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Google discovers it must expose itself to compete with AWS

Cloud competition forces Page & Co. to open brain and give some of it to developers

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Google is giving away some of its internal technologies in an attempt to beat Amazon in one area where Bezos may be loathe to compete: transparency.

The company announced this week that it was creating an open source project named "Kubernetes" based on its super-secret Omega cloud technology, and another project named cAdvisor that collects data from workloads which use Linux Containerization via either Google's LMCTFY or Docker's libcontainer.

It also said that two of its engineers would become core maintainers of libcontainer, an open source Linux technology designed to make containerization better, and that it has done some work to let Docker containers run well on its Google App Engine cloud.

Finally, computer science superstar and Google infrastructure veep Eric Brewer announced that he had been nominated to join Docker's Governance Committee to offer the fledgling tech some advice from Google's 15-years of running containers in production.

It's an encouraging – and startling – level of community engagement from Google, which typically tells the press as much about its internal data center systems as it does about the precise composition of its search algorithms: nothing.

So, why the new phase of openness and engagement? We reckon it's because of Amazon.

Amazon operates Amazon Web Services, which is the most dominant infrastructure-as-a-service cloud in the market, followed by Microsoft Azure and after that Google's Compute- and App-Engine services.

All three companies compete with each other keenly on price, and are locked in a downward pricing spiral that will see, as Google describes it, the cost of storage and compute track the cost of components as transistors scale according to Moore's Law.

Now, Google is taking a step into unknown territory by opening up its systems and methods to a far greater degree than its rivals. Amazon, El Reg revealed earlier this year, has an institutional bias against openness.

"As we look to the future, as I've looked at clouds, it's clear we need to be in the community where [developers] work," explained Google product manager Craig McLuckie when we asked about the new phase of openness.

Just as Jeff Bezos once said "your margin is my opportunity" when talking about his business opponents, Google's strategy to take down Amazon appears to be "your secrecy is my opportunity", judging by these announcements.

Kubernetes, for example, is a tool that lets developers schedule and manager containers atop virtual machines in, initially, Google's cloud. It's a useful tool that Google says is based on an internal secret system named Omega*.

However, Kubernetes does give developers a framework that lets them deploy containers without making many of the mistakes Google has made over its past few years of using the tech – and that's a powerful thing.

"We want people to look at the code of Kubernetes and be inspired by it," Google senior engineer Joe Beda told us.

And if developers are "inspired by it," that means they will start building apps in a Kubernetes-like manner, which just happens to favor Google's for-rent infrastructure, we reckon.

"Our ambition has been to move towards the world of this job-oriented, scheduled, and managed infrastructure," Google cloud product manager Craig McLuckie explained to us. "We want to go to a place where we can use more and more of that tech. We have to continue to engage with the community at their level."

Google's new phase of openness is a good thing, and should prevent the wider developer community from duplicating some of the work already accomplished inside the advanced company, but developers would do well to remember that the grand plan here is to get them to put their credit card details into Google's systems and start buying data center tech from it, rather than Amazon. ®

* Bootnote

Kubernetes has as much to do with the production deployment of Omega as a golf cart does to a Panzer tank, we understand.

"This isn't much of (or like) Omega at all – looks more like some GCE container management scripts to me," tweeted a Cambridge University graduate student who worked on Omega while interning at Google.

Additionally, both McLuckie and Beda confirmed to El Reg that Kubernetes lacks many of the production features of Omega, though they hoped that after some development by Google and the open source community it will become a vigorous, powerful bit of tech.

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