Google announced today at I/O that it made Google Cloud Platform generally available, marking a milestone for the cloud community and the real arrival of a giant to contend with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its pay-as-you-go pricing.

The service, now with 3 million apps, is now open to any developer or business. In its post announcing the news, Google revealed a bit about new pricing, instance types and other features:

  • Sub-hour billing charges for instances in one-minute increments with a 10-minute minimum, so developers don’t pay for compute minutes that you don’t use.
  • Shared-core instances provide smaller instance shapes for low-intensity workloads.
  • Advanced Routing features help create gateways and VPN servers and enables developers to build applications that span local network and Google’s cloud
  • Large persistent disks support up to 10 terabytes per volume, which Google says translates to 10X the industry standard

Google also announced a new data store for non-relational data and availability of a PHP runtime.

The new App Engine 1.8.0 includes a limited preview of the PHP runtime – the top requested feature with customers. PHP is one of the most popular web programming languages, running open source apps like WordPress. According to Google, only whitelisted applications may be deployed on App Engine if they use the PHP runtime. When the restrictions lift, Google will nnounce it on the App Engine blog.

For a good part of last year, Google had engaged users in a limited beta of the platform, which allows developers to run their apps on Linux virtual machines hosted on Google’s massive infrastructure. Developers had to either get an invitation or go through Google’s sales teams to get access to the service.

Starting in April, developers who subscribed to Google’s $400 per month Gold Support package with 24/7 phone support were able to access Compute Engine without the need to talk to sales or receive an invitation.

Google also announced it dropped its instance prices by 4 percent (that’s after it already dropped storage prices by 20 percent last November).

Google is emphasizing its cloud platform this year. There are 25 sessions for the Google Cloud Platform at Google I/O. Only Chrome and Android have more.

Google is increasingly relying on its data-center infrastructure to attract developers. It offers the APIs to integrate with apps and now the capability to use the data centers for compute and storage. That’s an important shift if Google wants to attract more developers and compete with the AWS ecosystem.

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