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Google Cloud Storage price plan stresses data gravity's pull

Google Cloud Storage's expanded annual budget framework may give customers more cost savings and control, but they should consider other factors such as vendor lock-in.

Google Cloud Storage customers can now weigh a plan that promises more flexibility and price transparency, but it also carries the potential for deeper lock-in.

The Storage Growth Plan for Google Cloud Storage requires customers to spend at least $10,000 a month for 12 months, with no extra charges if their use of storage services exceeds that commitment during that period. After the year is up, customers can sign another one-year deal based on their peak usage in the initial year. If that peak usage was within 30% of the original contract's limit, Google won't charge for it. If the overage exceeded 30%, customers will pay it back amortized over the next year. Customers can also leave the plan altogether after the first year, but must pay outright for any overages.

The Google Cloud Storage Growth Plan is applicable to any class of storage, and prices vary for each GCP storage class.

The new Google Cloud Storage price strategy reflects today's reality where data volumes can expand dramatically and unpredictably, and a data set's relevance ebbs and flows as conditions change. For example, a batch of images that sits in cold storage might suddenly be useful as a Cloud Vision API training set, Google said.

Holger Mueller, Constellation ResearchHolger Mueller

It also targets cloud cost management, which has become increasingly relevant as companies commit more resources to the deployment model but sometimes find themselves with unexpectedly high bills. With this upfront commitment, Google said storage customers can possibly avoid such nasty surprises.

Customers with medium and large cloud footprints likely will benefit most from the Google Cloud Storage price plan, given its minimum annual commitment of $120,000, said Steven Hill, analyst at 451 Research, which is based in New York. "For some companies it's like, 'Our whole IT budget is that,' [but] for some others it's a drop in the bucket," he said.

In addition to the annual storage price plan, Google has cut prices on its archive-level Coldline tier by 42%. The price chop comes shortly after Google added geo-redundancy to Coldline, which now stores a copy of customers' data in a location at least 100 miles away from the original, in a different region.

The data gravity opportunity underlies Google Cloud Storage price plan

Beyond cheaper and more predictable cloud storage costs, Google aims to capitalize on data gravity, the concept that massive data sets naturally attract other services.

Grant Kirkwood, CTO, Unitas GlobalGrant Kirkwood

Like its competitors, Google wants to be an enterprise's linchpin for new and refactored cloud applications. To that end, Google Cloud Storage integrates with other GCP services, such as Cloud SQL, Dataflow, BigQuery, Dataproc and Cloud ML. While this cohesion can benefit customers, it also generates additional revenue for Google and makes its cloud platform stickier overall.

"Data gravity is a real thing," said Holger Mueller, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif. Companies with plans to build modern applications don't know how much data they'll need to store, yet still need some security on the budget front, which Google's plan could provide, he added.

Still, there are clear benefits when storage volumes are tightly coupled with a cloud provider's other services, despite the specter of lock-in.

When I think of unpredictable costs on the cloud, I think of that more on the compute side. This is more about predictability for Google itself.
Grant KirkwoodCTO, Unitas Global

"Smart developers are going to look for the platform that has the least friction," said Grant Kirkwood, CTO of Unitas Global, a hybrid and multi-cloud consultancy in Los Angeles. "If [BigQuery] is important to you, the last thing you're going to do is plug that into S3 on Amazon."

As always, customers must be mindful of their stored data access and movement, activities that can balloon the final price tag compared to data that sits idle, 451 Research's Hill said.

Still, data volumes are typically predictable.

"Storage never decreases in utilization, it always goes up," Kirkwood said. "When I think of unpredictable costs on the cloud, I think of that more on the compute side. This is more about predictability for Google itself."

Unitas Global has worked with many companies that mull whether to move storage volumes between the likes of Google Cloud and AWS on a semi-regular basis in search of savings, Kirkwood said. "[Google is] building in the incentive at that key decision point for you to not make that move."

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