Google Cloud Engine still lacks in depth and breadth of feature sets but it could be a viable alternative to Amazon Web Services, according to one industry analyst.

Following an 18-month review, Google Inc. has finally announced the general availability for full commercial use of its Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering Google Compute Engine (GCE).

At least one analyst said GCE still lacks in depth and breadth of feature sets but could be a “viable alternative” to Amazon Web Services.

Brian Goldfarb, head of Google’s cloud platform marketing, said GCE “is a long term bet for the company” and that Google has set an “incredibly high bar for what general availability means.”

Google has a service level agreement (SLA) that guarantees GCE will be available 99.95 per cent of the time. A number of companies including Red Hat, Evite and Snapchat, are already using GCE.

Google said it has lowered the price of computing resources by 10 per cent and lowered the price of persistent disk capacity by 60 per cent. The company claims increase in input/output speeds by up to 700 per cent. Google also includes I/O in the price of data storage.

Other new features found in GCE are: Support for more varieties of Linux; live migration of virtual servers during scheduled maintenance; and automatic restart of downed servers.

GCE’s general availability this Monday came after nearly 18 months of review of the offering. Some analysts say this pits it against AWS’s widely used Elastic Cloud Compute 2.

However, at least one industry analyst believes GCE is not yet up to the battle.

“GCE still lags AWS tremendously in terms of breath and depth of feature set, of course, but it also has aspects that are immediately more attractive for some workloads,” according to a blog post by Lydia Leong, research vice president at Gartner Research. “However, it’s now at the point where it’s a viable alternative to AWS for organizations looking to do cloud native applications, whether they’re start-ups or long established companies.”

She sees the general availability of GCE as a “demarcation of market eras” and that the IaaS market is entering its second phase.

GCE does not need to compete with AWS feature-for-feature, according to Derrick Harris, writer for online technology publication Gigaom.com.

He said GCE can compete by “focusing on the bigger picture and features that let it establish its own identity” such as live migration.

He said this feature of GCE is a step toward the “kind of resiliency that Netflix has architected itself on top of AWS but AWS doesn’t yet provide itself.”

Windows Azure, backed by Microsoft’s relationships with customers, is an up-and-coming competitor in the IaaS space, Leong said but “AWS remains the king of this space and is unlikely to be dethroned anytime soon…”

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