Around the Campfire with Google App Engine
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April 7, 2008 marked the launch of Google's newest project, Google App Engine. For years, web developers have basically had two choices when it came to building applications: host it on their own or use Amazon Web Services. Well, Google has now issued their response in the form of a full-stack, hosted, automatically scalable web application.
Over the years, individual hosting has become more and more of a hassle for developers and small companies. It takes time away from actual development to go through setup, system administration, maintenance, etc. The beauty of Google App Engine is that it will allow programmers to write the code once and deploy it, while Google's one million servers make sure that the applications scale. Indeed, Amazon Web Services perform the same basic functions. So clearly this development model is on its way to becoming the future of web application storage and deployment.
Google does seem to have an edge in the server market, making it more likely to better handle massive spikes in online traffic. As an added bonus, they will also be making their APIs available for use. According to Google, "it's unnecessary and inefficient for developers to write components like authentication and e-mail from scratch for each new application." And I'd say Google probably knows a thing or to about developing SaaS applications, especially since they are designed to deal with millions of users at a time.
But despite Google's huge popularity, Google App Engine is aimed at smaller developers who tend to use these services more aggressively, but don't necessarily have the web page traffic to show for their work yet. Their two main competitors in this market are Salesforce.com and, of course, Amazon. The Salesforce enterprise offers users already-built applications that they can then customize or expand. Amazon, on the other hand, provides individual storage and computing resources to help further development. Google App Engine falls somewhere in between (I will further explain the details later).
It's also important to point out that this is the beta version of the service. At the time this article was written, it was available for free to the first 10,000 users who volunteered. However they were only allowed 500MB of storage and CPU resources to handle five million page views a month per application. Once the project gets past the beta stage, a price scale will be announced and you will be able to purchase additional computing resources. I would imagine, however, that Amazon has already begun thinking about price readjustments.
The next section will go over Google App Engine's main features and requirements. I'll see you there.
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