Google cracks open access to its compute cloud — a little bit

The Google Compute Engine — the company’s response to Amazon’s(s amzn) EC2 service — is starting to open the floodgates to new users. While technically still in preview — frankly what at Google(s goog) is not in preview? — customers willing to plunk down $400 a month for Google Gold customer support can get access to GCE.

Previously GCE was an invite-only sort of thing, which made it analogous to a swank nightclub. If you can make it past the velvet rope and the surly bouncer — perhaps with a wad of cash — you’re in. Now you just need a couple hundred dollars a month. You could also sign up online for an account — but my nightclub analogy falls apart there. As a sweetener, Google also said it cut prices of its instances on average by 4 percent. It’s all outlined on the company’s blog.

Google Compute Engine logoAs GigaOM has reported here and here, many see GCE — which debuted last June — as perhaps the only real competitor to AWS on the compute side. Third parties are starting to support its APIs and some businesses who want either an alternative to AWS or a supplement to it want to try it out.

In February, RightScale, which helps customers monitor and manage their multi-cloud implementations, said it will resell and support GCE. That was right about the same time it started rolling out more comprehensive, tiered support options for  GCE, Google App Engine and other parts of its cloud empire.

Of course, Amazon has ramped up its customer support options — especially for businesses — over the past year and rolled out better management tools as well.

Google won’t divulge the number of current GCE users or talk about the wait list, but a third party with knowledge of the situation, said there is a huge backlog of would-be users — tens of thousands of them — waiting to get in.

That’s some kind of rope line.