Following in the footsteps of Amazon, Microsoft, and other enterprise cloud heavyweights, Google announced the general availability of its own business cloud offering, Google Compute Engine. The firm, which makes about 95 percent of its revenues from consumer-facing advertising, says that its expertise building scalable cloud infrastructure will help it quickly make up lost ground in this market.

"Google's cloud platform gives developers the flexibility to architect applications with both managed and unmanaged services that run on Google's infrastructure," Google Vice President Ari Balogh writes in one of the firm's corporate blogs. "We've been working to improve the developer experience across our services to meet the standards that our own engineers would expect here at Google."

Related: "Life without Google"

To date, Amazon has dominated the market for business public cloud services, with the firm's Amazon Web Services (AWS) powering connected businesses such as Netflix, as well as enterprise and governmental organizations. According to Gartner, AWS stands alone in this market, with an estimated $3.5 billion business that is five times the size of its nearest 14 competitors combined. Microsoft's Windows Azure is currently a distant number two in this market but is making steady progress.

Google, despite its reputation as a cloud-focused superpower, has made little headway with businesses to date. The firm claims that its Google Apps for Business offering, which competes with Microsoft Office 365, is a $1 billion business, but it's reportedly a "low priority" at Google because of its emphasis on consumer advertising revenues. The latest version of Office 365, released back in January, is already a $2.5 billion business for Microsoft and is growing rapidly.

Previously available in beta form, Google Compute Engine is now generally available with 10-percent-lower-than-promised pricing and some new features. Like AWS and Azure, it lets businesses run infrastructure on virtual machines (VMs), in this case on Google's cloud platform. These VMs can run Linux and UNIX-like OSs such as SUSE, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (in Limited Preview), and FreeBSD, but not Windows. Google provides transparent maintenance with live migration of VMs to help mitigate downtime and can provide VMs with 16 processor cores and up to 104GB of RAM.

Google says it provides 24/7 support for the service and will guarantee a 99.95 percent uptime service level agreement (SLA) that, for the first time, will include financial incentives similar to those offered by Microsoft. That is, if the service goes offline, customers will be reimbursed tiered percentages of their monthly bill.

In addition to Google Compute Engine, which provides a cloud-hosted VM infrastructure, Google offers Google App Engine for web apps and mobile app back ends; various storage services such as Cloud Storage, Cloud SQL; and Cloud Datastore; and related app services. Google says that customers like Snapchat, Cooladata, Mendelics, Evite, and Wix have already built solutions on top of its cloud platform.

Related: "Mobile Tech Giants Finally Focus Patent Sights on Google"