P16: a blog by Matt Kangas home archive
11 Apr 2008

Google App Engine. It's about time.

The big web-geek announcement this week was Google App Engine. Lordy, does this ever look neat. I like Don MacAskill's take the best:

I think it’s interesting that Google has basically taken a sniper scope out and aimed it at a specific cloud computing target. App Engine is only for web applications. No batch computing, no cron jobs, no CPU/disk/network access, etc.

I think this is very smart of Google. Rather than attacking Amazon head-on, Google has realized there’s a huge playing field for cloud computing, and are attempting to dominate another portion of it, one where they have a lot of expertise. Very good business move, imho.

I use Amazon EC2 -- their "cloud computing" solution" -- for some peripheral tasks at Flix55.com, and I like it a lot. But building a web app that can dynamically grow/shrink the number of nodes it's using -- that's hard, but it's also necessary to fully exploit Amazon's rent-a-server-by-the-hour pricing model.

App Engine promises to give you dynamic front-end scalability for free. Better yet, if the site has only modest traffic and data requirements, it's hosted completely free.

Gotchas? Oh Yeah! ... No pricing model for real traffic & storage levels yet. No SLA yet. Must use Python to develop your app (but I like Python). You have a funky datastore that doesn't allow joins, not an RDBMS. The list goes on...

But. Still. It's cheap cheap and hacker-friendly. It looks fantastic for solo-developer projects that are really experimental and may/may-not be the next big thing. This is also just Google's starting point for the service. Like EC2, it will get better in time.

I have plenty of hare-brained web ideas that I can't economically justify building even on EC2. Now, thanks to Google, it might be worth giving them a spin. I've already signed up... awaiting my trial account now. :)