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Google Cloud Platform: Compute Engine Basics

Google Cloud Platform allows businesses to rent the software services and servers of Google themselves. Instead of paying a hefty price for on-premise local servers, you can use Google's enterprise suite of services and their immense computing power. In essence, you can use the infrastructure of Google's proprietary hardware and software, the things that are the foundation for YouTube, Gmail, and other SaaS products.

According to Tech Target, "Google Compute Engine provides a scalable number of virtual machines (VMs) to serve as large compute clusters for that purpose.  GCE can be managed through a RESTful API, command line interface (CLI) or Web console. Compute Engine is a pay-per-usage service with a 10-minute minimum. There are no up-front fees or time-period commitments. GCE competes with Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Microsoft Azure."

It's easier to explain Google Compute Engine (or GCE) in plain terms. In essence, it's an alternative to Amazon Web Services and allows you to control and maintain the virtual machines you're using on Google's servers.

Compute Engine is an Infrastructure as a Service

The Compute Engine is an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS is simply a form of cloud computing that provides virtualized computing resources like virtual machines (VMs).

In other words, Google Cloud Engine provides the infrastructure for your cloud architecture. This is in contrast to a platform as a service like App Engine that takes of the infrastructure for you so you can develop software products easily.

The infrastructure is the physical hardware, the platform is the OS to build and run your applications, and on the very top sits the application itself. So, on the top layer, you have a SaaS product or some other service.

"Google Compute Engine provides a variety of tools you can use to interact with," write the authors of Google Compute Engine: Managing Secure and Scalable Cloud Computing, "and manage your Compute Engine instances and configurations; for example, you can start and stop instances, attach disk storage, and configure network access using each of these access points."

How Compute Engine uses APIs and other services

Loading APIs so you can create and run your own custom software is a big benefit of using Google Compute Engine.

Tech Target continues to explain how Google Compute Engine works in regards to APIs: "GCE's application program interface (API) provides administrators with virtual machine, DNS server and load balancing capabilities. VMs are available in a number of CPU and RAM configurations and Linux distributions, including Debian and CentOS. Customers may use their own system images for custom virtual machines. Data at rest is encrypted using the AEC-128-CBC algorithm"

Understanding Google Compute Engine

The technicalities of algorithms and how many disk images you can choose from may not be totally necessary as you begin using the product, but some of these specifications may be useful to you as you dive deeper into the services GCP offers.

"Google Compute Engine is a service that provides virtual machines (VMs) that run on Google's infrastructure. You can create VMs with a variety of configurations using a number of available operating systems," Marc Cohen, Kathryn Hurley, and Paul Newson explain in Google Compute Engine: Managing Secure and Scalable Cloud Computing.

"The instance's data is stored and maintained on persistent block storage that is replicated for redundancy and persists beyond the life cycle of the VM. Network access can be configured to allow your virtual machines to talk to each other, the Internet, or your own private network."


When it comes to cloud computing, there are innumerable options. Google Cloud Platform is just one of the providers and Compute Engine is just one of their services. If you're looking for a lot of control and low prices, look no further than Compute Engine.

Google Cloud Platform is an increasingly popular option for those looking for cloud computing solutions for complex systems. Compute Engine provides granular control of the infrastructure that your platform and your application sit on.

For those who are looking to specify what VMs will be used, how they will scale, health checks, and proxies they will use, Compute Engine is a wonderful option. For those looking for a faster, auto-scaling option, should consider Google App Engine or a similar platform as a service. Continue with your own research to see what works for you.


About the Author

Greg Robinson is a tech entrepreneur with interest in emerging technologies particularly VR/AR, 3D technologies as well as how artificial intelligence will impact the future of work. You may connect with him on Twitter

Published Thursday, September 06, 2018 7:36 AM by David Marshall
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