Google is getting in to the cold storage industry, an industry currently dominated by Amazon Glacier. As Google continues in its effort to narrow the gauntlet of cloud storage, they continue to lower prices and increase expectations.
Cold storage refers to storing “cold” data, or data that does not need to be accessed frequently but at cheaper rates than data that needs to be accessed on demand. This is convenient for businesses storing large quantities of this “cold” data, like backups or archives.
Google Nearline lets you store as much data as you like for $0.01 per gigabyte, which is the same price as their closest competitor, Amazon Glacier. However, when you request data from your Amazon Glacier freezer, it can take hours before your data becomes available to download. This is the traditional concept of cold storage, and also where Google takes the lead. For the same price as Amazon Glacier, Google Nearline lets you receive your requested data within 3 seconds of placing the request.
Online storage has always been relatively expensive (although recently the prices have been dropping dramatically), and for companies that store a lot of customer data, this can become a significant concern. Let’s say you’re running a social network. Your users store a lot of pictures on your service and often want to go back and revisit past moments in their lives. Even though this doesn’t happen particularly often, when it does, you simply can’t make them place a request and tell them to come back in an hour to view their photos. This is why cold storage is not practical for a lot of situations.
On the flip side, often times companies store want to keep their log files for a long, long time, and these files can become very large and expensive to store online. This is where cold storage becomes useful; when you have large files which do not need to be accessed frequently or quickly.
For some, however, hours is still too long to wait when you need to quickly analyze these log files for suspicious activity. This is what Google aims to fix with Nearline. Being able to access your data within seconds is a tremendous innovation for cold storage, and finally begins to blur the lines between cold storage and hot, or online storage. Our example here is just one of many situations where Nearline will be applicable.
“We wanted to create a product that made it economical to never throw anything away,” as Google director of product management for the Cloud Platform team Tom Kershaw told TechCrunch, “Google is pretty good at storing things, but every organization should be able to keep its data around.”
Nearline is able to have such competitive prices because Google is using the same infrastructure that it uses for its online storage. Normally, a company would have to build two infrastructures, one for cold storage, and one for online storage, along with a system to move data between the two. By only relying on one infrastructure, Google is able to offer competitive prices with much faster access times.
Google isn’t afraid to go head to head against the dominant entity in a field, as we have seen with their other cloud storage offerings. Google and Amazon have been at a race to the bottom for the past year, with them taking turns lowering their prices to undercut each other.