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Understanding Google Cloud Platform: Architecture

Nov. 20, 2017
Alex Meade


Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is Google’s public cloud offering comparable to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. The difference is that GCP is built upon Google's massive, cutting-edge infrastructure that handles the traffic and workload of all Google users. There is a wide range of services available in GCP ranging from Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) to completely managed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). We will discuss the available infrastructure components and how they provide a powerful and flexible foundation on which to build your applications.


Google Compute Engine (Virtual Machines)

Hosted virtual machines (VM) are usually the first thing people think of when moving to the cloud. While GCP has many ways to run your applications such as App Engine, Container Engine, or Cloud Functions, VMs are still the easiest transition to the cloud for architects and developers that are used to having complete control over their operating system.

Google Compute Engine (GCE) supports running both Linux and Windows virtual machines. Either Google-maintained machine images can be used to provision VMs or images from your existing infrastructure can be imported. One common practice is to provision an image for a particular OS, install all needed software dependencies for your applications, then create a new image from that VM. This gives you a “pre-baked” image that you can quickly deploy without having to wait for software to install before the VM can begin doing valuable work. Another strategy is to install a common set of tools into an image, such as a company-wide compliance package, then create a “golden” image that you share with development teams to use for their applications.

There are a number of cost saving strategies that can save a lot of money when deploying applications and infrastructure on the cloud. For example, preemptible instances is a unique feature that can cut the costs of running a VM by 80 percent! A preemptible instance is a normal VM except that Google can decide it needs the capacity back and delete the VM without asking. This can be amazing if you design your applications to be fault tolerant and able to lose a node without disruption. A common use case is having a fleet of preemptible VMs all working on similar tasks. If one is deleted mid-task, the work is shifted to another VM.

Other cost saving features using GCP are per-minute billing, committed use discounts, sustained use discounts, recommendations engine, etc.

Hint: Cloud architects will want to be aware of these features to optimize costs within GCP for their organization.

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