Google sharpens its container-focused cloud products for battle

The new updates bring in features from Docker v2 and Kubernetes 1.1

Google unveiled some major enhancements to its container-focused cloud offerings on Tuesday to take advantage of new open-source developments and boost the performance of its products in a competitive market. 

Google Container Engine, a service based on the Kubernetes open-source project that manages clusters and orchestrates Docker containers in Google's cloud, now has the latest updates to Kubernetes. Those enhancements came out on Monday, so it's a quick turnaround.

The upgrades include support for horizontal pod autoscaling, which is a fancy term for a feature that scales up resources to smooth out performance during periods of high demand. Container Engine also gets a new networking system that reduces latency, cuts down on CPU overhead and improves reliability. It's still in beta and not enabled by default, but developers can use a console command to opt in.

Looking forward, more updates will be coming to the managed service that are driven by other enhancements in the Kubernetes 1.1 release. 

Companies and developers who manage their containers using the Google Cloud Platform's Container Registry service will now be able to push and pull container images to the service using the latest version of Docker's API. That new functionality opens up features like content-addressable references, parallel-layer downloads and digest-based pulls to make it faster and easier to manage a fleet of containers. 

In addition, Google says this latest version is significantly faster than its predecessor. In the company's internal testing, it pulled images 40 percent faster than the previous version of Container Registry. 

Twistlock, a startup that helps companies manage the security of their containers, has partnered with Google to help users manage the security of the containers they have in Container Registry and Container Engine. The company's product can scan a container registry to detect possible security vulnerabilities and images that aren't configured to comply with security policies.

The company's Twistlock Defenders service can also protect running containers from active threats by testing to see if a process is communicating with a known malicious IP address. It can automatically raise an alert or take more aggressive action like stopping a running container. 

Containers have been catching on fast. For developers and enterprises hoping to take advantage of the technology, these enhancements make Google Cloud Platform a stronger alternative to options like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

Right now, Google is still in third place in the hyperscale cloud race, and it shows. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told an audience at Dell World last month that cloud computing is a "Seattle race" between his company and Amazon -- leaving out the two companies' rainbow-colored competitor to the south. 

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