Cloud

Google cuts cloud computing prices, gives away unlimited storage to students

Google is doubling down on the cloud price war started earlier this year, with price cuts on existing options, the introduction of new services, and simply giving services away to students.

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In the ongoing cloud price war that started in March 2014, which led to drastic cuts in the price of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure computing, Google has announced a 10% cut in Google Compute Engine pricing for all regions, effective immediately. With this change, the n1-standard-16 package (16 virtual cores, 60 GB memory) is now $1.008 per hour, hosted in the US.

As covered by ZDNet, Google Compute Engine added a third zone to both us-central1 and asia-east1 regions in August 2014. With the increased computing power of newer processors, combined with the falling prices and increased capacity of solid-state and traditional platter hard drives, Google's further expansion of cloud comes at an opportune time for growth in this market.

Unlimited storage for students

Google has extended Drive for Work — a paid version of Drive for users of Google Apps for Work that offers unlimited file storage — to students at institutions that use Apps for Education. Instead of the $10 per user per year paid by Drive for Work users, the upgrade comes freely for Drive for Education users. The offering allows for unlimited file storage, with a maximum individual file size of 5 TB (previously, users of Apps for Education were limited to 30 GB); users will be upgraded to unlimited storage over the next few weeks. Also included is access to Google Apps Vault, a utility offered for "search and discovery for compliance needs," access to which will be rolled out by the end of this year.

Presumably, the rationale behind this move is to encourage users to switch to the paid Google Drive for Work upon completing their studies.

Google Apps for Education is part of a newer endeavor at Google that provides customized Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions using publicly available Google Apps, customized to the domain of a given institution. It also includes Google Classroom, a course management and virtual learning environment that competes with the proprietary Blackboard Learn software, available as a package installable on local servers or as a hosted service. Individual students are unable to sign up for Apps for Education; their educational institution must be a participant in order to benefit from this offering.

Not always greener on the other side

Throughout the last week of September 2014, Amazon has been patching and rebooting virtual machines in response to a critical bug in the Xen hypervisor for which "A buggy or malicious HVM guest can crash the host or read data relating to other guests or the hypervisor itself." Because of the nature of the exploit — the details of which were embargoed until the patches were applied — a live update was not possible, resulting in minutes-long outages on instances while the patches were applied and services were restored.

Rackspace users were also affected, with all users of Standard, Performance 1, and Performance 2 systems facing outages while the patches were applied. Representatives from Amazon indicate that 10% of EC2 systems were affected by the issue.

Random access memories

Are Google's even lower prices — and not using Xen — tantalizing enough to switch to its services? Are the costs low enough to warrant a migration? Do you use Google Apps for Work, or Education? Let us know in the comments.

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Note: TechRepublic and ZDNet are CBS Interactive properties.

About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware.

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