Google adds per-second billing to Compute Engine, Container Engine and App Engine… ahead of AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS) may have been the first of the major cloud vendors to announce per-second billing, but Google has become the first to implement it.

The company announced yesterday that customers of Compute Engine, Container Engine, Cloud Dataproc, and App Engine flexible environment virtual machines (VMs) will move to the new system, applicable to all VMs.

Google’s change was made effective as of September 26, while AWS customers will have to wait until October 2 for their move. Google customers need to purchase for a minimum of one minute before the per-second billing kicks in.

“In most cases, the difference between per-minute and per-second billing is very small – we estimate it as a fraction of a percent,” Paul Nash, group product manager for Compute Engine wrote. “On the other hand, changing from per-hour billing to per-minute billing makes a big difference for applications (especially website, mobile apps and data processing jobs) that get traffic spikes.

“The ability to scale up and down quickly could come at a significant cost if you had to pay for those machines for the full hour when you only needed them for a few minutes,” Nash added.

As this publication noted when AWS made its move, another strong pull factor towards per-second billing is the rise of serverless computing, where code may not run for more than a few seconds.

Nash theorised that if the average business’ VM lifetime was rounded up by 30 seconds due to per minute billing, then at 2,600 vCPUs, you would save…99 cents per day. For per hour billing, naturally, it goes up to more than $100.

Either way, the customer does get greater control. “As you can see, the value of increased billing precision is mostly in per-minute,” wrote Nash. “This is probably why we haven’t heard many customers asking for per-second. But we don’t want to make you choose between your morning coffee and your core hours, so we’re pleased to bring per-second billing to your VMs.”

Nash added that Google had been using per-second billing for persistent disks since 2013, and for committed use discounts and GPUs since their introduction. The Google Cloud Platform has duly been updated with per-second billing, under the tagline “you pay per-second, which is how a cloud should work.” Previously, it was “you pay per-minute, not per hour, which is how a cloud should work.”

You can read the full blog post here.