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Google Compute Engine: A Beginner's Guide

By Special Guest
Anthony Coggine, Business Analyst
December 05, 2018

Google Cloud Platform lets developers rent Google hardware and software. What does this mean? Instead of buying up a server room, you can simply rent out Google’s. Instead of crafting your own libraries from scratch, you can use Google APIs, robust libraries that are used in a variety of contexts, from Google Maps to Google Translate.

In short, when you use Google Cloud Platform, you get access to the infrastructure and the libraries that run many of Google’s products, like Gmail and YouTube.

Google Compute Engine vs Google App Engine

One of the services offered by Google Cloud Platform is Google Compute Engine. Google Compute Engine is a service that lets you run virtual machines (VMs). These VMs run on Google’s infrastructure, but you can configure these VMs however you like.

Storage disks, operating systems, and network access are all up to you. Google Cloud Platform is designed to give you control. So, while Compute Engine doesn’t automatically scale like another popular service, Google App Engine, it gives you finer grain control, which empowers you and saves you money.

Google Compute Engine gives you a vast array of tools so you can create, check up on, and manage Compute Engine instances and configurations. The tool you will first become acquainted with is the Google Developers Console. This takes a bit of orientation, but thankfully, Google provides it through in-browser tutorials.

The Developers Console and the command line interface

The Google Developers Console lets you interface with your cloud projects on the web, manage your web APIs, VMs, and manage various other aspects of Google Compute Engine. You can also use the Cloud Console to interface with a virtual shell, where you can run various scripts through the gcloud compute command line interface (CLI).

How to get started with Google Cloud Platform

To get started, you’ll need to sign up for Google Cloud Platform with a Gmail address. If you haven’t already, you can start a free trial -- although you’ll need to input a credit card to get started. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged during the trial period, but be careful not to start many projects and use a bunch of resources. Otherwise, you’ll burn through your free trial credit.

After you’ve signed up and entered a credit card, you’re ready to start your first project. Start a Compute Engine project through the Developer Console. There’s information about disk type, firewalls, and startup scripts. First things first, create a project, enable billing, and add any team members through the IAM policy.

This project is going to have a lot of information in it, but don’t get overwhelmed. Here’s a breakdown of what those terms mean as defined in O’reilly’s Google Compute Engine: Managing Secure and Scalable Cloud Computing:

Image

The base software for a hosted virtual machine, including the operating system and all associated system and application software.

Disk

A disk provides storage for Compute Engine instances.

Snapshot

A copy of the content of an existing persistent disk.

Network

Set of rules defining how an instance interacts with instances, other networks, and the Internet.

Firewall

A single rule defining how an instance can accept incoming traffic.

Route

A table which determines how traffic destined for a certain IP should be handled.

Address

A static IP address for your instances.

Machine Type

A hardware configuration dictating the number of cores and available memory for a given instance.

You don’t need to memorize all of this information to get started, but it’s good to have an idea of what these terms mean. Basically, they help you specify what the rented server you use will look like. You can configure these VMs for your needs. Maybe you want a few extra firewalls, for example. If you’re just starting out, however, don’t get too caught up in the details.

To create a new VM instance, simply click on “new instance” within the Google Compute Engine with the default settings. Specify a zone based on your location (e.g. us-central zone B, asia-east zone C).

After waiting for the VM to create, you’ll be able to see more information about it. You can start loading APIs to it directly, manage quotas, and authorize users.

Conclusion

Now that you’re acquainted with the very basics of Google Compute Engine, you’ll be able to start on your Google Cloud Platform journey managing and scaling your own VMs. How you choose to use them is completely up to you.

If Google Compute Engine is too cumbersome and you find the fine grain control too much, you can always consider Google App Engine, which just requires a bit of custom code to run custom apps. If not, continue tooling around with VMs. With a bit of dedication, you’ll be managing VM instances with ease.

About the author: Anthony Coggine is a HR professional turned business analyst. He has spent more than 5 years as a recruitment consultant in a variety of industries, primarily focused on consumer technology and research. You may connect with him on Twitter.




Edited by Ken Briodagh
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