Around the Campfire with Google App Engine - Features and Requirements
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Google was a little less than modest about debuting this project. They held an event, called Campfire One (you might remember the first Campfire One where they unveiled OpenSocial), in which they launched the preview release of Google App Engine. While there, they discussed its finer features, including the ability to serve your app for free either on your own domain or on the appspot.com domain. Here are some of the project's more noteworthy characteristics that were included on Google's blog:
Dynamic web serving, with full support of common web technologies.
Persistent storage (powered by BigTable and GFS with queries, sorting, and transactions).
Automatic scaling and load balancing.
Google APIs for authenticating users and sending email.
Fully featured local development environment.
BigTable is a distributed storage system used to manage structured data (petabytes across thousands of commodity servers). It is used on a number of Google applications, including Google Maps, Google Reader, Google Finance, etc. It was built on top of Google File System (GFS), which was designed to retain enormous amounts of web search data.
For now, all applications must be programmed in Python code. However, Google App Engine does support frameworks that speak CGI or WSGI (with a CGI adapter). This can help those not familiar with Python make an easier transition. Compatible frameworks include Django, CherryPy, Pylons, and web.py. Although some aspects of these frameworks don't work - the Django models are the most evident right now - Google APIs can be be swapped for certain functions, some of which I've already mentioned. Workarounds have also been provided to combat Django's incompatibility (Django Form Validation Framework, for example). If none of this is important to you, Google also offers its own web framework, called webapp, that is designed specifically for Google App Engine.
Google says that Python is just the first language to be supported. They claim the entire infrastructure is designed to be language neutral, but since Google's internal scripting language is Python, it made sense to make it the first supported language (coincidentally, Google hired Python creator Guido van Rossum in 2005). Be sure to look for the inclusion of other popular languages, like Ruby on Rails and PHP. It almost doesn't really matter at this point because this is just the beta stage, which is designed to bring in feedback on what they have so far.
The next section will compare Google App Engine to its closest competitor, Amazon Web Services. Don't miss it.
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