Google opens London cloud region in race with rivals

The Google Cloud headquarters from below
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) customers are now able to switch over to a new cloud region based in London in order to run applications and store data in the capital, following its launch earlier today.

The London region, named ‘Europe-west2’, joins an existing European region based in Belgium, with plans to add regions in Frankfurt, Finland and the Netherlands in the near future. The opening of a London region now brings Google’s cloud coverage to a total of 10 locations worldwide.

GCP customers operating in the UK should expect to see a significant increase to performance when running workloads through the London region, Google said, with tests in London, Dublin and Edinburgh yielding a 40%-82% reduction in round-trip time latency.

Even those residing in Amsterdam should expect to see similar results if they route their workloads through the London region, instead of Belgium, according to Google.

At an official launch event at the Google Academy in London today, a live demo of the new region showed latency as low as 5ms, compared to as much as 14ms seen when connecting through Google’s Belgium region. This essentially halves the time it takes to run processes through Google’s Cloud Platform.

Ben Traynor, VP of engineering at Google Cloud, was on hand to provide a live demonstration of the first connection to the Europe-west2 server. "Each region is designed to bring a set of benefits to the users who want to run their applications on the cloud," said Traynor. "In the case of London, it's particularly aimed at users who are in that geographic region, although it's available to anybody around the world. For some users it will be useful if they simply want to have a better product experience for their customers who are in the UK region."

"For others it will be to service a specific need they have... maybe they need extremely low latency. It's particularly significant If your application has lots of round trips, back and forth, or maybe relevant if you have very high performance computing needs."

The new region launches with three zones which allows businesses to spread data across multiple servers if they so wish. The region also offers a host of computing, big data, storage and networking services, including Google’s App Engine, Cloud Dataflow and Datalab, and networking capabilities such as Cloud DNS and VPN.

Karen Bradley, minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, described Google’s latest investment as a “massive vote of confidence” in the UK digital economy.

Speaking at the event, Bradley added: “The government is absolutely committed to digital. We want digital businesses here, taking advantage of the opportunities that global Britain has as we leave the European Union. I want businesses to be able to prosper and thrive, and they can do that by using great things like Google Cloud based here in London.”

As part of its continued UK investment, Google also revealed it would be expanding its current site at Kings Cross from 4,000 employees to 7,000, although a specific timeframe wasn’t provided.

Companies already taking advantage of the region include managed WordPress hoster WP Engine, the Telegraph, and mobile banking firm Revolut.

“We look forward to extending our digital experience platform to an even broader set of our 10,000 European customers who want to be hosted on the GCP based in the London region,” said Jason Cohen, founder and CTO of WP Engine. “We are excited about bringing reduced latency benefits from the ability to store and process data in London to our UK customers.”

The launch comes after Microsoft opened a UK region in September 2016, while Amazon Web Services (AWS) brought its own UK facilities online at the end of last year.

Just this week Oracle opened a government-focused UK data centre - all these vendors are targeting public sector spend, opening UK regions to overcome compliance issues stopping government bodies from storing their data in clouds hosted abroad.

Given that both data processors and controllers will be jointly liable for data under the EU's incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Google naturally took the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to ensuring customers are supported in their compliance, reiterating points it made in May.

This include the offer of third-party audits and certifications for Google Cloud Platform and G-Suite, which customers have been encouraged to deploy, as well as the introduction of contractual agreements concerning the need to notify regulators of data breaches.

Google’s Cloud Platform currently services 1 billion end users, and receives over 100 billion daily requests to its app engine. G Suite, Google’s other cloud branch, now boasts over 3 million paying businesses, according to the company, which is also used by over 70 million teachers and students.

"What we've found is that even small differences in latency or availability can make a big difference to the users," added Traynor. "So building a very high quality network actually makes your product better without changing anything else."

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.