10 percent, Google is also dropping the price of persistent disk storage by 60 percent, as well as I/O charges for it “so that you get a predictable, low price for your block storage device.” The company also says that its largest persistent disk volumes now have up to 700 percent higher I/O capability.

Until now, Compute Engine supported Debian and CentOS, customized with a Google-built kernel. Starting today, developers will also be able to use any out-of-the-box Linux distribution, including SELinux and CoreOS, the Y Combinator alum with the OS designed to mimic Google’s cloud infrastructure. The company is also announcing official support for SUSE, FreeBSD and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (currently in limited preview).

As part of this update, Google is also announcing support for Docker, the increasingly popular tool for creating virtual containers from any application. With Docker, developers can build and test an application on their laptops and then move this container to a production server for deployment. The company submitted Docker as an open-source project last month.

Docker fits with CoreOS, a project that was started by Alex Polvi, the founder of Cloudkick, which he later sold to Rackspace. Docker actually comes packaged with CoreOS so applications can be moved between different services. That’s important as it offers ways for developers to easily use multiple cloud services without locking themselves into a single vendor.

For developers who need a more computational power than Google can offer so far, the company today launched three new 16-core instance types (until now, the maximum number of virtual cores on Compute Engine was 8). Google expects developers will use these to perform tasks that “range from silicon simulation to running high-scale NoSQL databases.”

Overall, Google’s range of instance types can’t quite compete with Amazon’s, but today’s launch allows it to offer a service for developers with very high demands, which may just keep some of them from moving to Amazon’s EC2 platform. One instance type Google doesn’t offer yet, however, is GPU instances. Amazon has offered GPU instances since 2010. Last month, the company introduced a new instance, which are optimized for graphics and GPU compute applications.