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Using Compute Engine: Users’ top questions answered

Compute Engine lets you create and run virtual machines (VMs) on Google’s infrastructure, allowing you to launch large compute clusters with ease. When it comes to getting started with Compute Engine, our customers have lots of questions—but some questions come up more often than others. 

We looked at an internal list of the most popular Compute Engine documentation pages over a 30-day period to find out what topics were explored by users again and again. Here are the top four questions users have about Compute Engine, in order.

1. What are the different machine families

Compute Engine lets you select the right machine for your needs. You can choose from a curated set of predefined virtual machine (VM) configurations optimized for specific workloads, ranging from small-level purpose to large-scale use cases or create a machine type customized to your needs with our custom machine type feature. 

Compute Engine machines are categorized by machine family, including: 

General-purpose: Best price-performance ratio for a variety of standard and cloud-native workloads 

Compute-optimized: Highest performance per core for compute-intensive workloads, such as ad serving or media transcoding  

Memory-optimized: More compute and memory per core than any other family for memory-intensive workloads, such as SAP HANA or in-memory data analytics 

Accelerator-optimized: Designed for your most demanding workloads, such as machine learning (ML) or high performance computing (HPC)

Read the documentation to learn more about each machine family category.

2. How to connect to VMs using advanced methods

In general, we recommend using the Google Cloud Console and the gcloud command-line tool to connect to Linux VM instances. However, some of our customers want to use third-party tools, or require alternative connection configurations. 

In these cases, there are several methods that might fit your needs better than the standard connection options:

Connecting to instances using third-party tools (e.g. Windows PuTTY, Chrome OS Secure Shell app), or MacOS or Linux local terminal) 

Connecting to instances without external IP addresses

Connecting to instances as the root user Manually connecting between instances and running commands as a service account

Read the documentation to learn about advanced methods for connecting Linux VMs.

3. How to set up OS Login

OS Login lets you use IAM roles and permissions to manage access and permissions to VMs. 

OS Login is the recommended way to manage users across multiple instances or projects. OS Login provides:

Automatic Linux account lifecycle management

Fine-grained authorization using Google IAM without having to grant broader privileges

Automatic permissions updates to prevent unwanted access

Ability to import existing Linux accounts from Active Directory (AD) and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)

You can also add an extra layer of security by setting up OS Login with two-factor authentication or manage organization access by setting up organization policies.

Read the documentation to learn how to configure OS login and connect to your instances.

4. How to manage SSH keys in metadata 

Compute Engine allows you to manually manage SSH keys and local user accounts by editing public SSH key metadata.

You can add  public SSH keys to instance and project metadata using: 

The Google Cloud Console The gcloud command-line tool 

API methods from the Google Cloud Client Libraries

Read the documentation to learn how to manually manage SSH keys and local user accounts in metadata.

Don’t see your question here? Check out the Compute Engine documentation for all of our recommended guides, tutorials, and resources.

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