Google turns up the heat on AWS, claims Cloud Spanner is half the cost of DynamoDB

Google’s Cloud Spanner is now half the cost of Amazon’s DynamoDB “for most workloads,” Google says. And Google doesn’t want you to forget it.

Google today announced that Cloud Spanner, its distributed, decoupled relational database service hosted on Google Cloud, is now more efficient in terms of both compute and storage, delivering what Google describes as “significant” cost savings for customers.

Cloud Spanner’s read throughput has been increased by 50%. And each Spanner node — that is, collections of compute resources, namely CPUs, RAM and storage — can now accommodate 10 terabytes of storage compared to 4 TB previously.

The upgrades will be rolled out to all Spanner customers in the coming months, Google says, and are available to select regional and multiregion instance configurations as of today. Storage upgrades will follow in the weeks ahead.

In a very pointed blog post, Google draws comparisons to Amazon’s DynamoDB, which Google claims processes 126 million queries per second at peak compared to Spanner’s 3 billion queries per second.

“With these changes, Spanner now offers up to 2x better read throughput per dollar compared to Amazon DynamoDB for similar workloads,” Google product manager Jagdeep Singh and engineering director Pritam Shah wrote in the blog post, without elaborating on the “similar workloads” bit.

But this is a little disingenuous.

Google lifted the “126 million” figure from Amazon’s recent Prime Day blog post, which reveals that AmazonDB-powered, Amazon-owned properties and systems powered made 126 million requests per second at peak. But that’s not DynamoDB’s theoretical throughput ceiling — only a measure of Prime Day traffic.

In point of fact, I had a hard time finding a maximum queries per second figure for DynamoDB. Amazon doesn’t make it easy.

That’s not to suggest Cloud Spanner is less capable than Google’s marketing materials make it out to be. AWS documentation from 2021 suggests that DynamoDB can indeed handle only “millions” of queries per second at peak, not billions. But as often is the case, the truth is murkier than the press release suggests.

Speaking of: Google’s assertion that Cloud Spanner is now “half the cost” of DynamoDB. That depends very much on the workload (which Google acknowledges, to its credit). A production-ready Cloud Spanner instance starts at $65 per month, but DynamoDB can run for virtually nothing with per-request pricing.

Google’s stepped-up rhetoric comes as the search giant angles to make headway against the dominant AWS in the public cloud market. Google Cloud’s market share stands at 11% as of Q4 2022, up from 6% in Q4 2017 (the year Cloud Spanner launched, coincidentally). But AWS far and away leads with 34%.

It’s worth noting that Google Cloud is in objectively better shape than it once was. In Q2, the Google division’s revenue rose 28% to more than $8 billion, marking Google Cloud’s second straight profitable quarter.

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