Blog Post

Google Cloud Now on Tap for Web Developers

Google, with its new Application Engine product, has taken aim squarely at the web services market — and companies from to Bungee Labs should be running scared. The search giant’s Application Engine allows developers to build a web application “in their garage” and then host it for free on Google’s existing infrastructure. Take that, Jeff Bezos!

The App Engine will run in the same Google data centers that host GMail, Google Docs and other online programs. Initially up to 10,000 developers will have access to the preview edition of App Engine. Every developer will be able build up to three applications, each of which will have 500 MB of storage and the CPU cycles and bandwidth to support about 5 million page views a month. All of this will be free, and when the service is out of preview Google will announce the ability to buy more storage, bandwidth and CPU cycles.

For some developers, a service like this eliminates the need for Amazon Web Services. It could also cause problems for startups such as online storage company Elephant Drive and platform-as-service vendors such as Bungee Labs. However, the App Engine does have its limits, some of which will be addressed as time goes on. For now, no files larger than 1MB can be uploaded to the site and Python is the only language supported by App Engine. Other limits include the inability to buy extra time and a focus only on web applications.

Even with limits, this is exactly the type of service Dave Winer last week, after a conversation with a pig, predicted. This type of loss-leader service gets startups in the door with Google, giving the company access to the freshest ideas and an entrepreneurial talent pool that it can tap. Kevin Kelleher called it the way Google can eat Amazon’s lunch.

He’s right, but it will come at a cost to Google in terms of its margins. Providing that kind of infrastructure isn’t free. It also will have a ways to go before it can compete with the 330,000 developers Amazon says are using its Web Services as of January.

Still, it’s a start. And it puts the competition on notice. There’s also the potential for Google to use this as an home base for its other development platforms, such as Open Social for social networks or Android for the mobile phone. A place where developers could build applications that could work anywhere would be the holy grail.

46 Responses to “Google Cloud Now on Tap for Web Developers”

  1. friarminor

    Things do seem scary. GAE started with Python but you get the feeling that they’ve got their eyes on something like what Morph eXchange offers for Rails. And you know they’d do it – as in Huddlechat? Don’t be Evil’s out the (way of the) Window(s).


  2. YUvamani

    There is a fine line between “Apps have to be rewritten for the platform” and “Apps have to be ported to the platform”. In both cases there is a chance that a significant amount of effort needs to be spent if you have an existing application and its always easier and better to start from scratch.

    EC2 by Amazon is closer to “Porting” as opposed to the AppEngine which is far closer to being a platform you write(or rewrite as the case may be) apps for.

    Would app companies WRITE/REWRITE apps FOR the Google platform and take the inherent platform risks ? Now that is the million dollar question.

    EC2 on the other hand is definitely a much smaller risk.

  3. Google rocks. Very nice move! The rush started not only in USA but caught the attention worldwide. Here at MoveYourWeb (based in Eastern Europe – offshore outsourcing destination) we are working on several demo applications already and should ship in 1-3 days.

  4. As a rabid technophile, and systems/information architect I look forward to consuming Google’s platform. But then again, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve been drinking the software-as-a-service Kool-Aid for quite some time. But just because the brain-trust that is Google is providing a platform doesn’t solve every underlying problem.

    “It could also cause problems for startups such as online storage company ElephantDrive”

    At ElephantDrive we have created systems and infrastructure to provide global access to a secure, archival-grade version of your data, no matter what device you created it on. That means we encapsulate: encryption; file differentiation; global de-duplication; access logic with credentials; and an entire sharing platform. Google’s platform doesn’t displace us, it just gives us one more potential bucket to use as underlying storage for our product – our infrastructure is still the most relevant and necessary piece of the puzzle. But then again, I’m clearly biased. :)

    And we support files larger than 1MB. Hooray! :D

  5. @Frank Mashraqi

    “FYI, it is only free during a highly selective beta period.”

    The Google App Engine Blog’s first post says:

    “In the future, these limited quotas will remain free,” although the Terms of Service do state that Google has no obligation to continue the free (nor the paid) service forever.


  6. jarjar

    if you think free means “good” , good luck! i would never sign up to host my apps on anything free…folks, there is a reason we pay for things. Its not so the seller gets rich, its so they can afford to improve the service/product, and support it…if you think free is so great, you have much to learn. I would by far pay for a service than take a free “beta forever” run with this free service…I would much rather pay for microsoft office, a product, than a free googol docs…

  7. jarjar

    I will stick with amazon despite its latest service interruptions. This is just “me tooo” fodder for google. gmail is horrible, why should that give me confidence that my app would be hosted by the same data center as gmail…if anything , that is reason enough not to use this serivce.

  8. a911driver

    checkout Applogic by 3tera. It is, by far, the most mature cloud computing platform in the space. The problem is it is not free. You do not have to rewrite your applications to run on it. It is like cloud+vmware+any code and you can control all of it.

  9. Alex said:


    “I had a chance to speak to one of Google’s OS and tools fellows, and he had me watch about 9 hours of videos….”

    sounds very painful. did they at least let you listen to some beethoven?

    Let me say this about that (ala Nixon):

    I have been out of the production code writing business for 20 years, although I am a dabbler and a hobbyist, and actually delivered a mobile app in 2004-5, I am not a good choice daily code. I am older, slower witted, in short, an ideal analyst for the kind of more thoughtful and settled thinking that is age appropriate.

    What was it like watching 9 hours of Presentations on Google technologies?

    It was Grrrrrreeeeeaaaattt! I may not have stayed on the edge of my seat for the whole nine hours, but most of it was really, really interesting, and some of it was almost suspenseful.

    I would so it again.

  10. Note to Google. If you are serious about making this model compelling, then I have two requests.

    One, offer developers and marketing types better analytics support and don’t make us ‘work for it’ the way we currently have to with Google Analytics.

    Instead, deliver simple built-in zeitgeist type of reports that provide access to the proverbial Top 10 questions in any and every segment.

    Two, give developers APIs to build applications that can call upon and interact with all of the global data functions that you have cataloged (think: web pages, blogs, images, news, video, email, maps, calendars, etc.).

    That would catalyze a lot of innovation, as it is a more direct extension of the way people consume and contribute to Google on a daily basis.

    Clearly, Google could deliver this but would they?



    Online Community Building: Three Critical Ingredients

  11. In a sense, ZOHO is already doing this !! It is quite easy to create a VB+Access style application and have it up and running if you use ZOHO creator … actually it is quite smart and fast as well

  12. @Alan

    “I had a chance to speak to one of Google’s OS and tools fellows, and he had me watch about 9 hours of videos….”

    sounds very painful. did they at least let you listen to some beethoven?

  13. Chetan

    This type of loss-leader service gets startups in the door with Google, giving the company access to the freshest ideas and an entrepreneurial talent pool that it can tap — Well, access the Amazon forum and you’ll have access to the Talent pool.

    Startup founders are no dumb to give it to Google, they’ll rather pay and host it on AWS if they find Google has laid a trap.

    Amazon is an equally tough company when it comes to technology. They hold a dozen patents on AWS and they’ll punch in Google’s face if required.

    My message to Google – Don’t Fuc*ing Copy -Innovate to Lead.

  14. Cloud storage can never be as efficient as ‘your own optimized setup’. I have seen top tech blog sites go ‘ga ga’ over this cloud storage concept, even recommending it for startups. Has anyone tried actual implementations using S3 based online storage? Compare performance of transfers or backups using IBackup( and say Jungledisk, an S3 based service; and when you try, try something significant, say a couple of GBs.

  15. Great post Stacey!

    I don’t worry about Google’s margins. They know more about how to efficiently deliver web apps from the cloud than any other company on the planet, Amazon included. The architecture of App Engine is perfectly suited to that–by focusing on a language instead of a raw virtual machine they can make things a lot more efficient and much more under their control.

    More on my blog:




  16. actually, this is all working, completely and fully, today. All that is missing is the ‘retail packaging’. I had a chance to speak to one of Google’s OS and tools fellows, and he had me watch about 9 hours of videos – some that were for public consumption, and some weren’t. I was working as an analyst at a telecom company’s R&D lab, and that opened the door to meet these type of extraordinary people and to dive deep into these types of topics.

    There shall come a day when the idea of buying hardware, merely for the purpose of getting a web application to market, will seem as strange as….owning a unconnected PC.

    It’s all working now..just the packaging remains for Google’s retail cloud. And there are more yet to come.