Google Cloud Storage, launched in 2010, provides online storage as a Web service. Though there is some functional overlap with the company's consumer-oriented storage service Google Drive — both have APIs that support programmatic data access — Cloud Storage provides a more robust level of service and capabilities for desktop, mobile and Web applications.
Cloud Storage competes with Amazon S3, Windows Azure Storage and Rackspace Cloud Block Storage, among others. Though Google entered the IaaS business long after Amazon did, it is catching up in terms of capabilities, thanks to the introduction of Object Lifecycle Management, Regional Buckets and Automatic Parallel Composite Uploads.
[ Is Google pushing the boundaries of acceptable ad placement? Read Google Gmail Ads Appear Within Inbox. ]
Object Lifecycle Management suggests tedious technobabble, but the term nonetheless succinctly describes a critical storage function: the ability to delete files programmatically. As Google developer programs engineer Brian Dorsey explains in a blog post, this feature allows developers to configure a storage bucket to keep files for a specified period of time before getting rid of them.
Object Lifecycle Management can also be used in conjunction with Object Versioning to keep, say, only the three most recent versions of files. It is an essential way to manage storage usage and costs.
Regional Buckets provide a way to specify where Durable Reduced Availability data — a form of storage that reduces cost at the expense of availability — is stored, so it can be served from the same network fabric as Google Compute Engine instances. This reduces network latency and increases bandwidth to virtual machines, which may be advantageous when running data-intensive code.
Automatic Parallel Composite Uploads is a new feature in the 'gsutil' app, a Python application that lets users interact with Cloud Storage from the command line. It allows large objects to be uploaded in parallel, a potential time savings.
Google only really committed to the IaaS market in May when it made Compute Engine available to the public and received ISO 27001:2005 international security certifications for its Cloud Platform. Launched last year as an invitation-only service, Compute Engine began admitting Google Cloud Platform Gold Support customers in April.
Google in May also made its platform-as-a-service offering, App Engine, more appealing by adding support for the popular PHP programming language.
Research firm IDC last week said that cloud computing has become "business as usual" for enterprises, rather than a service restricted to IT infrastructure.