In several years, nearly all universities will have a cloud computing provider.
Google in June announced an education grant offering free credits for its cloud platform, with no credit card required, unlimited access to its suite of tools and training resources. Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud services both offer education programs, and now Google Cloud wants a part in shaping future computer scientists — and probably whatever they come up with using the tool.
“We want computer science students and faculty to experience Google Cloud Platform and learn what’s possible when you apply cloud computing to tough problems, just like we do at Google,” says Bram Bout, director of Google for Education.
Amazon Web Services has dominated the cloud service business by being around longest (2006) and nabbing corporate and governmental customers like Comcast, Adobe and the Department of Defense.
Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure, doesn’t fall too far behind, having launched in 2010 and doing business with GE Healthcare and DocuSign. Google Cloud launched in 2011, but has caught up to competitors to work with Best Buy, Kaplan and Khan Academy.
While it seems like everyone has carved out corners of the cloud business, linking up with schools comes with two advantages. On the one hand, Google and its cloud competitors can become the platform of choice as younger professionals and computer science students begin their careers. At the same time, cloud providers have a vested interest in the upstart businesses or ideas that result from these education discounts.
“Of course we’d be thrilled to see innovative ideas and even companies emerge from this, but the goal for the grants program is to help students and faculty discover our cloud and do incredible things,” Bout says.
Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud services offer an education partnership in free trials or discounted pricing. For the time being, Microsoft Azure’s education program is not taking new applications and “oversubscribed,” the website reads. Amazon Web Services has an online application for its education program for teachers and students to get accounts, and Google is accepting applications from faculty members.
Google Cloud’s grant will allow U.S. faculty teaching computer science to apply for free credits and distribute them to students in the upcoming academic year, according to a blog post. The grant is only offered in the U.S. now, but Google says it plans to extend access to other places in the future.
Students can use the credits toward developing mobile apps on Google App Engine or experimenting with machine learning using Vision API and Translate API, among the other data and system administration tools available on the platform.
Aza Tulepbergenov, a third-year undergraduate at Boise State heads up a Google Developer Group chapter on campus that provides mentoring and support for young developers. The chapter president, who’s interning at Hewlett-Packard for the summer, says he hopes his program will apply for Google Cloud’s grant.
In a class last year that covered cloud computing, Tulepbergenov got experience using another cloud service, Amazon Web Services, but he’s curious to learn more about what Google has to offer. His department was able to secure a student discount from Amazon so his group could build a server that provides queuing time for client applications.
“I personally think that Google invests a lot in teaching other developers how to use their tools and platforms. It makes me think that Google’s platform has a bright future just because so many developers will get exposed to it,” he says.
At Cornell University, computer science professor Ken Birman prepares students to use these platforms in his cloud computing course, which he says will spend a lot of time on Google’s new tools.
Birman calls Google Cloud “an obvious first choice” for validating his class' research systems using cutting-edge infrastructure.