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Apr 8, 2008

NEWS: Google Developers, start your engines

Ed: Virtual conversation, the PST Advantage to TechCrunch.

Developers, start your engines

Posted by Kevin Gibbs, Tech Lead, Google App Engine

We just launched a preview release of Google App Engine, a way for developers to run their web applications on Google's infrastructure. In the same way that Blogger made it easy to create a blog, Google App Engine is designed from the ground up to make it easy to create and run web applications.

With Google App Engine, developers can write web applications based on the same building blocks that Google uses, like GFS and Bigtable. Google App Engine packages those building blocks and provides access to scalable infrastructure that we hope will make it easier for developers to scale their applications automatically as they grow. This means they can spend less time dealing with system administration and maintenance, and more time building and improving their applications. (There's more detail on the new App Engine Blog.)

Google App Engine is free to use during the preview release, but the amount of computing resources any app can use is limited. In the future, developers will be able to purchase additional computing resources as needed, but Google App Engine will always be free to get started.

Today's launch is a preview release. We've got a lot left to do, and there are a lot of features we still want to add to the system. What we'd really like is to get your feedback on it, so we know which features are most important to you. We'll use your suggestions to keep improving the system.

This preview of Google App Engine is available for the first 10,000 developers who sign up; we will increase that number in near future. So, developers, please sign updownload the SDK, and start your engines.

Google Jumps Head First Into Web Services With Google App Engine

... Google isn’t just talking about hosting applications in the cloud any more. Tonight at 9pm PT they’re launching Google App Engine(Update: The site is live), an ambitious new project that offers a full-stack, hosted, automatically scalable web application platform. It consists of Python application servers, BigTable database access (anticipated here and here) and GFS data store services.

At first blush this is a full on competitor to the suite of web services offered by Amazon, including S3 (storage), EC2 (virtual servers) and SimpleDB (database).

Google App Engine: Your Apps in the Cloud

Google just significantly raised the stakes in the platform-as-a-service market with tonight’s launch of Google App Engine, a scalable, fault-tolerant web application environment that lets developers run their own apps on Google’s infrastructure. Naturally the new platform leverages Google’s expertise in building web-scale services including Big Table-type storage.

While in many ways this service competes with Amazon’s suite of on-demand infrastructure APIs including S3 storage, EC2 hosting and the SimpleDB database, the approach is different. In Google’s model you get all of these services bundled together in one package. This is a plus if you want to run your entire app under one roof versus the lower-level, individual services in Amazon’s model.

At a high level there are five pieces to App Engine: ...

One of the first questions from most developers will be: What’s the cost? Sign up is free and so is running your app as long as stay under quotas 500MB of storage, 200 million megacycles/day of CPU, and 10GB of total bandwidth. Google estimates this means there will be no cost for up to approximately 5 million pageviews a month. Once this initial preview period is over Google will introduce a billing model for additional resources at “competitive market prices.”

TechCrunch Labs: Our Experience Building And Launching An App On Google App Engine

... Looking at the developer documentation, App Engine boasts a powerful API. The platform comes with a Python scripting runtime, static file serving capabilities, easy and tight integration with Google user accounts and email services (obviously a big play), simple access to a powerful persistence engine with queries and transaction support (aka a really good database), near real-time site monitoring and statistics, and the promise of consistent high performance and essentially linear scalability.

Despite its potential power and underlying sophistication, App Engine was surprisingly easy to get started with. Now, being Ruby on Rails guys, the fact that the only currently supported language is Python was a bit humbling. Still, the SDK provided by Google proved dead simple. Our first application was contained within a single Python script, making the path the code was taking to produce responses very clear. We incrementally added features: first accepting input from the users through forms, then storing and retrieving that data using the provided persistence API, and finally breaking out the user-facing web page code into a proper Django template.

The App

The web app we came up with is super-simple, shamelessly self-promoting, and easily game-able. It’s a one-page voting site using company logos slurped in from CrunchBase, our main project. The app has only two requests: one for rendering the page, the other for recording a vote (one GET, one POST request). The first real issue was getting our initial data, some URLs and names, into the database. While we later found that Google provides a slick bulk-update tool, we got going with a simple action that manually parsed our comma-separated values into the database. Another thing we wanted from the service was it to be served from our own domain. By default, Google hosts all App Engine projects on your-project.appspot.com (think blogspot), but they do offer domain servicesthrough Google Apps, which was pretty painless to setup if you just want App Engine functionality.


The SDK provides a server that emulates the App Engine platform, making it possible to easily develop applications locally that will later deploy to Google’s cloud. Once we had a presentable first app coded up and tested locally, we deployed the app to Google’s server easily from the command line. This was particularly compelling; we’ve spent hours or even days deploying web apps to comparatively trivial servers.

Overall, the process from sign-up to deployment took about 4 hours, with the vast majority of that figuring out what we wanted to do and remembering how to do things like sort arrays in Python (we also spent an embarrassing 15 minutes on some poorly formatted hidden HTML fields). The rapid prototyping of the app and the ease of deployment is clearly the real power of App Engine right now. The scalability of App Engine is exciting but elusive; most apps won’t need it for a while. It’ll also be interesting to see how truly scalable it is, considering the linear scaling efforts on Amazon EC2. The redundancy and ease of deployment should be the immediate attraction for developers.

Try our app out: appengine.crunchbase.com.

Mark McGranaghan took the lead on coding for the site and contributed heavily to this article.

Google App Engine: "More Impressive Than Android" (GOOG, AMZN)

2001-06.jpgAndroid and OpenSocial are impressive initiatives, but to most developers, (or at least this one), they're dwarfed by the App Engine Google unveiled yesterday. Android and OpenSocial are basically reactionary, parrying iPhone and Facebook. But deep infrastructure is profoundly what Google does, and for them to open their internal tools to the unwashed masses is huge.

Amazon (AMZN) has a big head start in building a cloud computing stack, having launched S3 storage in March 2006 and EC2, their cloud computing platform, last October, along with pieces like SQS and SimpleDB in between. Nevertheless, if I was Jeff Bezos I'd be nervous...

Why Data Portability is Important For Web Personalization

Fifteen or so years into the evolution of the web, we already have many of the key ideas and technologies in place to start describing and sharing personal preference information - or what we might colloquially call "taste" - in order to personalize web experiences. So, why haven't we yet seen widespread adoption of web personalization? Mostly because user expectations and online business models haven't yet evolved to the point that user-controlled, ‘open taste’ sharing is a viable option. However, the dataportability.orginitiative suggests that we may have reached a turning point.

This is a guest post by Dr. Rick Hangartner, MyStrands Chief Scientist...

Red Dog: Microsoft's Answer to App Engine and AWS?

Kip Kniskern over at the LiveSide blog spotted a Microsoft job advert that appears to give some insight into a cloud computing platform under development at Redmond that could compete with Google's just released App Engine or Amazon's suite of web services. The utility computing platform, codenamed "Red Dog" according to the job ad, is under development at Microsoft's Cloud Infrastructure Services (CIS) team and aims to see a version one release within the "coming year." What little info is provided by the job posting is rather obscure, but there are a few juicy tidbits to be had.

According to the ad, the platform is "an efficient, virtualized" environment that is "fully automated" and has a "set of highly scalable storage services." Which translated, likely means a utility computing platform that handles scaling and server management for you and on which you only pay for the storage you need. That means it would be comparable to something like App Engine or Mosso (our coverage)...

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