Feeds

Google and the myth of the open cloud

The world's most closed open company

Business security measures using SSL

It is a truth universally acknowledged that if Google offers the world a web service, large numbers of people will convince themselves that it's superior to anything else they can get their hands on - and less likely to condemn them to some sort of Redmondian future in which a single corporation has them in a metaphorical vice grip.

So it is with Google App Engine, the 18-month-old service that lets outside developers build and run web apps on the company's very own distributed infrastructure. According to the market research types at Evans Data, developers everywhere are convinced that App Engine will overtake Amazon in the race into the so-called public cloud. They've even decided that the Google cloud is their best bet for avoiding the dreaded "vendor lock-in."

Google Cloud Evans Data

You know the mindset. Google says it's open, so it must be open. Google says that it has opened up more than one million lines of code, that it's hosting more than 150,000 open source projects, that its web browser is open, and that its mobile OS is open - so its cloud must be open too. Its cloud must be much more accommodating than Amazon's.

Except that it's not.

Google's famously distributed infrastructure is in no way open. Whereas the likes of Facebook and Yahoo! run much of their back-end setup on open source code, Google builds its own proprietary platforms - from the Google File System (GFS) to the number-crunching MapReduce platform to the BigTable distributed database - and these are jealously guarded. Google is reluctant to even talk about them.

What's more, these Googly platforms place extensive restrictions on what you can build atop them. This is true whether you're an internal Google developer or an outsider tapping the App Engine. There's good reason for this. The idea is to fit all applications to predefined templates that can run across the company's worldwide network of data centers, so that performance can scale up (near-)instantly as needed.

"The question is: how do you actually get the applications to use the infrastructure? How do you distribute it? How do you optimize it? That's the hard part. To do that you require an insane amount of force of will," Google senior manager of engineering and architecture Vijay Gill told a cloudy conference this summer.

"People are lazy. They say 'I don't want to design my applications into this confined space.' And it is a confined space. So you need a large force of will to get people to do that."

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.