Google Slashes Prices for Preemptive VMs

Virtual machines (VM) have become a hot commodity among IT companies and organizations. They perform the functions of a standalone computer or server in an emulated environment. But if you're thinking of investing in a preemptive virtual machine, you should check out the service offered by Google, because the Mountain View company has just slashed the prices for such services.

Virtual Machines: the Basics

A virtual machine is essentially software that runs an operating system and other applications, like a standalone computer, but in a segmented virtual environment. As explained in this article by vmware.com, virtual machines contain a set of specifications and configurations which are backed by the host computer's physical resource. Each virtual machine is allocated a specific amount of hardware resources – and these resources are reserved for its use. A single computer, for instance, can run two or three virtual machines, each of which performs the functions of a standalone computer.

There are several benefits associated with virtual machines, one of which is ease of cloning. Cloning a virtual machine takes just a few minutes, allowing organizations to quickly deploy multiple instances with little effort. Virtual machines also provide a familiar environment in which to work. This is because they are inherently designed to mimic physical environments. Assuming you're familiar with physical computing environments, you should have little-to-no problem navigating your way through a virtual machine.

Google's Preemptive Virtual Machine

If you're in the market for a new virtual machine, however, you'll want to pay close attention to the cost. Virtual machine prices can vary drastically between the different providers. Thanks to the highly competitive nature of this market, though, many providers have significantly lowered their price.

In an effort to keep up with Amazon's vastly popular and ever-growing virtualization services, Google has slashed prices for its preemptible virtual machines by up to 33%. As you may already know, preemptive virtual machines are Google's own version of spot instances by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Google first launched its preemptive virtual machines in May 2015. In a blog post, the Mountain View company cited several success stories of organizations using the service. One such success story involves the deep learning AI company Descartes Labs. The company used Google's preemptive virtual machine services to process some 1 petabytes of NASA imagery data in just 16 hours time. Mark Johnson, CEO and co-founder of Descartes Labs, said preemptive virtual machines was a “game changer” because of the significant price reduction. Of course, that's just one of the many success stories involving preemptive virtual machines.

Basically, preemptive virtual machines allow IT companies and organizations to create and run their own virtual machine instances at lower prices than traditional virtual machine instances. This is because preemptive virtual machine instances use excess Compute Engine resources. Long story short, this allows for cheaper prices, but with a catch: your instance could be terminated if Google needs those resources for other tasks. If Google has excess resources with low demand, instead of hanging onto them, it sells the resources as preemptive virtual machine services.

The huge price reduction is likely a strategic move by Google to counter Amazon's increased presence in the virtual machine market. Amazon remains one of the leading VM service providers. But there's a stark difference between Amazon's and Google's preemptive virtual machine services: Google offers its services at a flat price, which according to some reports is up to 80% lower than its non-preemptive services. In comparison, Amazon sells its “spot instances” using an auction-based pricing format.

According to Google's Michael Basilyan, preemptive virtual machines are used in a wide range of applications, including data analytics, movie rendering, satellite imagery processing, genomic data processing, media transcoding and more.

Our customers are using Preemptible VMs to analyze data, render movies, process satellite imagery, analyze genomic data, understand financial markets, transcode media and complete a variety of business and engineering tasks, using thousands of Preemptible VM cores in a single job,” said Google product manager Michael Basilyan when announcing the price cut. “We believe that the price reduction for Preemptible VMs will unlock even more computing opportunities and enable you to tackle interesting science and business problems.

How Preemptive Virtual Machine Instances Work

Google's Compute Engine creates preemptive instances by performing a few basic steps. First and foremost, it sends a preemption notice to the instance with an ACPI G2 Soft Off signal. Assuming the instance does not stop after 30 seconds, Compute Engine sends an ACPI G3 Mechanical Off signal to the system. Next, the Compute Engine transitions the instance to a terminated state.

Even if the instance is terminated, you can still access all of its data. The good news, however, is that you aren't charged for the instance while it's terminated. Google only charges for preemptive virtual machine instances when the instance is actively running. Keep in mind that any disks marked for auto-delete are automatically deleted when the preemptive instance is deleted.

There are limitations to using Google's preemptive virtual machines, however, some of which include the following:

  • The possibility of terminated instances due to “system events.” Don't let that dissuade you from choosing this platform, though. As explained on Google's website, the probability of such instance terminations are “generally low.”

  • Preemptive virtual machine instances are automatically terminated after 24 hours.

  • They use finite resources from Google's Compute Engine, meaning availability is sometimes limited.

  • Preemptive virtual machines are not covered by Service Label Agreements, nor are they are covered by Google's Compute Engine SLA.

Even if you choose Amazon's spot instances over Google's preemptive virtual machines, you may still end up saving money. According to TechCrunch, there's a possibility that Google's decision to slash prices on its preemptive virtual machine services will cause Amazon to drop its prices as well

You can learn more about Google's preemptive virtual machines by visiting https://cloud.google.com/compute/docs/instances/preemptible.

Thanks for reading and feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below regarding Google's preemptive virtual machine instances.