It does not happen often - or ever - did it? - that two major cloud players announce general availability (GA) or a new release of their respective cloud platforms. So HP announced version 13.5 of it's public cloud and Google announced the GA of Google Compute Engine (GCE).
Some common trends emerge ...
There are some common trends that both the Google and HP announcement show:
- Prices keep falling - Not surprisingly - both vendors addressed reduction in pricing - following Amazon's AWS lead. It's almost becoming a tradition that cloud announcements are coupled with price reductions, reflecting the lower cost of running hardware environments, progress in automation and economies of scale. Notable on the Google side is the change in pricing model, too - which takes away the cost for Iops - and makes the cost of persistent disks more calculable - a move many users had been asking for.
- Memory matters - It's yet another indication that it's memory hungry applications that are moving to the public cloud - see BigData - but stacks overall get more RAM intensive. So vendors react with larger memory instances - HP puts in larger standards (3XL - 5XL) and more memory (L - 2XL - 16 cores and up to 120 GB of RAM) and Google launches three new instance types with up to 16 cores and 104 GB of RAM (limited preview only though).
- Networks matter - HP makes the case pretty clearly - with claiming faster and larger uploads - you sure want to get the data in into the cloud. Google touches networks implicitly by taking Iops out of the pricing scheme - see before. Both moves need investments in the network infrastructure that both companies are obviosusly undertaking.
- Disk becomes the migration tool - And despite all the push for in memory - its the good old spinning rust that makes the cloud go round. You can now keep Google Persistent Disk volumes around even through planned maintenance and volumes can be mounted and unmounted from one VM to another. On the HP side Block Storage gets SLA service coverage with the move to GA, and storage containers can be synched across regions.
... and then common trends end - so let's look at the respective differentiators:
HP's focus is the hybrid enterprise cloud load
As to be expected HP beefed up its console capabilities - uptaking the OpenStack Horizon project. And the console matters to HP given the hybrid nature of most of its existing and expected cloud deployments. Given the nature of consoles in an hybrid deployment, the importance of user roles is likewise of key relevance and HP added a number of identity roles to make administration easier.
Not surprisingly HP also focuses on software defined networking (SDN) advancements for HP Public Cloud - that are compelling for its user base and help administering and securing cloud loads of different sensitivity. And lastly management of availability zones is improved - surely more a necessity for today's cloud deployments.
Google's focus remains the high end public cloud load
With GA Google is loosening up it's previously exclusive grip to Debian and Centos Linux distributions. Google adds support for SELinux and CoreOS and expands kernel support for Docker, FOG, xfs and aufs. Interesting enough support for SUSE, FreeBSD and RHEL (in limited preview) is also being announced. This addresses previous criticism of GCE being to Google centric.
And Google keeps honing around its (so far) unique capability of doing live migrations for virtual machines. This certainly is a significant reduction of maintenance and administration needs over other public clouds. It will be interesting to see, if Google can make this stick as a differentiator over other clouds and force competitors to provide the same (e.g. VMWare is rumored to do work on this).
Google has also managed to start up a partner program - something I somehow missed - and it has some good uptake - with notable mentions being Red Hat, Rightscale, Scalr and Suse. Definitively a sign that Google Cloud platform is getting traction in the cloud ecosystem.
Advice for customers
The cloud keeps getting better and better and customers need to look into cloud usage for their loads, may they be coming from traditional apps or from newly created apps. Given the focus on higher quality machines in the cloud, there is definitively a sign, that customers that do not have a public cloud strategy for e.g. BigData, risk to be left behind their competitors - always assuming these strategies will come to fruition.
Google and HP offer two very different IaaS offerings and are probably interchangeable only for some subset of cloud applications. Before making decisions consider the Constellation Research IaaS Trends report that can be found here.
Advice for competitors
In the competition of high quality loads - make sure your hardware can match what the latest of Google and HP is (and certainly AWS, too). Refreshing and upscaling your hardware with higher specs enabling higher value cloud applications is a key strategy to keep prices up.
The noticeable absence of PaaS elements in the recent cloud announcements reflects the pioneering landgrab mode the market is in - but likewise offers also an opportunity of differentiation. Contrast the recent AWS, Google and HP announcements with Salesforce's Salesforce1 announcement and you can see the opportunity for more developer centric tools and benefits in the overall IaaS battle.
Advice for Google
Google certainly does well with the overdue GA of Google Compute Engine. One has to wonder what held the company back for so long - waiting on the flip side has probably not hurt Google's cloud business either. Opening to more Linux distributions and more kernels was certainly a key table-stake. Likewise Google deserves kudos for not only putting up a partner program but also being able to attract key cloud players as partners.
Google will now have to show, that it can cater to the enterprise needs and that it can attract significantly more load from ISVs and startups as well as end users.
Advice for HP
HP deserves kudos for coming out with a release and being very transparent about known issues. If they were too many issues as some reports suggest - is a good question. Only future can tell if the HP executives pressed the green release button too early - or not. The focus on software defined networking and related security issues will resound well with the target customer base.
HP is exposed to the whole OpenStack experience and as with every open source commitment there are pros and cons on a pretty wild ride. HP now needs to build more credibility around OpenStack and further solidify it offering.
A good day for the cloud for which some common trends beyond price erosion appear - higher end instances are in demand, networking is (no surprise) crucial and disk is the migration utility.
Bottom line, Google and HP offer divergent and differentiated value propositions. HP is taking the OpenStack road to hybrid cloud, Google is firmly committed to own IP and a high end experience for deployments on its cloud. But the competition with AWS does not stand still - comparing these announcements vs what Amazon announced at reinvent - there remains a lot of catching up for Google, HP and the rest of the IaaS players.