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Google Preps Cloud for New War on Microsoft

'With Google,' says former NASA chief research officer Chris Kemp, 'infrastructure was treated as if it was infinite.' Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

When Google was building Google Earth and Google Mars a half decade ago, Chris Kemp was amazed at how easily the company could pump up these massive web services with additional computing power.

“With Google, infrastructure was treated as if it was infinite,” remembers Kemp, the former chief innovation officer at NASA, which worked hand-in-hand with the search giant on Google Earth and Google Mars.

As a means of powering all its web services — from Google Search to Gmail to Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google Mars — Google spent years building what amounts to a single software platform that spans a worldwide network of data centers. The company calls it “warehouse-scale computing.” The idea is to treat an entire data center as a single warehouse-sized computer that can juice an application with additional processing power, storage, and other resources whenever they’re needed.

In recent years, Google’s distributed infrastructure has inspired much of the tech world to move in a similar direction. Chris Kemp helped found the OpenStack project, an effort to bring Google-like flexibility to data centers everywhere. Yahoo and Facebook bootstrapped Hadoop, an open source number-crunching platform based on software that underpins Google’s services. And several companies — including Amazon, Microsoft, and Rackspace — have introduced “cloud services” that offer the world this sort of scalable infrastructure via the internet.

But Google isn’t content to merely inspire. It now wants to compete with the Amazons and the Microsofts. In the spring of 2008, the company unveiled Google App Engine, a service that lets anyone build and host applications on its internal infrastructure, and this week, at its annual developer conference in San Francisco, the company is expected to revamp this service in an effort win back some mind share — and market share — from Amazon, whose cloud services now run as much as one percent of the internet.

In some ways, this seems like another comedown for the web giant. Google has long touted that benefits of its “platform cloud” model, as opposed to Amazon’s “infrastructure cloud.” Nevertheless as with the company’s recently revamped Chromebook laptop, this shows that Google is determined to compete for the hearts and minds of businesses — and as a matter of fact make some money along the way.

More information: Wired