Google Cloud launched a new generally available feature called “VM suspend/resume,” which enables users to save money by temporarily suspending virtual machines (VMs) on Google Compute Engine when they are not in use, and then resuming them when needed.

In the suspended state, users no longer have to pay for cores or RAM and instead only pay for the storage costs of instance memory. Other VM running costs such as OS licensing may also be reduced, according to Google Cloud. 

“Utilizing Compute Engine’s suspend and resume functionality has allowed BigCommerce to reduce operation costs of our Compute Engine-driven development environment. BigCommerce allows each engineer to customize their environment’s ‘working hours,’ which triggers suspension at the end of each work day and resumption at the beginning of the next day,” said Aaron Humerickhouse, manager of engineering at BigCommerce. “This has reduced our Virtual Machine Instance usage times from 168 hours a week to 60 hours a week per environment on average, enabling us to save thousands of dollars each month. We expect these cost-efficiency savings to only increase as our Engineering organization grows.”

The VM suspend/resume feature can be beneficial for faster horizontal scaling. Although Compute Engine instances can be created quickly, it may take longer than desired to boot the operating system and load applications during sudden spikes in demand. 

To overcome this issue, one can initialize instances with critical applications and suspend them. Upon resuming these instances later, they should be able to start operating much more rapidly than newly created instances.

The feature works by sending an ACPI S3 signal to the instance’s operating system when suspending an instance, which results in two significant advantages compared to similar functionalities from other cloud providers. 

“This allows for broad compatibility with a wide selection of OS images without requiring you to use a cloud-specific OS image or installing daemons. Undocumented and custom OS images that respond to the ACPI S3 signal may also work with Suspend,” Jin Su, product manager at Google Cloud, wrote in the blog post.